JJC Named Aspen Top 150 U.S. Community College, Eligible to Compete for $1 Million Prize

Joliet Junior College is one of 150 community colleges eligible to compete for the $1 million Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.

The 2021 Aspen Prize is awarded by the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program. It recognizes high achievement and performance based on strong and improving student outcomes, including learning, completion rates, employment rates and earnings, and equity.

Aspen Prize logo

JJC is one of just 11 eligible institutions in the state of Illinois, and among 15 percent of community colleges nationwide that were invited to apply for the Aspen prize. JJC was selected from a pool of nearly 1,000 public two-year colleges using publicly available data on student outcomes.

“We have worked with diligence and passion to ensure our students earn the success they deserve,” Dr. Judy Mitchell, JJC president, said. “I am thrilled that the tremendous, collective effort we’ve invested to grow JJC has been acknowledged with this prestigious, national recognition.”

According to the Aspen Institute, the 150 eligible colleges are located across 39 states in urban, rural, and suburban areas, serving from as few as 500 students to as many as 75,000 students; representing 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.”

The top 10 finalists for the 2021 Aspen Prize will be named in May 2020. The Aspen Institute will then conduct site visits to each of the finalists and collect additional quantitative data, including employment and earnings data. A distinguished jury will make award decisions in spring 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.

View a full list of the top 150 eligible institutions and read more about the selection process online.

For media inquiries, contact JJC Communications and Media Coordinator Scott Harvey at 815-280-2844 or sharvey@jjc.edu; or Brooke McDonald with the Aspen Institute at 202-736-5834 or brooke.mcdonald@aspeninstitute.org.


The Aspen Prize is generously funded by ECMC Foundation, Joyce Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, and Siemens Foundation.

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 http://highered.aspeninstitute.org/ and www.linkedin.com/showcase/aspenhighered and follow @AspenHigherEd on Twitter.

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 www.aspeninstitute.org.

Joliet Junior College Founded in 1901, Joliet Junior College is the nation’s first public community college. JJC enriches people’s lives through affordable, accessible, and quality programs and services. The college provides transfer and career preparation, training and workforce development, and a lifetime of learning to the diverse community it serves. The college’s initial enrollment was six students; today, JJC serves more than 30,000 students in credit and noncredit courses. Visit www.jjc.edu to learn more.