Miami Dade College was awarded the prestigious 2019 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence on April 2 in Washington D.C.
The biennial award, a $350,000 prize, recognizes colleges with high graduation and transfer rates and whose students find employment after completing their degrees.
This year, the College shared the prize with Indian River State College.
“This award is an affirmation of what we’ve been aspiring to for so many years at MDC, to ensure open access and academic excellence can go hand-in-hand,” said Miami Dade College President, Eduardo J. Padrón through a College spokesperson.
Every two years since 2011, the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program has been honoring two-year institutions around the nation with the prize. The finalists and winners are selected from a competitive pool of more than 1,000 community colleges from across the country, specifically recognizing them for their dedication to student access.
“Many people liken it to the Academy Award for colleges,” said Lenore Rodicio, executive vice president and provost at MDC. “It is motivation to keep doing what we are doing in student achievement and to expand our best practices.”
According to Rodicio, the College received the award thanks to its Student Achievement Initiatives and Guided Pathways work. The SAI is a roadmap that helps with the College’s student success and completion rates.
She also attributes the honor to MDC’s efforts in ensuring that in addition to academic needs, students’ non-academic needs are also accounted for and met. Through services such as free tax preparation, financial guidance, and food pantries for students, MDC has assisted students with financial hardships.
“[Miami Dade College] is geographically dispersed, across eight campuses, and demographically diverse,” said Janae Hinson, the communications manager for the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program. “Against this backdrop, Miami Dade College plays a critical and inspirational role in providing an on-ramp to higher education for students who may otherwise have never found one.”
Rodicio said the money from the prize, which is funded by several national foundations affiliated with the Aspen Institute, such as the ECMC Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the Kresge Foundation and the Siemens Foundation, will be reinvested to support the SAI.