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The Aspen Institute Names NACC as a Top 150 U.S. Community Colleges

October 31, 2023

Students are pictured standing by life-sized NACC letters on the campus of Northeast Alabama Community College.

Today, the Aspen Institute named Northeast Alabama Community College as one of the top 150 institutions in the nation. 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.

“We at Northeast are very honored that the Aspen Institute recognizes the college as one of the top community colleges in America,” stated NACC President Dr. David Campbell. “Indeed, this is the sixth time we have been recognized for this honor, one of only a select group of community colleges in America that have been honored six times.”

The Aspen Prize spotlights exemplary community colleges in order to drive attention to colleges achieving post-graduate success for all students, and is a central way Aspen researches highly effective student success strategies that are shared with the field. The eligible colleges represent the diversity and depth of the community college sector. Located in urban, rural, and suburban areas across 30 states, these colleges serve as few as 169 students and as many as 49,619. Northeast serves around 3,000 students.

“What we are so proud of is that the Aspen Institute has direct ties to the U.S. Department of Education and the American Association of Community Colleges,” Campbell said. “In other words, this is an organization with very high and select educational standards. Actually, it is the best among community colleges.”

“Data from the federal government is analyzed in this selection process,” Campbell said.  “The Aspen Institute looks very closely at the college’s student retention and completion rates, standards which are priorities to us in serving our students.”

“The Aspen Prize is rooted first and foremost in an assessment of whether colleges are walking the walk,” said Josh Wyner, executive director of the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program. “As community colleges face enrollment variations, enroll students with pandemic-related learning loss, and graduate students into a rapidly changing labor market, it is easy to lose track of what matters most.  The best community colleges are continuing to focus on advancing the core mission: making sure as many students as possible graduate with credentials that lead to fulfilling careers and reflect the development of diverse talent that communities, states, and our nation need.”

While community colleges are an essential contributor to our nation’s success, student outcomes vary substantially among institutions.  Aspen measures those variances using multiple data sources and honors colleges with outstanding achievement in six critical areas: teaching and learning, certificate and degree completion, transfer and bachelor’s attainment, workforce success, equitable access to the college, and equitable outcomes for students of color and students from low-income backgrounds.

“These 150 colleges have achieved high and improving levels of student success for all students, including those who are often failed by our institutions,” Wyner said. “We’re excited to learn over the coming months how they achieved that success so we can share the most impressive practices with others in the field.”

The Aspen Institute recognition is the second-highest honor given to NACC in recent weeks. named Northeast as the best community college in Alabama, which includes twenty-four colleges within the Alabama Community College System and other private community colleges in the state.

“We have some extremely talented staff members and faculty here at Northeast,” Campbell stated. “It takes us all working with focus and as a team and caring about our students to accomplish this six times. I have always said that people from our area can accomplish anything they set out to achieve. This honor illustrates that there are no limits to the educational accomplishments of people from Jackson and DeKalb counties. None.”

Each college named is eligible to compete for the $1 million Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the nation's signature recognition of high achievement and performance among two-year colleges. In this first round, eligibility for the Aspen Prize is based on publicly available data. Colleges must show strong, improving, and equitable student outcomes in first-to-second year retention, credentials awarded, and completion and transfer rates. Nationwide, about 15 percent of community colleges have been invited to apply (150 of just under 1,000 public two-year colleges assessed for Prize eligibility). The full list can be accessed on the Prize homepage.

Three other Alabama Community Colleges also were named among the nation's top 150 community colleges. They are Wallace State Community College- Hanceville, Snead State Community College, and Southern Union Community College. For a full list of the top 150 eligible institutions and to read more on the selection process, visit

The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program supports colleges and universities in their quest to achieve a higher standard of excellence, delivering credentials that unlock life-changing careers and strengthen our economy, society, and democracy. We know it takes visionary college leaders to lead scaled, sustainable reforms,  and we make it our mission to equip them with the knowledge, skills, and research-backed tools to inspire change, shift practice, and advance the capacity of colleges to deliver excellent and equitable student outcomes. For more information, visit our website and follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization whose purpose is to ignite human potential to build understanding and create new possibilities for a better world. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve society’s greatest challenges. It is headquartered in Washington, DC and has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, as well as an international network of partners. For more information, visit


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