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FULTON, Miss. — Highlighting the critical importance of improving student success in America’s community colleges, the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program today named Itawamba Community College as one of the nation’s top 150 community colleges eligible to compete for the 2015 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence and $1 million in prize funds.

“It is a tremendous honor for Itawamba Community College to be selected as one of the top 150 community colleges in the nation and the opportunity to compete for the significant Aspen Prize. It is another indication of the success of the College and its exceptional faculty and staff,” said President Mike Eaton.

The Aspen Institute also selected ICC as a top community college in 2013 and a contender for the prize, which is awarded every two years, and is the nation’s signature recognition of high achievement and performance among America’s community colleges. It recognizes institutions for exceptional student outcomes in four areas, including student learning, certificate and degree completion, employment and earnings and high levels of access and success for minority and low-income students.

ICC and the other community colleges that were selected were identified through an assessment of institutional performance, improvement and equity on student retention and completion measures. The 150 institutions are located in 37 states; represent urban, rural and suburban markets; and range from serving more than 100,000 students to fewer than 500 students. ICC currently enrolls approximately 6,000 students each semester.

Nearly half of America’s college students attend the more than 1,000 community colleges, with more than seven million students – youth and adult learners – working toward certificates and degrees.

“Community colleges have tremendous power to change lives, and their success will increasingly define our nation’s economic strength and the potential for social mobility for every American,” said Josh Wyner, executive director of the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program. “This competition is designed to spotlight the excellent work being done in the most effective community colleges, those that best help students obtain meaningful, high-quality education and training for competitive-wage jobs after college. We hope it will raise the bar and provide a roadmap for community colleges nationwide.”

Ten finalists will be announced in the fall. A distinguished Prize Jury will select a grand prize winner and finalists with distinction on the basis of site visits and the collection of additional quantitative data including employment and earnings data from states and transfer data from the National Student Clearinghouse.

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