Golden West College Chosen As Top Community College in Nation by Aspen Institute

Golden West College has been named as one of 150 top community colleges around the nation eligible to compete for the prestigious Aspen Prize, a $1 million grant that recognizes high achievement and performance.  

The prize — to be handed out in 2025 by the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program — recognizes institutions with outstanding achievements in six key areas: teaching and learning, certificate and degree completion, transfer and bachelor’s attainment, workforce success, equitable access to the college, and equitable outcomes for students of color and students from low-income backgrounds. 

“The Aspen Prize is the highest honor that a community college in the United States can receive. Being selected to compete for this honor speaks to the commitment of our faculty, classified professionals, and administrators who consistently go above and beyond to make sure our students succeed not just during their time at our College, but also after they graduate and move on in their careers,” says GWC Interim President Meridith Randall.  

The Aspen Institute invites 15 percent of more than 1,000 community colleges nationwide to apply for the Aspen Prize annually. In California, 19 community colleges were invited to apply for the 2025 prize. A complete list of eligible colleges is available on the Aspen Institute website.  

“The Aspen Prize is rooted first and foremost in an assessment of whether colleges are walking the walk,” said Josh Wyner, executive director of the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program. “As community colleges face enrollment variations, enroll students with pandemic-related learning loss, and graduate students into a rapidly changing labor market, it is easy to lose track of what matters most.  The best community colleges are continuing to focus on advancing the core mission: making sure as many students as possible graduate with credentials that lead to fulfilling careers and reflect the development of diverse talent that communities, states, and our nation need.” 

The top ten finalists for the 2025 Aspen Prize will be named in 2024. The Aspen Institute will then conduct site visits to each of the finalists and collect additional quantitative data, including employment and earnings data. A distinguished prize jury will select a grand prize winner, finalist(s) with distinction, and rising star(s) in Spring 2025.  

The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization whose purpose is to ignite human potential to build understanding and create new possibilities for a better world. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve society’s greatest challenges. It is headquartered in Washington, DC and has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, as well as an international network of partners. For more information, visit