Rend Lake College repeats on Aspen Institute’s list of America’s best community colleges for third consecutive time, will compete for $1 million national award

INA, Ill. – For the third time, Rend Lake College has been recognized on the Aspen Institute’s list of the top community colleges in the nation for its student success rates.

The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program on Friday named its 150 top community colleges, challenging them to compete for a $1 million fund through the 2015 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. The institute’s mission is to improve colleges’ understanding and capacity to teach and graduate students by sharing and building on best practices found at community colleges across the nation. The goal especially targets the growing population of low-income and minority students on American campuses.

This year marks the third time RLC has made the Aspen list since the competition began in 2011. The Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence is awarded every two years.

“We’re proud to be on the Aspen list again,” said RLC President Terry Wilkerson. “We’ve consistently been on this list, and I think that’s a testament to the solid work of our faculty and staff, who every day help our students keep focused on making forward progress.”

According to the Aspen Institute website, the prize is “the nation’s signature recognition of high achievement and performance among America’s community colleges and recognizes institutions for exceptional student outcomes in four areas: student learning, certificate and degree completion, employment and earnings, and high levels of access and success for minority and low-income students.”

The Aspen Institute, the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, and the Lumina Foundation are partners supporting the prize.

Josh Wyner, Aspen Institute College Excellence Program Executive Director, said what the funding partners realize is that community colleges are not getting the attention they deserve.

“We need to make sure that we recognize that these are institutions that serve 7 million degree-seeking students, and that we are not going to meet our goals for social mobility or economic growth unless these institutions are recognized for the excellent work that many of them are doing,” Wyner said.

RLC’s three-year graduation and retention rate – 70 percent – far exceeds the national average of 39.8 percent for all community and technical colleges, according to information provided by the Aspen Institute.

“It is rewarding to see the impact of RLC’s continuous effort to serve and support students,” said Chris Kuberski, Vice President of Academic Instruction at RLC. “While the national recognition is welcome, we hope it will be recognized locally that Rend Lake College offers a quality education and the support services that students need to be successful.”

Other Illinois community colleges that made the list include: City Colleges of Chicago – Kennedy-King College and Wilbur Wright College; Elgin Community College; Illinois Eastern Community Colleges – Olney Central College and Wabash Valley College (Mount Carmel); Kishwaukee College (Malta); McHenry County College (Crystal Lake); and Morton College (Cicero).

The Aspen Institute will announce 10 finalists this fall, with the winner being announced in early 2015.

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