6 MN community colleges make top 150 list – and could get $1M

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Six community colleges from Minnesota have been named in the Top 150 in the country by The Aspen Institute, putting them in the running for a $1 million prize.

The international education nonprofit announced the shortlist for its 2017 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, with colleges who deliver "exceptional" results for students from all backgrounds and high levels of graduate employment making the shortlist.

Minnesota is home to six colleges that made the top 150, which is selected from a national pool of more than 1,000 public two-year colleges across the United States.

Minnesota's are:

  • Alexandria Technical & Community College.
  • Anoka-Ramsey Community College, Coon Rapids.
  • Minnesota State Community and Technical College, Fergus Falls.
  • Minnesota West Community and Technical College, Granite Falls.
  • Northland Community and Technical College, Thief River Falls.
  • Ridgewater College, Willmar.

Each shortlisted college will be judged for its performance in four areas: student learning, certificate and degree completion, employment and earnings, and access and success for minority and low-income students.

The prize has been offered since 2011, and since then colleges in Florida have won twice in 2011 and 2015, while the 2013 prize was split between colleges from California and Washington.

The next stage will see the colleges submit an application describing what they've done to improve student success on their campus, with judges also studying results data on each institution.

This will see the 150 shortlisted colleges whittled down to 10.

"There are exceptional community colleges across our country providing students with a high-quality, affordable education that leads to good careers and strong economic opportunity," said Josh Wyner, of the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program, in a press release. "Through this competition, we’re working to inspire community colleges and help them understand how to ensure that more students succeed."

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