Lakeside center in the fall

Nicolet College Named a Finalist for Distinguished Aspen Prize


Citing its strong and broad-based commitment to deliver quality college education, the Aspen Institute has named Nicolet College a national finalist for the $1 million Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.

“It’s truly an honor to be recognized for our work to advance higher education in the Northwoods by such an esteemed organization as the Aspen Institute,” said Nicolet College President Kate Ferrel.

“Our dedication at Nicolet runs deep for creating opportunity for residents to earn a quality college education that will help them get ahead in life and build robust communities with the skills they bring to the workplace.”

Out of the approximately 1,000 public two-year colleges the Aspen Institute evaluated across the country, 150 were selected as finalists.

Institute staff looked for achievement in five areas. These included teaching and learning, certificate and degree completion, transfer and bachelor’s degree attainment, workforce success, and equity for students of color and those from low-income backgrounds.

The Aspen 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.

“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. They are committed to ensuring that all students— including students of color and those from low-income backgrounds—graduate with the skills needed to secure a job with family-sustaining wages or successfully transfer to and graduate from a university. That same commitment that stands at the center of the Aspen Prize: to advance the goals of social mobility and equitable talent development.”

The Aspen Prize is generously funded by Ascendium and the Joyce Foundation, Wyner also noted.

In this first round, eligibility was based on publicly available data. Eligible colleges needed to show strong and improving student outcomes in key areas such as retention, completion, transfer, and equity. Nationwide, 15 percent of community colleges made the cut to advance to the next round.

Nicolet staff will now complete the Aspen Institute’s application form for evaluation by a panel of experts in spring and summer of 2022. The panel will select 10 finalists for site visits in the fall of 2022, with prize winners announced in spring of 2023.

President Ferrel also noted that the naming of the finalists also reflected the high overall quality of education in the Wisconsin Technical College System, with Nicolet being one of nine Wisconsin public technical colleges advancing to the next round.

The other WTCS colleges honored as finalist include Chippewa Valley Technical College, Fox Valley Technical College, Lakeshore Technical College, Northcentral Technical College, Northwest Technical College, Northwood Technical College, Southwest Wisconsin Technical College, and Western Technical College.