NWTC one of 10 finalists for 2025 Aspen Prize

The Aspen Institute named Northeast Wisconsin Technical College as a finalist for the 2025 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.

The $1 million award is the nation’s signature recognition of strong performance among community colleges. The institutions selected for this honor stand out among more than 1,000 community colleges nationwide as having high and improving levels of student success, as well as equitable outcomes for Black and Hispanic students and those from lower-income backgrounds.

“To be named a finalist for the Aspen Prize is such an incredible honor,” said Kristen Raney, NWTC president. “It recognizes NWTC’s deep commitment to equitable student outcomes that transforms lives and strengthens our communities. This is a reflection of the transformative work we do every day and should be celebrated by all who call Northeast Wisconsin home. We are very excited to continue next steps of the Aspen Prize process and for the bright future of our college and community.”

Over the last decade, NWTC has expended substantial resources into understanding how to better meet the unique needs of individual students so that they can thrive as learners. Benefitting from a culture of comprehensive support, NWTC students consistently achieve better educational outcomes than similar institutions nationwide.

While many students exit college before completing the required coursework, NWTC’s graduation rates are double compared to the national average. Additionally, the percentage of NWTC students persisting from first to second year — a critical period in which many do not complete — has consistently increased over time and is above that of comparison to other institutions. The most dramatic increases have been observed within historically underserved populations, including lower income and student of color.

Awarded every two years, the Aspen Prize honors colleges with outstanding performance in six critical areas — teaching and learning, certificate and degree completion, transfer and bachelor’s attainment, workforce success, broad access to the college and its offerings, and equitable outcomes for students of color and students from low-income backgrounds. The winner will be announced in the spring of 2025.

Josh Wyner, executive director of the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program, noted the Aspen Prize finalists not only deserve national recognition, but they also need to be studied and their successes replicated.

“Working-class Americans are experiencing an economy that seems to be stacked against them, while employers are struggling to find well-prepared workers in fields such as teaching, nursing, software development, welding, and advanced manufacturing,” Wyner said. “The 10 Aspen Prize finalists demonstrate how community colleges serving urban and rural communities throughout the country can prepare many more graduates for fulfilling lives and careers in their communities. They show that excellence can be reached in any and every context.”

The Aspen Prize selection process began in 2023 when Aspen analyzed data on 1,000 community colleges in key areas such as retention, completion and transfer. In October, Aspen invited 150 community colleges to apply based on data showing high, improving, and equitable levels of student success. The 118 submitted applications went to a selection committee of 18 higher education experts who assessed each application based on extensive data and narrative answers to questions.

Following interviews with leadership teams from applicants receiving top scores, 20 semifinalists were selected and announced in May. The committee continued its review and narrowed the field to the 10 finalists.

To read more on the selection process, visit https://highered.aspeninstitute.org/aspen-prize.

THE NEXT STEP

• Fall 2024: Multi-day in-person site visits to each of the 10 finalists, during which Aspen and partners will collect additional information, and additional data collection, including extensive employment and earnings data on graduates from the finalist colleges.

• Winter 2025: A distinguished, independent prize jury will review data and qualitative summaries that synthesize each part of the 14-month analyses, then meet for a full day to select the winner and others for additional recognition.

• April 17, 2025: Announcement of the Aspen Prize winner and celebration of the 10 finalists in Washington, D.C.