Aspen Institute Names NCC a Finalist for the 2023 Aspen Prize

$1 million prize recognizes outstanding community colleges from across the nation


Kristin Kollbaum, 712-631-5634,

Anne Larkin, 208-596-5886,

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 7, 2022 — Today the Aspen Institute named Northwest Iowa Community College (NCC) one of the ten finalists for the 2023 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.  Started in 2010, the $1 million Aspen Prize is the nation’s signature recognition of community colleges that are achieving high, improving, and equitable outcomes for students. The ten finalists represent the great potential of America’s thousand-plus community colleges as engines of prosperity and social mobility.

The finalists also represent the impressive diversity of community colleges, from NCC, with its 2,700 students granting primarily technical awards, to a 57,000-student college in Florida with a focus on transfer and bachelor’s degree attainment. Regardless of their size or location, excellent community colleges, like NCC, are defined by their focus on outcomes and by their strategies to develop the students’ talents in ways that strengthen their regional economies and communities.  NCC contributes to the strength and vitality of northwest Iowa by providing quality, accessible, and affordable education to all our students.

Dr. John Hartog, president of NCC, commented, “NCC is one of the few colleges that has been among the top 150 colleges that have been eligible for the Aspen Prize all seven times since the competition’s inception (2011, 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019, 2021, and 2023).  The Aspen competition process has inspired NCC to serve its students better, and for this we are grateful. Being named a top-10 finalist for the Aspen Prize is an affirming and encouraging honor.”  Hartog continued, “This top-10 recognition speaks well of our employees and Trustees since they serve our students. The ranking highlights the great work of our students since they graduate and enter our workforce.  The honor goes to northwest Iowans since they love and support NCC.”

Awarded every two years, the Aspen Prize honors colleges that show outstanding performance in five critical areas: teaching and learning, certificate and degree completion, transfer and bachelor’s attainment, workforce success, and equitable outcomes for students of color and students from low-income backgrounds. The winner will be announced in the spring of 2023.

“We’re grateful to all the experts who have helped Aspen identify these impressive colleges,” said Josh Wyner, executive director of the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program. “We can’t wait to dive in to learn more about how they have achieved these measurable student outcomes so we can share what we learn with the field.”

The finalists are:

  • Amarillo College, TX
  • Broward College, FL
  • Hostos Community College (CUNY), NY
  • Imperial Valley College, CA
  • Kingsborough Community College (CUNY), NY
  • Moorpark College, CA
  • Northwest Iowa Community College, IA
  • San Jacinto College, TX
  • South Puget Sound Community College, WA
  • Southwest Wisconsin Technical College, WI

    The Aspen Prize selection process began in October 2021, when the Aspen Institute worked with an expert data panel to craft a formula to assess student outcomes at nearly 1,000 community colleges in key areas such as retention, completion, transfer, and equity. Based on those data points, the Aspen Institute invited 150 top community colleges to apply.  A selection committee of 16 higher education experts reviewed the applications, including extensive data and narratives on student success strategies. NCC was invited to participate in a 2-day virtual visit with Aspen researchers April 13-14, 2022. Then, the 25 highest ranking colleges were announced as semifinalists in late April 2022. The award committee met in May to choose the top-10 Aspen Prize finalists.

Next steps include:

  • Fall 2022: Gathering additional data on student outcomes, including employment after college, and multi-day site visits at each of the 10 finalists’ campuses to collect more data and to learn effective practices.
  • Winter of 2023: Decision by a distinguished jury based on quantitative data and qualitative information collected from each of the 10 finalists.
  • Late spring 2023: Announcement of the Aspen Prize winner.

The Aspen Prize is generously funded by Ascendium, the Joyce Foundation, JPMorgan, and the Kresge Foundation. Previous winners are:

  • 2021: San Antonio College (TX)
  • 2019: Indian River State College (FL) and Miami Dade College (FL)
  • 2017: Lake Area Technical Institute (SD)
  • 2015: Santa Fe College (FL)
  • 2013: Santa Barbara City College (CA) and Walla Walla Community College (WA)
  • 2011: Valencia College (FL)

The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program aims to advance higher education practices, policies, and leadership that significantly improve student outcomes, especially for the growing population of low-income students and students of color on American campuses. For more information, visit and, and follow @AspenHigherEd on Twitter. The Aspen Prize hashtag is #AspenPrize.

The Aspen Institute is a community-serving organization with global reach whose vision is a free, just, and equitable society. For 70 years, the Institute has driven change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the world’s greatest challenges. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the Institute has offices in Aspen, Colorado, and New York City, and an international network of partners. For more information, visit