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SCC again nominated for Aspen Prize


SCC's Jackson Campus as seen from the airFor the second-consecutive biennium, Southwestern Community College has been selected to compete for part of a prestigious $1 million grant from the Aspen Institute.

Out of nearly 1,000 community colleges that were considered nationwide, only 150 have been chosen to apply for the 2025 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. In the lead-up to the 2023 award, SCC was the only North Carolina school to be selected as one of 25 semifinalists.

“It is always an honor when a widely respected institute such as Aspen recognizes us as being among the best community colleges in the country,” said Dr. Don Tomas, SCC President. “We are proud to once again have this opportunity, and we are confident that we’ll advance even farther in the process this time around.”

SCC is among 10 North Carolina community colleges chosen. The state’s other nominees are Catawba, Edgecombe, Montgomery, Rowan-Cabarrus, Sampson, Sandhills, Southeastern, Wayne and Wilkes.

A former U.S. President once referred to the Aspen Prize as “basically the Oscars for great Community Colleges.” Awarded every other year, the Aspen Prize aims to celebrate excellence, advance a focus on equitable student success and stimulate replication of effective culture and practice.

“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 in a rapidly changing labor market, it is easy to lose track of what matters most. The best community colleges are contining 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.”

The next step in the process will be for SCC administrators to submit two years of student success data and narratives as part of an intensive data and practice review process.

In April of 2024, the Aspen Institute will announce 25 semifinalists. Ten finalists will be named in June of 2024, followed by site visits that fall, and the winners will be officially named in the spring of 2025.

Amarillo College (Texas) and Imperial Valley College (Calif.) shared the 2023 award. No North Carolina college has yet been named a finalist, dating back to the award’s creation in 2011.

In addition to being a 2023 Aspen Prize semifinalist, SCC has also been ranked among the nation’s Top 10 community colleges six times since 2007 – including an overall No. 1 ranking by in 2020.

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

For more information about Southwestern and the programs it offers, visit, call 828.339.4000 or drop by your nearest SCC location.

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