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North Lake Chosen as National Contender for The Aspen Prize

NLC amongst the top 9% of community colleges nationwide

IRVING, Texas– Every community college in the nation has an eye on the prize – The Aspen Prize – including Irving’s own North Lake College. It's a contest colleges cannot enter themselves. They cannot even ask to be considered. But the prize is worth $1 million – and the respect of every community college in the country.
Awarded by the Aspen Institute, The Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence recognizes institutions for exceptional student outcomes in four key areas: student learning; certificate and degree completion; employment and earnings; and high levels of access and support for minority and low-income students. North Lake College was recently notified they were selected to move on to round two in the final prize selection process. Among the 150 community colleges identified nationwide, 17 are from Texas and three are colleges within the Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD).
“It is a tremendous honor to be selected as eligible,” said Christa Slejko, North Lake’s interim president. “Achieving the metrics and success rates that make the college eligible put us in the company of high-performing two-year schools across the country. Being eligible for the Aspen Award tells us that we are working on the right things – the important things – for our students, our area employers and our community…[and] that we are making progress. We are proud to be associated with the Aspen Institute, and this inspires us to work even harder.”

College completion is a national priority, from the White House to every two-year college in the country.  The Aspen Institute, the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Lumina Foundation have partnered to support the $1 million Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, which is given once every two years. The first Aspen Prize was awarded in 2011 to Valencia College in Florida, a rival familiar to North Lake College from other national competitions. The Aspen Prize opens doors for colleges, their district, and their students. Potential funds mean more student-focused programming, and fewer budget constraints.

“Colleges like North Lake are selected by a panel of experts,” says Slejko, explaining the selection process. “The panel reviews publicly-available data from the National Center for Education Statistics’ Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System – what we call IPEDS – and the U.S. Census Bureau.” 

As a Aspen Prize contender, North Lake College was required to submit a questionnaire in mid-March to the Aspen Institute. This data report is now under review by the finalist selection committee. The institute is also conducting interviews with the leadership teams of approximately half of the institutions.
So what happens next? Essentially, in round two, 10 finalists will be chosen. Each of the 10 colleges selected as finalists will again be reviewed, based on statistical information; visited; and then analyzed. A prize jury comprising prominent former elected officials, national business and civic leaders, and former community college leaders reviews the data to select the prize winner plus several finalists with distinction.
For more information about the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, visit
Editor's note: For interviews, photo opportunities and media support, please contact Ann Hatch in the DCCCD office of public and governmental affairs by phone at (214) 378-1819 or by email at

North Lake College is a member of the Dallas County Community College District. Educational opportunities are offered by the Dallas County Community College District without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity or gender expression.