Education researchers place NICC in top three percent of community colleges, invited to apply for two national honors

Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC) has received two separate invitations to apply for national competitive honors. This combination of honors is only extended to three percent of all U.S. community colleges.

October 11, both the 2019 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence and the 2019 Siemens Technical Scholars Program each invited NICC to apply for the honors. Only three percent of the approximately 1,100 community colleges in the Unites States, or 33 colleges, are invited to apply for both honors.

"Receiving an invitation to apply for both competitive national honors affirms that NICC provides high-quality education and training for our students - transferable associate’s degree and career and technical programs. Furthermore, our faculty and staff are responsive to our students’ needs to support their education and training so that upon completion, our graduates are ready to join the workforce or further their education," NICC President Liang Chee Wee, Ph.D., stated. “When students enroll at Northeast Iowa Community College, we meet our students where they are in their lives, by providing

individualized support matched to their educational ambitions and career goals. Equally impressive are the efforts put forth by our students balancing work and study to achieve their educational and career goals.”

The College’s integration of the Success Model, a holistic approach that focuses on individualized student needs and coaching - from recruitment and intake, education and training, to job placement and continuing education - is making an impact on student learning, retention and graduation rates, Wee explained.

This is Northeast Iowa Community College’s first invitation to the Siemens Technical Scholars Program. That program honors strong institutions for their top middle-skill STEM programs and support for promising students within these programs. Siemens will notify the winning colleges in early February 2018.

The winning colleges receive an award of $50,000.

This is also the second recognition for NICC as an Aspen Prize Top 150 U.S. Community College. In September 2011, the College was named one of 10 national finalists in the inaugural Aspen Prize competition.

The Aspen Institute uses nationally available data on institutional performance, improvement and equity in student retention and completion to determine eligibility for the Aspen Prize. Institutions are assessed for exceptional student outcomes in four areas: student learning; certificate and degree completion (including of a bachelor’s degree after transfer); employment and earnings; and high levels of access and success for minority and low-income students.

Aspen Prize first-round data recognized strong indicators of two-year degree completion at the College, including that 64 percent of all awards conferred are associate’s degrees. Moreover, the data showed an increase in performance variables year-to-year that include first-year retention rate, three-year graduation rate and credential awards per 100 full-time students. The top 10 finalists will be announced in May 2018.

Northeast Iowa Community College serves nine counties in northeast Iowa and surrounding areas. Offering 71 academic programs of study in addition to online and blended learning, customized business and industry training, short-term certification options and adult education and literacy, the College is committed to affordable, high-quality education and training to ensure the growth and vitality of northeast Iowa. For more information, visit

Since 2010, the $1 million Aspen Prize, awarded every two years, has brought a new level of public attention to community colleges, defined comprehensive measures of excellence in outcomes for community college students, and uncovered and disseminated practices that help exceptional colleges ensure great outcomes for their students. Each cycle, Aspen selects 10 finalist institutions, and, ultimately, one winner of this prestigious award.

Founded in 2015, the Siemens Technical Scholars Program is a partnership between Aspen and the Siemens Foundation, designed to highlight the benefit to individuals, communities and businesses delivered by excellent community college programs that prepare students for middle-skill jobs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. This cycle, eight excellent programs within strong institutions will be recognized for their outstanding practice, and each will be awarded $50,000 to use towards further program development and student scholarships.

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