Photo:Valencia College in Orlando was recognized in 2011 as the nation's best community college by the Aspen Institute, an educational and policy studies center.
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Newsmakers of the Year - Statewide
Florida has more top-performing community colleges than any other state.
Florida’s higher education system has been buffeted in recent years by challenges ranging from increasing demands for accountability to funding cutbacks to expanded roles for two-year schools in offering four-year degrees.
Amid the fiscal and political turmoil, community colleges — the frontline institutions vital in creating a skilled workforce for the state — have distinguished themselves. The non-profit Aspen Institute, a respected educational and policy studies institute, placed 14 of Florida’s 28 community colleges among the top 10% in the nation. Two — Broward College in Fort Lauderdale and Santa Fe College in Gainesville — are among the top 10 in the country. The institute will pick the top two from among that list.
Florida has the most community colleges among the top 10% of any state. Among other large states, Texas has eight, New York, six, and California, three.
In 2011, Aspen recognized Valencia College as the nation’s best community college, based on three criteria: Performance, including retention and graduation rates; improvement in specified areas over five years; and equity, the ability to extend good outcomes to minority and disadvantaged students.
Valencia was recognized for continuous improvement and having among the highest degree-award rates in the country. Its graduates get jobs at a higher rate than almost any other school in the nation, even in an Orlando economy with unemployment rates higher than the national average.
Miami Dade College, was among four other finalists that shared the $1-million, biennial prize with Valencia.
Florida state colleges among the Aspen Institute’s top 10% (in alphabetical order):
Brevard Community College, Cocoa
Broward College, Fort Lauderdale
Chipola College, Marianna
College of Central Florida, Ocala
Indian River State College, Fort Pierce
Lake-Sumter Community College, Leesburg
Miami Dade College, Miami
Northwest Florida State College, Niceville
Beach State College, Lake Worth
Pasco-Hernando Community College, New Port Richey
Santa Fe College, Gainesville
South Florida Community College, Avon Park
St. Johns River State College, Palatka
Tallahassee Community College, Tallahassee
Valencia College, Orlando *
*Because it won the prize in 2011, Valencia is not eligible to apply for the biennial award this year.