San Antonio College (SAC) was selected as the winner of the 2021 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence during a virtual award ceremony on May 18th. SAC will receive $600,000. For the prize, 150 community colleges were invited to apply. And of those, 10 were selected as finalists. The prize criteria focused on five areas: teaching and learning, degree and credential completion, transfer and bachelor’s degree paths, workforce and career help and equity.

“San Antonio College, one of five colleges in the Alamo College District, is laser-focused on serving students from its immediate environment, an area that is predominantly low income with low rates of degree attainment and high rates of unemployment,” said Ruth Williams-Brinkley, president of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Mid-Atlantic States and Aspen Prize jury co-chair. “Two-thirds of students are Hispanic, Black or Native American. Leaders, faculty and staff have a shared sense of urgency for improvement. They have a commitment to evidence-based inquiry and accountability, and a common understanding that everyone in the community is responsible for students’ wellbeing inside and outside the classroom.”

Williams-Brinkley added that 52% of students starting at SAC graduate or transfer within three years, compared to the national average of 46%.

“We assess all courses, all 2,300 core sections within one given semester,” said Dr. Robert Vela, the president of San Antonio College. “So, part of the commitment is that every single faculty member, including adjuncts, full-timers, support personnel, spend time really looking at their data, making sure that they’re able to disaggregate the data around special populations, and ensuring what is it that we’re doing well and what is it that we’re not doing so well and what can we do to improve? When a faculty member or a cadre of faculty members demonstrate success in particular courses, we actually have them serve as coaches for others.” (

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