San Jacinto College named finalist for 2021 Aspen Prize 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — San Jacinto College has been named as one of 10 finalists for the 2021 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the nation’s signature recognition of high achievement and performance among community colleges.

Awarded every two years since 2011, the Aspen Prize recognizes institutions that achieve strong student outcomes across four key areas: teaching and learning, degree completion and successful transfer to four-year institutions, success in the workforce, and equitable outcomes for diverse student groups. In 2017, San Jacinto College earned the Aspen Rising Star Award; and in 2019, the Aspen Institute named San Jacinto College as one of the top 10 community colleges in the country.

“It is again an honor to be recognized by the Aspen Institute for the incredible work being done at San Jacinto College to help our students reach their educational goals,” said San Jacinto College Chancellor Dr. Brenda Hellyer. “This recognition is due to the dedication of our Board of Trustees, administration, faculty, and staff to ensure that all of our students have the resources they need and well-planned educational pathways to complete their certificates or degrees. On behalf of everyone at San Jacinto College, I thank the Aspen Institute for this amazing honor.”


The college’s laser focus on student completion has resulted in a 168.7 percent increase in certificates and degrees from 2009 to 2019. This is the result of the comprehensive work of employees throughout San Jacinto College to advise and track students from admissions to completion.

The institution has developed an intentional, integrated advising program to help students succeed. This program was designed to make the student experience more relational and less transactional and more intrusive and intentional, with career information and exploration strategically placed throughout the process. College Outreach Advisors monitor students’ progress and provide help, guidance, and encouragement if needed.

“We know that our students are more successful when they have a connection to the college from the moment they come to campus to the moment they walk across the stage at graduation,” said San Jacinto College Deputy Chancellor and College President Dr. Laurel Williamson. “That’s why we have been intentional about removing barriers and putting support systems in place so that our students can get the help they need wherever they are in their certificate or degree programs.”


In addition to the increased attention to helping students where they are, the college has also changed many processes to remove barriers and put support services in place where they are needed. From iConnect Centers on each campus, to First Generation Clubs, mentors, employer “Meet-Ups,” College Knowledge Fairs, and workshops, these increased connections are preparing students to transfer or enter the workforce.

Since joining the Guided Pathways initiative four years ago, San Jacinto College has been working to ensure students have a clear pathway to transfer. Student pathways are put into place during entry advising and College faculty map a pathway for each program every year so that students have a detailed plan of the courses and sequence they need to take in order to complete on time. The college has transfer maps through bachelor’s degrees in place for University of Houston’s three campuses, Texas A&M University, and Sam Houston State University. Pathways incorporate Texas high school endorsements, San Jacinto College meta-majors, and career and transfer tracks.

“San Jacinto College has developed more than 100 program maps to help our students complete and transfer,” said Williamson. “I commend the faculty and staff for their work on these pathways because we have been able to decrease the average number of semester credit hours to degree completion from 103 in 2012 to 84 in 2018, saving our students time and money.”

 The 10 Aspen Prize finalists were selected from the nation’s 1,000 community colleges in a process that included qualitative and quantitative data analysis and engaged more than 30 experts in the field. The finalists all effectively identify, develop, and scale strategies to propel all students to not just complete college but also succeed after graduation.

2021 Aspen Prize Finalists

  • Amarillo College, Amarillo, TX
  • Borough of Manhattan Community College, New York, NY
  • Broward College, Fort Lauderdale, FL
  • Odessa College, Odessa, TX
  • Pasadena City College, Pasadena, CA
  • Pierce College, Pierce County, WA
  • San Antonio College, San Antonio, TX
  • San Jacinto College, Pasadena, TX
  • Tallahassee Community College, Tallahassee, FL
  • West Kentucky Community and Technical College, Paducah, KY

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