April 26, 2011


Northeast Ranked in Top 10% in the Country; Supported by National Leaders in Business, Education, Labor

Washington, DC – Northeast Alabama Community College has just been notified that it is ranked as one of the top 10 percent of the 1,200 community colleges in the country and is eligible for a $1 Million Aspen Institute Prize fund by the Aspen Institute. Officials with the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program challenged Northeast and the other selected colleges to compete for the Prize funds (to be announced in December 2011) by further demonstrating high standards for learning, college completion without delay, and service as a training ground for jobs that pay competitive wages.

The Aspen Institute’s mission is twofold: to foster values-based leadership, encouraging individuals to reflect on the ideals and ideas that define a good society, and to provide a neutral and balanced venue for discussing and acting on critical issues. The Aspen Institute does this primarily in four ways: seminars, young-leader fellowships around the globe, policy programs, and public conferences and events. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland's Eastern Shore. It also has an international network of partners. For more information, visit

The Aspen College Excellence Program aims to identify and replicate campus-wide practices that significantly improve college student outcomes. Through the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, projects targeting a new generation of college leaders, and other initiatives, the College Excellence Program works to improve colleges’ understanding and capacity to teach and graduate students, especially the growing population of low-income and minority students on American campuses. For more information, visit

Citing the urgent need to focus on the value and potential of community colleges, Aspen Institute College Excellence Program Executive Director Josh Wyner said, “We must set the bar much higher than we have in the past. To achieve excellent student outcomes, we need to highlight our country’s success stories and learn from them so that we can keep reaching higher. Recognizing community colleges like Northeast sends a message to others that aspire to excellence, while encouraging Northeast to apply for the nation’s top community college prize. As a country, now more than ever, we need all community colleges to graduate more students with the knowledge and degrees they need to be successful in the workforce.”

Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden and Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, attended the Aspen Institute’s announcement event on April 25th. The Aspen Prize was announced at the White House Community College Summit hosted by President Obama and Dr. Biden in October. At that time, the President noted how critical community colleges are to the millions of youth and adult learners – who enroll in America’s nearly 1,200 community colleges every year.

Dr. Biden, a lifelong educator who continues to teach English at Northern Virginia Community College, noted that “The country is becoming increasingly aware of the importance of community colleges in educating our way to a stronger America. I am inspired by all of today’s community college students—the workers who have returned to school to improve their job prospects, the mothers who juggle jobs and childcare while preparing for new careers, and those who work diligently while at community college, preparing to transfer to a four-year institution.”

NACC and 119 other community colleges will be winnowed to eight-to-ten finalists in September based on how much students learn, how many complete their programs on time, and how well students do in the job market after graduating. In all 120 community colleges, ten percent of the nation’s total, were selected on the “best” list. These colleges represented thirty-two American states. In addition to Northeast, in Alabama Wallace Hanceville Community College and Enterprise Community College were chosen for the best list. The full list of eligible institutions can be found at

NACC and the other colleges chosen are now eligible to submit an application containing detailed data on these criteria. NACC must further demonstrate that it delivers exceptional student results, uses data to drive decisions, and uses that information to continually improve over time.

Speaking for the jury that will select winners and finalists from the “best” list, former Governor of Michigan John Engler – president of the Business Roundtable and former president of the National Association of Manufacturers – emphasized the tremendous importance of community colleges in preparing the high-tech workforce American companies need.

Aspen will conduct site visits to each of the ten finalists in the fall. And, based on the evidence, the Prize Jury will select a grand prize winner and two to three runners-up, to be announced in December. The Aspen Prize is funded by the Joyce Foundation, the Lumina Foundation for Education, the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, and the JPMorgan Chase Foundation. Among the trustees for the foundation are Condoleezza Rice, Madeleine Albright, and David Gergen.

“We at the college are extremely pleased with the Aspen Institute’s selection of Northeast as being among the top ten percent in the United States. That’s quite an honor,” stated Dr. David Campbell, NACC President. “We certainly appreciate the opportunity that this provides us to apply for the Aspen Prize for Excellence. Programs like this will lead to even higher levels of achievement in American community colleges.” Campbell added that the day Northeast was named for this honor the college began organizing its personnel to respond to the challenge of entering the Aspen Prize for Excellence competition.

The selection of Northeast as one of the nation’s top community colleges is not the only recognition the college has received in 2011. For example, Northeast in January received the college’s evaluation of its Fifth Year Report for continuation of accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools – Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). The college’s Fifth Year Report was positively reviewed and approved without follow-up/monitoring reports being required, resulting in the college being one of only three community colleges among the forty-nine reviewed by the SACSCOC in 2010 that achieved this distinction.

Students on the NACC campus