MECC Named Aspen Institute Top 150 U.S. Community Colleges, Eligible for 2019 Aspen Prize

Big Stone Gap, VA – Mountain Empire Community College is pleased to announce the college has been selected by The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program as one of the nation’s top 150 community colleges eligible to compete for the $1 million Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.

The Aspen Prize is the nation’s signature recognition of high achievement and performance among America’s community colleges. With a singular focus on student success, the Aspen Prize recognizes institutions with outstanding achievements in four areas: learning; certificate and degree completion; employment and earnings; and high levels of access and success for minority and low-income students.

“I knew Mountain Empire Community College had strong student success metrics when I chose serve as the President. MECC values and measures student performance related to learning outcomes, progression through academic programs, success in completing credentials, and ensuring those outcomes are equitable across diverse sectors of our student population.  I am excited that the college has been recognized for our exceptional outcomes that empower citizens for better lives,” said Dr. Kris Westover, President at MECC.

The 150 community colleges named as eligible to compete for the 2019 Prize were selected from a pool of nearly 1,000 public two-year colleges nationwide using publicly available data on student outcomes. Located in 39 states in urban, rural, and suburban areas, serving as few as 300 students and as many as 95,000 students, the colleges represent the diversity and depth of the community college sector. For a full list of the top 150 eligible institutions, visit:  

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC, whose mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program aims to advance higher education practices, policies, and leadership that significantly improve student outcomes. Through the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the Siemens Technical Scholars Program, and other initiatives, the College Excellence Program works to improve colleges’ understanding and capacity to teach and graduate students, especially the growing population of low-income and minority students on American campuses.

According to the Aspen Institute, higher education attainment has never been more important. Estimates from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce suggest that out of the 11.6 million jobs created in the postrecession economy, 11.5 million require at least some college education. The vast majority of students who enroll in community colleges do so because they believe that postsecondary education will provide them a path to rewarding work, stable employment, and family-sustaining wages.  

“Especially in the current social and economic climate, it is exceptionally important that our nation’s community colleges develop the diverse talent needed to fuel democratic engagement, social mobility, and economic opportunity and growth,” said Josh Wyner, executive director of the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program. “Through this competition we’re working to inspire other institutions across our country to ensure more students succeed in college and their lives beyond those campuses.”

The top ten finalists for the 2019 Aspen Prize will be named in May 2018. The Aspen Institute will then conduct site visits to each of the finalists and collect additional quantitative data, including employment and earnings data. A distinguished Prize Jury will select a grand prize winner, finalist(s) with distinction, and rising star(s) in spring 2019. To read more on the selection process, visit:   

Previous winners of the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence include: Lake Area Technical College in Watertown, South Dakota (2017); Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Florida (2015); co-winners Santa Barbara City College in Santa Barbara, California and Walla Walla Community College in Walla Walla, Washington (2013); and Valencia College in Orlando, Florida (2011 inaugural Prize winner).

For more information, visit   For more information about MECC, it’s programs and how to apply, visit or call 276.523.2400.