SALISBURY, N.C. – The Aspen Institute has named Rowan-Cabarrus Community College as one of the 150 institutions eligible to compete for the $1 million Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the nation’s signature recognition of high achievement and performance among two-year colleges.

The institutions selected for this honor stand out among more than 1,000 community colleges nationwide as having high and improving levels of student success as well as equitable outcomes for Black and Hispanic students and those from lower-income backgrounds.

“We are deeply committed to the success of our students and incredibly honored to have received recognition from the Aspen Institute,” said Dr. Carol S. Spalding, president of Rowan-Cabarrus. “This prestigious award underscores our unwavering dedication to fostering workforce development and credential completion for every student in our region. Our primary goal is to ensure that our students not only have the opportunity to pursue their dreams but also to achieve them.”

The Aspen Prize spotlights exemplary community colleges that achieve post-graduate success for students and is a central way Aspen researches highly effective student success strategies that are shared with the field.

The 150 eligible colleges have been invited to submit student success data and narratives about strategies to achieve better and more equitable student outcomes as the next step in an intensive review process that will culminate with the naming of the Aspen Prize winner in spring 2025. Located in urban, rural, and suburban areas across 30 states, the selected colleges serve as few as 169 students and as many as 49,619. Rowan-Cabarrus serves more than 20,000 students per year. 

“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.” 

While community colleges are an essential contributor to the nation’s success, student outcomes vary substantially among institutions. Aspen measures those variances using multiple data sources and honors colleges with outstanding achievement in six critical 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.

“These 150 colleges have achieved high and improving levels of student success for all students, including those who are often failed by our institutions,” Wyner said. “We’re excited to learn over the coming months how they achieved that success so we can share the most impressive practices with others in the field.” 

In this first round, eligibility for the Aspen Prize is based on publicly available data. Colleges must show strong, improving, and equitable student outcomes in first-to-second year retention, credentials awarded, and completion and transfer rates. Nationwide, about 15 percent of community colleges have been invited to apply (150 of just under 1,000 public two-year colleges assessed for Prize eligibility). For a full list of the top 150 eligible institutions, visit

For more information about Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, please visit www.rccc.eduor call 704-216-RCCC (7222).