San Jac Named Among Nation’s Top Five Community Colleges


Courtesy of San Jacinto College Marketing, Public Relations and Government Affairs Department

San Jacinto College Chancellor Dr. Brenda Hellyer (right) accepts the Rising Star award from former U.S. Representative from California, George Miller March 14 at the Newseum in Washington, DC.

San Jacinto College claimed a spot as one of the nation’s top five community colleges beating out 145 contenders from a pool of more than 1,100 two-year institutions for the Rising Star award.

Chancellor Dr. Brenda Hellyer accepted the honor along with a cash prize of $100,000 at a luncheon March 14 hosted by The Aspen Institute, an organization whose accolades were called “the Oscars for great community colleges” by President Barack Obama.

“This is a tremendous recognition for our students, faculty, staff, board, and community,” Hellyer said. “This is a testament to all of us doing incredible work.” Despite not winning the top prize, the Chancellor said San Jac showed commitment in “learning” and “innovation.”

The College was first nominated for the Aspen Prize along with 150 other top community colleges before a committee narrowed down the list to ten top finalists based on student academic achievement, degree and college completion.

However, to achieve this honor, Hellyer noted, San Jac overcame several hurdles including a high student dropout rate. In turn, the College made degree completion an “institutional priority,” she said.

Likewise, at the luncheon, Joshua Wyner, executive director of the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program, attributed San Jac’s selection as a rising star to the strides it made in graduation rates.

Other top five winners included Lake Area Technical Institute of Watertown, South Dakota; the winner of the 2017 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence and the grand prize winner of the $600,000 award. Broward College and Indian River State College, both of Florida, were each recognized as Finalist with Distinction, while Odessa College, the only other top ten nominee from Texas, received the Rising Star honor along with San Jac. Finalists with Distinction and Rising Star schools are each awarded $100,000 cash prizes.

After the announcement, Hellyer said in a prepared statement, “This award is for our students. They are the focus of our work and our efforts.”