Aspen Institute Names NCC a Top 150 U.S Community College Eligible for the 2021 Aspen Prize

The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program named Northwest Iowa Community College (NCC) as one of 150 community colleges eligible to compete for the $1 million Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the nation’s signature recognition of high achievement and performance among America’s community colleges. Based on impressive and improving student outcomes — including: learning, completion rates, employment rates and earnings, and equity—15 percent of community colleges nationwide have been invited to apply for the Aspen Prize.

Dr. Alethea Stubbe, President of NCC, stated, “Out of 1,047 community colleges in the country, NCC is 1 of only 15 colleges that have been recognized as top 150 Aspen colleges all SIX times since the inception of the competition (2011, 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019, 2021). This places NCC in the top 1.43% of the highest performing colleges in the nation.”

Stubbe continued, “We are grateful for this prestigious recognition, which is so well deserved by our employees who constantly focus on student success. On behalf of all the college employees and our Board of Trustees, we are pleased to contribute to the strength and vitality of Northwest Iowa by providing quality, accessible, and affordable education. We will continue to support our students in order for them to write their own stories of success. At NCC — Your Success is OUR Story!”

The 150 community colleges named as eligible to compete for the 2021 Aspen Prize were selected from a pool of nearly 1,000 public two-year colleges across the nation using publicly available data on student outcomes. Located in 39 states in urban, rural, and suburban areas, serving as few as 500 students and as many as 75,000 students, these colleges represent the diversity and depth of the community college sector.

Data shows that over the last two years student retention, graduation rates, and degree completion have improved at the top tier of 150 Aspen Prize-eligible colleges.

“Community colleges play a vital role in developing talent and enabling social mobility across the country, and it’s critical for them to get better at what they do,” said Josh Wyner, executive director of the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program. “We’re pleased to see evidence that these institutions are improving, that more are delivering on their promise. We’re also pleased to play a role in honoring outstanding community colleges and sharing what works to ensure great outcomes for students—through graduation and beyond.”

A distinguished jury will make award decisions in the spring of 2021.

Previous winners of the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence are Miami Dade College (FL) and Indian River State College (FL), 2019; Lake Area Technical College (SD), 2017; Santa Fe College (FL), 2015; Santa Barbara City College (CA) and Walla Walla Community College (WA), 2013; Valencia College (FL), 2011.

For a full list of the top 150 eligible institutions and to read more on the selection process, visit