Anoka-Ramsey Community College Named One of Top 10 Community Colleges in U.S.

The college is a finalist for prestigious Aspen $1 million prize for community college excellence

Anoka-Ramsey Community College’s student-focus, teaching excellence and research opportunities, and low-cost tuition, which have been regionally well-known for years, have launched the college into a top 10 finalist spot for the 2017 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the nation’s preeminent recognition of high achievement and performance in America’s community colleges.

The $1 million prize, awarded every two years since 2011, recognizes outstanding institutions selected from an original pool of more than 1,000 public community colleges nationwide. The prize will be awarded in March 2017 in Washington, D.C. to the winner and up to four finalists with distinction.

“You might ask, ‘Why Anoka-Ramsey?’ and I proudly say, it’s our people,” says Anoka-Ramsey President, Kent Hanson, upon hearing of the distinction. “Anoka-Ramsey is a unique and special place. It’s the faculty, staff and students and an unwavering commitment to student success. It’s our community support system from those who donate to scholarships, to local legislators who support our funding, to business leaders who share insights and advice, and often hire our graduates. Through our collaborative strategic planning process I feel we have developed an exceptional roadmap for distinction by focusing on student success, academic excellence, creating a vibrant culture, enhancing our identity and fostering our partnerships.”

The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program director echoes Hanson’s sentiments: “We were incredibly impressed by the efforts of Anoka-Ramsey Community College faculty and staff to nourish a deep culture of support for students,” says Joshua Wyner, Executive Director of the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program in Washington, D.C. “That, paired with an unusually strong undergraduate research program and a clear focus on teaching and learning, makes Anoka-Ramsey a uniquely supportive educational environment for Minnesota students.”

The Aspen Institute said Anoka-Ramsey stood out as one of the nation’s top community colleges for many reasons, including:

  • Excellent three-year graduation/transfer rate of 56%
  • Distinctive programs to provide college-going opportunities to students who are first in their family to go to college and for those still in high school students, including not just high-achieving students but also those in the middle of their class
  • The lowest cost tuition and fees of any public or private higher education institution in Minnesota
  • High success rates that are virtually identical for white populations and students of color—especially notable in a state with one of the largest achievement gaps in the nation

The march for the $1 million prize continues this fall as the Aspen Institute visits Anoka-Ramsey and the other nine nominated colleges to conduct a rigorous review process that includes examination of extensive data on performance and improvements in learning, graduation, workforce, and equitable outcomes for all students as well as multi-day site visits to each of the 10 finalist institutions. Then, a distinguished prize jury of higher education experts will select a grand prize winner and up to four finalists with distinction.

(SUB) The 2017 Aspen Prize Finalists (listed in alphabetical order):

Anoka-Ramsey Community College, the only Minnesota community college on this list, joins the following colleges to comprise the top 10 finalists:

  • Broward College – Fort Lauderdale, FL#
  • Chaffey College – Rancho Cucamonga, CA
  • Indian River State College – Fort Pierce, FL#
  • Lake Area Technical Institute, Watertown, SD*
  • Northeast Community College – Norfolk, NE
  • Odessa College – Odessa, TX
  • Pasadena City College – Pasadena, CA
  • San Jacinto College – Pasadena, TX
  • West Kentucky Community and Technical College, Paducah, KY*

* finalists in four consecutive prize cycles; # finalists for a second time


More about The Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program

The Aspen Institute’s 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 New College Leadership Project, 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. For more information, visit

The Aspen Prize is funded by the Joyce Foundation, the Siemens Foundation, and the Kresge Foundation.

To follow Anoka-Ramsey Community College’s progress toward the top spot, or to learn more about the outstanding educational opportunities available, visit


Anoka-Ramsey Community College, with campuses in Cambridge and Coon Rapids, is a member of the Minnesota State system and has been a leading provider of higher education and training in East Central Minnesota since 1978 and the north suburban area of Minneapolis/St. Paul since 1965. Annually, the college serves more than 12,500 learners of all ages as they pursue associate degrees that transfer as the first two years of a bachelor’s degree, or certificate programs that lead immediately to rewarding careers. Anoka-Ramsey Community College is aligned with Anoka Technical College and together the institutions serve more than 16,000 learners–the largest community and technical college entity in Minnesota. An affirmative action, equal opportunity employer and educator. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. This document is available in alternative formats to individuals with disabilities by calling the Minnesota Relay Service at 1-800-627-3529.

Anoka-Ramsey Community College President Kent Hanson reacts to the college being named a finalist for the Aspen Prize.





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