Northampton Community College has been recognized as one of the top 150 community colleges in the nation by the Aspen Institute for College Excellence, a designation that will allow the school to compete for $1 million in prize money to help bolster its programming.
The Aspen Institute College Excellence Award is funded through the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Lumina Foundation.
Finalists are selected out of a national pool of more than 1,000 public two-year colleges using publicly available data.
Schools selected are chosen based on outcomes in student learning, certificate and degree completion, employment and earnings and high levels of access and success for minority and low-income students.
Mark Erickson, NCC's president, said the school is collecting data to hand over to the institute for review.
The institute will then take that data and choose 10 finalists, which will receive site visits from the institute.
"We are aggressively pursuing this. It is a pretty big to-do, " Erickson said.
He said the school has a chance to become a finalist because of its strong track record.
Regardless, Erickson said he is honored to be included in the 150 schools selected to compete.
"Even at this stage – given how many community colleges there are in the country – it's a nice honor," he said.
The $1 million in prize money is awarded and divided as determined by the prize jury. In 2013, Aspen awarded two $400,000 first-place prizes with a division of the remaining $200,000 among two finalists-with-distinction.
This is the third time the institute has held the awards program. Data collection, review and selection take about two years because of the level of research involved. The next awards will be given out in 2015.