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The Aspen Institute and the Community College Research Center Select Sinclair Community College for "Unlocking Opportunity" Initiative

The Aspen Institute, in partnership with the Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Teachers College, Columbia University today named Sinclair Community College as one of 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 strengthening the programs they offer and advising they provide. 

“Sinclair Community College is honored to be selected by the Aspen Institute and the CCRC for this innovative initiative and we look forward to working with the participating institutions, our team, and the community to enhance and strengthen our programs,” said Dr. Steve Johnson, President – Sinclair Community College. “Unlocking Opportunity aligns with Sinclair’s mission to find the need and endeavor to meet it by formulating and executing strategies to increase access to high-value education and career pathways that benefit our students, their families, employers, and our region.” 

This national network will lead the field in shifting from graduating students with any credential to advancing access and completion of credentials of value. That means making sure that every student, in particular students of color and low-income students, is set up to earn a bachelor’s degree or a high-quality workforce credential that results in strong economic outcomes. 

Sinclair’s 2022-2027 Strategic Plan for Student Completion outlines a holistic approach to ensure students receive support and resources related to their individual needs as they enter Sinclair, successfully complete their career goals, and transition to a four-year college or career. Strategies include:

  • Expand career exploration and coaching
  • Connect students with in-demand fields with intentional focus on under­represented populations
  • Provide students with a clear pathway from high school to Sinclair to a four-year college and/or career
  • Provide adults with a clear pathway that utilizes their life and work experience to accelerate their education
  • Ensure every student has a mentor or guide that they can turn to for assistance with the transition to career or transfer

Sinclair has increased success rates for all students in virtually all major categories. Sinclair raised the number of credentials awarded to all students from 3,362 in FY 2013 to 11,006 in FY 2022, a 227% increase.

While Sinclair’s improvement in student success for all students has been noteworthy, the gains for students of color are even more striking: degrees and certificates awarded for minority students has risen from 538 in FY 2013 to 3,069 in FY 2022, a 470% increase; and for African American males from 136 in FY 2013 to 1935 in FY 2022, a 1323% increase.

“For many years, community colleges have been focused on improving graduation rates—and progress has been steady and impressive,” says 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 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, TX
  • Laramie County Community College, WY
  • Lorain County Community College, OH
  • Monroe Community College, NY
  • Odessa College, TX
  • Sinclair College, OH
  • Southwest Wisconsin Technical College, WI
  • St. Petersburg College, FL
  • Tulsa Community College, OK
  • Valencia College, FL

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.


Sinclair Community College is recognized as a local and national leader in delivering high-quality and affordable higher education. One of the oldest and best-known community colleges in the nation, Sinclair was founded in 1887 by David A. Sinclair and is a board member of the prestigious League for Innovation in the Community College. Sinclair is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and offers more than 300 associate degrees and certificates and four bachelor’s degrees. Learn more at

The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program supports colleges and universities in their quest to achieve a higher standard of excellence, delivering credentials that unlock life-changing careers and strengthen our economy, society, and democracy. We know it takes visionary college leaders to achieve this higher standard and we make it our mission to equip them with the knowledge, skills, and research-backed tools to inspire change, shift practice, and advance the capacity of colleges to deliver excellent and equitable student outcomes. For more information, visit our website and follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter

The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, and an international network of partners. Learn more at

The Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Teachers College, Columbia University studies community colleges because they provide critical access to postsecondary education and are uniquely positioned to promote equity and social mobility in the United States. Our mission is to conduct research that helps these institutions strengthen opportunities and improve outcomes for their students, particularly those from underserved populations. Learn more at