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For More Information Contact:
Matthew Wetstein
Dean of Planning, Research & Institutional Effectiveness
(209) 954-5042

Delta College will Compete for $1 Million Aspen Institute Prize
College Ranked Among Top 10% in the Country

San Joaquin Delta College is earning accolades as one of the top community colleges in the country from the Aspen Institute, an organization that has established a $1 million prize competition for community college excellence. The prize is backed by the top educational foundations in the United States, potentially impacting six million students.

The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program today ranked San Joaquin Delta College as one of the nation’s 120 best community colleges, challenging it to compete for the $1 million prize (to be announced in December, 2011). Criteria for the Aspen Prize includes: high standards for learning, college completion without delay, and serving as a training ground for jobs that pay competitive wages. The full list of eligible institutions can be found at

Citing the urgent need to focus on the value of community colleges, Aspen Institute College Excellence Program Executive Director Josh Wyner said, “We must set the bar much higher than we have in the past. To achieve excellent student outcomes, we need to highlight our country’s success stories and learn from them so that we can keep reaching higher.” Wyner believes recognizing community colleges like San Joaquin Delta College sends a message to others that “aspire to excellence,” while encouraging Delta College to apply for the nation’s top community college prize. “As a country, now more than ever, we need all community colleges to graduate more students with the knowledge and degrees they need to be successful in the workforce.”

Second Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, and Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, attended the Aspen Institute’s announcement event on April 25th. The Aspen Prize was announced at the White House Community College Summit hosted by President Obama and Dr. Biden in October.  The President noted how critical community colleges are to the millions of youth and adult learners who enroll in America’s nearly 1,200 community colleges every year.

Dr. Biden, a lifelong educator who continues to teach English at Northern Virginia Community College, noted that “The country is becoming increasingly aware of the importance of community colleges in educating our way to a stronger America.  I am inspired by all of today’s community college students, the workers who have returned to school to improve their job prospects, the mothers who juggle jobs and childcare while preparing for new careers, and those who work diligently while at community college, preparing to transfer to a four-year institution.” 

Delta College and 119 other community colleges will be winnowed to eight-to-ten finalists in September based on how much students learn, how many complete their programs on time, and how well students do in the job market after graduating.

Delta College’s Interim Superintendent Susan Cota stated that the recognition from the Aspen Institute reflects positively on the college’s commitment to educating students and preparing them for the workforce.  “Delta College is one of only five California Community Colleges up for the prize. We know that our faculty and staff deliver high quality services to our students, but it is always great to hear that you are doing good work from outside experts,” Cota said.  “Even if we don’t make the final cut for the $1 million prize, this provides evidence of Delta College’s strong foundation and continuing success.”

Delta College is now eligible to submit an application containing detailed data on these criteria.  The College must demonstrate that it delivers exceptional student results, uses data to drive decisions, and uses that information to continually improve over time.

Delta College’s Assistant Superintendent Kathy Hart said she will spearhead a team that ensures the College takes part in the next round of the Aspen Institute competition.  “This program is all about promoting a college culture that makes decisions based on evidence and promoting student success.  I’m very proud the College will be included in this competition.”

Speaking for the jury that will select winners and finalists, former Governor of Michigan John Engler, president of the Business Roundtable and former president of the National Association of Manufacturers, emphasized the tremendous importance of community colleges in preparing the high-tech workforce American companies need.

Aspen will conduct site visits to each of the ten finalists in the fall. And, based on the evidence, the Prize Jury will select a grand prize winner and two to three runners-up, to be announced in December.

The Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence will be awarded annually beginning in the fall of 2011, and is supported by a partnership of leading philanthropies.


Aspen Institute Logo

The Aspen Prize is funded by the Joyce Foundation, the Lumina Foundation for Education, the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, and the JPMorgan Chase Foundation.

The Aspen College Excellence Program aims to identify and replicate campus-wide practices that significantly improve college student outcomes.  Through the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, projects targeting a new generation of college leaders, and other initiatives, the College Excellence Program works to improve colleges’ understanding and capacity to teach and graduate students, especially the growing population of low-income and minority students on American campuses.  For more information, visit

The Aspen Institute’s mission is twofold: to foster values-based leadership, encouraging individuals to reflect on the ideals and ideas that define a good society, and to provide a neutral and balanced venue for discussing and acting on critical issues. The Aspen Institute does this primarily in four ways: seminars, young-leader fellowships around the globe, policy programs, and public conferences and events. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland's Eastern Shore. It also has an international network of partners. For more information, visit


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San Joaquin Delta College
5151 Pacific Ave
Stockton, California 95207
(209) 954-5151