WILLMAR -- Ridgewater College has been chosen as one of the top 120 community colleges in the nation by the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program.
The selection makes the college eligible to compete with the other colleges for a $1 million 2013 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.
The Aspen Institute chose the colleges, 10 percent of those in the nation, using a formula that assesses performance and improvement in four areas: graduation rates, degrees awarded, student retention rates and equity in student outcomes.
A year-long research process into how well students learn, complete degrees, and get jobs with competitive wages after graduating will determine the final recipient of the $1 million fund.
The first Aspen Prize was awarded to the 70,000-student Valencia College (Orlando, Florida) in December 2011.
About seven million students enroll in America's nearly 1,200 public and private community colleges every year.
"The success of our nation's community colleges is more important than ever before," said Aspen Institute College Excellence Program Executive Director Josh Wyner in a news release.
Ridgewater and 119 other community colleges will be winnowed to eight-to-ten finalists in September. The Aspen Institute will conduct site visits to each of the finalists in the fall.
Ridgewater College is now eligible to submit an application containing detailed data about the success of its students.
For more information, visit http://www.aspeninstitute.org/policy-work/aspen-prize.