Pasadena City College Named Among 10 Finalists for 2019 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence for Second Year

Published : Tuesday, May 15, 2018 | 5:38 AM

Pasadena City CollegePasadena City College was named today as one of 10 finalists for the 2019 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the nation’s signature recognition of high achievement and performance in America’s community colleges.

Awarded every two years since 2011, the Prize recognizes institutions that achieve high and improving student outcomes, selected from over 1,000 community colleges nationwide. Focused solely on student access and success, the Aspen Prize recognizes community colleges with exceptional achievements in four areas:

  • Student learning;
  • Certificate and degree completion while in community college and after transferring to a four-year institution;
  • Employment and earnings rates after graduation; and
  • Access for and success of minority and low-income students.

“It is a tremendous honor for our college to be recognized by the Aspen Institute – for the second time in a row,” said Rajen Vurdien, Ph.D., superintendent/president of Pasadena City College. “Our faculty, staff, and students have been working together as never before to accelerate completion, enhance equity in our education, and break down barriers to success. This nomination is clear proof that our work is paying off.”

“Pasadena City College has taken great strides to ensure that students learn what they need to be successful not only while in community college but also after they transfer to a four-year university,” said Joshua Wyner, Executive Director of the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program. “Faculty are at the center of making improvements, working to ensure that the college’s very diverse students receive a uniformly high-quality education.”

“I’m so proud that the prestigious Aspen Institute has recognized the concrete benefits that Pasadena City College brings to our students,” said Dr. Anthony R. Fellow, president of the Board of Trustees of the Pasadena Area Community College District. “We have demonstrated time and again the economic benefits the college brings to our students, their families, and our region. This nomination highlights these achievements for the entire country to see.”

Pasadena City College, also named a 2017 Aspen Prize Finalist, stands out as one of the nation’s top community colleges for many reasons, including:

  • Impressive transfer practices that include specialized advising for students who aim to transfer to a four-year college, leading to a rate of transfer to four-year colleges that is eight percentage points above the national average (33 percent).
  • Among students who transfer, over half achieve a bachelor’s degree within six years of having entered community college, well above the national average (42 percent).
  • A strong focus on improving outcomes for low-income students and students of color that includes scaled faculty efforts to identify and address gaps in course success to college-wide efforts to increase diversity within faculty ranks.
  • Dedicated services for large numbers of war veterans, including a newly-remodeled resource center, and a transition course designed specifically for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

Just last week, the college announced that 30 of its career education programs have been recognized by the state for growth in wages and employment outcomes. The high number of successful programs rank PCC among the top in the state.

The 10 Aspen Prize Finalists have achieved strong and improving student success rates in very different contexts – they are from rural and urban areas, serve demographically different student bodies, and offer a varied mix of technical workforce and academic transfer programs. These 10 institutions offer proof that every community college can achieve higher levels of success for students while in college and after they graduate.

The 2019 Aspen Prize Finalists (listed in alphabetical order):

  • Alamo Colleges District – Palo Alto College – San Antonio, TX
    • First time Finalist
  • Broward College – Fort Lauderdale, FL
    • 2017 Finalist-with-Distinction
    • 2013 Finalist
  • CUNY Kingsborough Community College – Brooklyn, NY
    • 2013 Finalist-with-Distinction
  • Indian River State College – Fort Pierce, FL
    • 2017 Finalist-with-Distinction
    • 2015 Finalist
  • Miami Dade College – Miami, FL
    • 2011 Finalist-with-Distinction
  • Mitchell Technical Institute – Mitchell, SD
    • First time Finalist
  • Odessa College – Odessa, TX
    • 2017 Rising Star Award (for rapid improvement)
  • Pasadena City College – Pasadena, CA
    • 2017 Finalist
  • Pierce College at Fort Steilacoom – Lakewood, WA
    • First time Finalist
  • San Jacinto College – Pasadena, TX
    • 2017 Rising Star Award (for rapid improvement)

During the remainder of 2018, the Aspen Institute will complete a rigorous review process that includes examination of data on learning, graduation, workforce, and equitable outcomes for all students as well as multi-day site visits to each of the 10 finalist institutions.

In April 2019, the $1 million Prize purse will be awarded at an event in Washington, D.C. to the winner, two or three finalists-with-distinction, and a “Rising Star” that has achieved exceptional levels of improvement. Between now and then, Aspen will work with a team of national experts to collect extensive, additional data and conduct multi-day site visits to the 10 finalist colleges.

The 2019 Aspen Prize is generously funded by the Joyce Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, and the Siemens Foundation.

Since 1924, Pasadena City College ( has provided the San Gabriel Valley with a high-quality, innovative learning environment that inspires student success. Our academic programs encompass a variety of degrees, transfer programs, certificates of achievement, and occupational skills certificates that challenge students and support progress toward their goals. Widely recognized as a transfer leader, PCC is one of California’s top schools for transfers to local universities, including the CSU and UC system, USC, Art Center College of Design, Caltech, and more.

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visit

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