San Jacinto College named a top 5 community college in the nation

May 18, 2021Amanda Fenwick

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today the Aspen Institute named San Jacinto College as a Finalist with Distinction for the 2021 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the nation's signature recognition of high achievement and performance among community colleges.

"All of us on the Board of Trustees are so proud of everyone at San Jacinto College," said Marie Flickinger, chair of the San Jacinto College Board of Trustees. "We want to commend everyone for the work they do to ensure students complete what they start. This is an exciting day for the College and the entire San Jacinto College community."

Awarded every two years since 2011, the Aspen Prize recognizes institutions that achieve strong student outcomes across four key areas:

  • Teaching and learning
  • Degree completion and successful transfer to four-year institutions
  • Success in the workforce
  • Equitable outcomes for diverse student groups

In 2017, San Jacinto College earned the Aspen Rising Star Award, and in 2019, the Aspen Institute named San Jacinto College as one of the top 10 community colleges in the country.

"This Aspen Prize honor goes to the people of San Jacinto College," said San Jacinto College Chancellor Dr. Brenda Hellyer. "Everyone at the College — from our Board of Trustees, administration, and faculty to our staff, students, and community partners — works hard in and out of the classroom every single day to support our College mission. To be named a top 5 community college in the nation is truly a recognition of their hard work."

According to the Aspen Institute, San Jacinto College was named a top 5 community college in the nation for several reasons, including:

  • Focus on completion: San Jacinto College has increased its certificate and degree completion by 168.37% from 2009 to 2019.
  • Community partnerships: San Jacinto College is involved with schools, churches, nonprofits, and businesses across its district to ensure it is addressing the needs of various communities in the ways that best serve them.
  • Economic impact: For every $1 students invest in their San Jacinto College education, they will see a $6.30 return in future income. The College's impact on the region totals $1.3 billion in added income, which supports 13,044 jobs.
  • Student support: Through industry advisory committees and career readiness preparations, students receive the tools and resources to ensure the selected pathway meets their goals, interests, and salary aspirations.
  • Equity: San Jacinto College has developed several strategies to address equity gaps that have resulted in an increase in financial aid and credentials awarded, as well as course completion, retention, and persistence.

"San Jacinto College takes responsibility for not just making sure that its students earn a degree or credential but also that they succeed after graduation," said Linda Perlstein, a director at the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program. "That care and commitment has yielded great outcomes for graduates."

San Jac graduates with an Associate of Applied Science degree, intended to prepare students to immediately enter the workforce, earned nearly $15,000 more than the average new hire in the county.

"San Jacinto College has been through a decade of innovation, growth, and steady improvement," Williams-Brinkley said in announcing the award. "The institution has been rigorously self-reflective about where it can do better, ambitious about scaling reform, and wholeheartedly committed to owning graduates' success after transfer and in the workforce. Leaders have built remarkably strong partnerships with industry, leading to state-of-the-art training facilities constructed in collaboration with employers. San Jacinto College is not just responsive to employer needs; it also plays a lead role in developing key industries in the region, with exceptional workforce outcomes for alumni."

The 10 Aspen Prize finalists recognized today were selected from the nation's 1,100 community colleges in a process that included a rigorous review process, a comprehensive examination of outcomes data, as well as multi-day virtual site visits to each of the 10 finalist institutions.


2021 Aspen Prize Results


  • San Antonio College, San Antonio, TX

Finalist with Distinction:

  • Broward College, Fort Lauderdale, FL
  • San Jacinto College, Pasadena, TX
  • West Kentucky Community and Technical College, Paducah, KY

Rising Star:

  • Amarillo College, Amarillo, TX

Other Finalists:

  • Borough of Manhattan Community College, New York, NY
  • Odessa College, Odessa, TX
  • Pierce College, Pierce County, WA
  • Pasadena City College, Pasadena, CA
  • Tallahassee Community College, Tallahassee, FL

Previous winners of the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence include Miami Dade College (Florida) and Indian River State College (Florida), 2019; Lake Area Technical College (South Dakota), 2017; Santa Fe College (Florida), 2015; Santa Barbara City College (California) and Walla Walla Community College (Washington), 2013; and Valencia College (Florida), 2011.

The Aspen Prize is generously funded by Ascendium Education Group, Joyce Foundation, and Siemens Foundation. The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program aims to advance higher education practices, policies, and leadership that significantly improve student outcomes, especially for the growing population of low-income students and students of color on American campuses. For more information, visit and and follow @AspenHigherEd on Twitter.

The Aspen Institute is a community-serving organization with global reach whose vision is a free, just, and equitable society. For 70 years, the institute has driven change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the world's greatest challenges. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the institute has offices in Aspen, Colorado, and New York City, and an international network of partners. For more information, visit

About San Jacinto College

Surrounded by monuments of history, evolving industries, maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has served the people of East Harris County, Texas, since 1961. San Jacinto College is among the top 10 community colleges in the nation as designated by the Aspen Institute for Community College Excellence, and was named an Achieving the Dream Leader College of Distinction in 2020. The College serves approximately 45,000 credit and non-credit students annually, and offers more than 200 degrees and certificates across eight major areas of study that put students on a path to transfer to four-year institutions or enter the workforce. San Jacinto College's impact on the region totals $1.3 billion in added income, which supports 13,044 jobs. The College is fiscally sound, holding bond ratings of AA and Aa2 by Standard & Poor's and Moody's.

For more information about San Jacinto College call 281-998-6150, visit or join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

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