Southwestern Community College is one of 150 institutions nationwide that have been selected to compete for part of a prestigious $1 million grant from the Aspen Institute.

SCC President Don Tomas was informed recently that Southwestern is among six community colleges in North Carolina that are eligible for the 2023 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, which recognizes schools with high and improving levels of student success.

Former President Barack Obama once referred to the Aspen Prize as “basically the Oscars for great community colleges.” Awarded every other year, the Aspen Prize aims to celebrate excellence, advance a focus on equitable student success and stimulate replication of effective culture and practice.

“The Aspen Prize is probably one of the highest honors of achievement for community college excellence in the nation,” Tomas said. “We’re all very proud that the Aspen Institute selected Southwestern as one of the institutions eligible to compete for the 2023 award. Our faculty and staff always put students first, and we are focused on student success, so it’s very gratifying when organizations like the Aspen Institute recognize the good work SCC is doing in the communities we serve.”

Selected from a pool of more than 1,000 community colleges in the nation – including 58 in North Carolina – Southwestern has been invited to submit data and narratives for two years as next steps in an intensive data and practice review process, which will narrow the field of finalists down to 10 next spring or summer before designating the winning institutions in the late spring of 2023.

In 2021, San Antonio College, Alamo Colleges District in Texas was named the overall winner of $600,000 while four other finalists were honored with cash prizes of $100,000 each.

A college from North Carolina has yet to crack the Top 10 going back to the award’s genesis in 2011.

“Leaders of exceptional community colleges understand that achieving excellence requires expanding college access and increasing degree completion, but it doesn’t stop there,” said Josh Wyner, director of the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program. “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.”

This selection is the latest national recognition for Southwestern, which has been ranked among the country’s Top 10 community colleges six times in the last 14 years, including an overall No. 1 ranking by in 2020.

For more information about Southwestern and the programs it offers, visit or call 339-4000.