Aspen Institute names NWTC one of the 150 community colleges eligible for $1 million Aspen Prize

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NWTC is nationally recognized for improving student success
NWTC is nationally recognized for improving student success

The Aspen Institute has named NWTC one of the 150 institutions 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. NWTC was selected for this honor from more than 1,000 community colleges nationwide for improving student success as well as equitable outcomes for underrepresented students and those from low-income backgrounds.

“We are immensely proud and honored to be named among the 150 institutions eligible to compete for the prestigious Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence,” said NWTC President Dr. Kristin Raney. “This recognition highlights the unwavering commitment of our staff, faculty, and community in supporting student success and making college accessible to Northeast Wisconsin. We are committed to continuing this important work, which creates a pipeline to fulfilling careers for everyone in our community.”

Colleges must show strong, improving, and equitable student outcomes in first-to-second year retention, credentials awarded, and completion and transfer rates to be nominated for the Aspen Prize. NWTC’s institutional data demonstrates strong and improving student outcomes across the board:

  • 3,336 graduates completed 3,940 credentials in 2022.
  • 85.5% course success rate for students in 8-week courses.
  • 61.4% first-year retention rate for students continuing from fall of 2022 to 2023 (an increase of over 5% from 2020-2021).

The Aspen Prize spotlights exemplary community colleges in order to drive attention to colleges achieving post-graduate success. The 150 eligible colleges have been invited to submit student success data and narratives about strategies to achieve better and more equitable student outcomes as the next step in an intensive review process that culminates in the naming of the Aspen Prize winner in spring 2025. The eligible colleges represent the diversity and depth of the community college sector across the entire U.S.

“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.”

The next steps in the process include:

  • April 2024: Announcement of 25 semifinalists based on the assessments of the Prize selection panel, a group of 16 experts in community colleges, higher education, and workforce training.
  • June 2024: Announcement of 10 finalists, selected by the Prize selection panel.
  • Fall 2024: Site visits by the Aspen Institute to each of the ten finalists.
  • Spring 2025: Announcement of the Aspen Prize winner and celebration of 10 finalists in Washington DC.

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

To learn more about NWTC’s commitment to quality education and rewarding careers, visit

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