The Aspen Institute and the Community College Research Center select Laramie County Community College for ‘Unlocking Opportunity’ Initiative

National network of 10 exceptional community colleges commits to ensuring that every student can earn a bachelor’s degree or a high-quality workforce credential

WASHINGTON D.C., – The Aspen Institute, in partnership with the Community College Research Center at Teacher College, Columbia University today named Laramie County Community College as one of the 10 community colleges selected for Unlocking Opportunity: The Post-Graduation Success and Equity Network. 

Announced last fall, this network will be comprised of 10 community colleges committed to improving students’ post-completion outcomes and proving that—by focusing on delivering credentials of value—colleges can strengthen the programs they offer and advising they provide. 

“It is truly an honor to be one of the few selected for this project and to benefit from the great work being done by the Aspen Institute. We know our business community is desperately looking to us for a skilled workforce.  To respond, LCCC must ensure everyone succeeds, for us that especially means first-generation and low-income students,” said Dr. Joe Schaffer, president of LCCC.  

This national network will lead the field in shifting from the important but incomplete goal of graduating students with any credential to advancing access and completion with the end in mind: credentials of value. That means making sure that every student is set up to earn a bachelor’s degree or a high-quality workforce credential — including students of color and low-income students who are least likely to enroll in and complete the programs that most often result in strong outcomes. 

“The Unlocking Opportunity initiative will provide LCCC an amazing opportunity to access world-class resources, benchmark ourselves with the very best institutions, and evaluate the work we are doing to prepare our students for the workforce and continuing their pursuit of advanced degrees,” Schaffer said.

“For many years, community colleges have been focused on improving graduation rates — and progress has been steady and impressive,” said Josh Wyner, founder and executive director of the Aspen College Excellence Program. “But with enrollments dropping for a decade, it is time for community colleges to turn their attention to increasing the value of the credentials they deliver, especially for the large numbers of Black, Hispanic, and low-income students who rely so heavily on community colleges to provide a path to a better life. The colleges selected for this network have shown that they can make scaled and systemic change, and are ready to work together on this critical goal.” 

The network will run from 2023 through 2028. During the first three years, colleges will set concrete goals, plan reform strategies and implement changes with the support of coaches and learning sessions. The final three years will include continued monitoring and research by CCRC and Aspen alongside the continuing release of publicly-accessible tools, case studies and reports to share the lessons with the field. Throughout the process, colleges will focus on strengthening and rethinking existing programs and developing new program models that expand career and educational opportunity for all students. 

“We’re excited to work with these colleges to help them evaluate and strengthen their programs and see which lead to great outcomes: either good jobs right away or via completion of a bachelor’s degree,” said Davis Jenkins, senior research scholar at the Community College Research Center. “This requires intensive work, and I cannot imagine a better group of institutions from which we can learn and share lessons with the field on how to deliver excellent and equitable programs.”

The colleges in the network are:

  • Alamo Colleges District: San Antonio College, Texas
  • Laramie County Community College, Wyoming
  • Lorain County Community College, Ohio
  • Monroe Community College, New York
  • Odessa College, Texas
  • Sinclair College, Ohio
  • Southwest Wisconsin Technical College, Wisconsin
  • St. Petersburg College, Florida
  • Tulsa Community College, Oklahoma
  • Valencia College, Florida

San Jacinto College in Texas will also participate, as a resource college for the network. This project is made possible by Arnold Ventures, Ascendium, ECMC Foundation, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, and Lumina Foundation.

For more information contact: 

  • LCCC: Dr. Kari Brown Herbst, Sr. Vice President, Academic Affairs, 307-778-1103, kherbst@lccc.wy.edu
  • Aspen Institute: Anne Larkin, 208-596-5886, anne.larkin@aspeninstitute.org