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SMC Chosen to Compete for Prestigious National Award

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By Lookout Staff

November 3, 2021 -- Santa Monica College (SMC) was one of 150 community colleges nationwide chosen to compete for a prestigious $1 million grant from the Aspen Institute, school officials announced Tuesday.

SMC was selected from among 1,000 colleges based on publicly available information to compete for the award that recognizes schools with "high and improving levels of student success," officials said.

The Aspen Prize -- which has focused on community colleges since 2010 -- also recognizes schools with "equitable outcomes for Black and Hispanic students and those from lower-income backgrounds."

SMC must now submit "data and narratives" for an intensive review process that culminates in a winner being announced in spring 2023.

“For decades, Santa Monica College has centered equity in decision-making with the intention of creating a welcoming environment for all students, one that seeks to continually eliminate roadblocks of systemic racism and socio-economic inequality," said SMC Superintendent/President Dr. Kathryn E. Jeffery.

"We are beyond excited to have this commitment to equity and student success recognized by the Aspen Prize Top 150 community college honor, for what President Barack Obama called ". . . the Oscars for great community colleges!’”

The prize spotlights exemplary community colleges "in order to elevate the sector, drive attention to colleges doing the best work, and discover and share highly effective student success and equity strategies," college officials said.

The Aspen Prize recognizes a college's achievement in five areas -- teaching and learning, certificate and degree completion, transfer and bachelor’s attainment, workforce success and equity for students of color and students from low-income backgrounds.

“In an era of persistent inequity and workforce talent gaps, our nation’s best community colleges are stepping up to deliver more degrees to increasingly diverse students so they are prepared for the good jobs waiting to be filled,” said Josh Wyner, executive director of the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program.

“Leaders of exceptional community colleges understand that achieving excellence requires expanding college access and increasing degree completion, but it doesn’t stop there."

Colleges, Wyner said, must be committed to ensuring "all graduate with the skills needed to secure a job with family-sustaining wages or successfully transfer to and graduate from a university,” Wyner said.

SMC, said Jeffery, has been doing that for decades, noting that the school has been the number one transfer college to the University of California (UC) system fr 30 straight years.

Last year, SMC also continued to lead in minority transfers to the UC system and held the top spot for transfers to USC and Loyola Marymount University.

It also ranked second in total combined transfers to the UC and California State University (CSU) system.

It's goal has always been “for every student to identify and realize their own fullest potential, building better lives for themselves and their families in the process," Jeffery said.

"SMC students and community college students overall are the agents of change needed to create a stronger, more just nation and world," she said.

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