Joe Wyatt
Published September 8, 2020

The American Council on Education (ACE) announced today (Sept. 8) that Amarillo College and Dominican University of California are the recipients of the 2020 ACE/Fidelity Investments Award for Institutional Transformation.

ACE awardIN  

The award was created to recognize institutions that have responded to higher education challenges in innovative and creative ways and achieved dramatic changes in a relatively brief period. It includes a $10,000 prize.


“Amarillo College and Dominican University of California forged their own futures by adapting to the changing needs of their student body and the higher education landscape,” said ACE President Ted Mitchell. “I am proud to honor their efforts with this award through the generous support of Fidelity Investments.”


“It is increasingly important for colleges and universities to find innovative ways to address the evolving needs and challenges facing their students,” said Debra Frey, vice president of analytics and marketing at Fidelity Investments. “Fidelity Investments congratulates Amarillo College and Dominican University of California on being recognized for their outstanding efforts to improve the experiences and outcomes for their student bodies. We are honored to provide our support to this exceptional program.”


ACE invited nominations and applications for the award from any U.S. college or university eligible for ACE membership, divided into two categories: the first for institutions with student populations of 5,001 and more (­Amarillo), and the second for institutions with student populations of up to 5,000 (Dominican).


Amarillo College is a community college and Hispanic-Serving Institution. In 2014, the college utilized student secret shoppers, focus groups, and survey data to identify challenges that their students faced. They found that rather than academic barriers, life-related barriers such as poverty were the most common obstacles to student success. The following year, AC established a dynamic five-year strategic plan, No Excuses 2020, with a clear vision of 70% completion.


Students were empowered to set the values of the college, which gave rise to the AC Culture of Caring Initiative. The initiative integrated accelerated learning, predictive-analytics, and wraparound social services to overcome student poverty barriers.

Over five years, AC saw a 75% growth rate in first-generation students graduating with a degree or certificate, a 64% growth rate in Pell students graduating, and increases in the rates of students passing courses, especially for Hispanic and African-American students.


“Our transformation started with a deep commitment to loving the students we had (not the ones we wished or thought we had) and redesigning the entire institution for her,” said Amarillo College President Russell Lowery-Hart. “When our student needs are at the center of our work, we not only change their social mobility, we transform the economic future of our community and region.”


About ACE

ACE is a membership organization that mobilizes the higher education community to shape effective public policy and foster innovative, high-quality practice. As the major coordinating body for the nation’s colleges and universities, our strength lies in our diverse membership of more than 1,700 colleges and universities, related associations, and other organizations in America and abroad. ACE is the only major higher education association to represent all types of U.S. accredited, degree-granting institutions: two-year and four-year, public and private. For more information, please visit or follow ACE on Twitter @ACEducation.


About Fidelity Investments

Fidelity’s mission is to inspire better futures and deliver better outcomes for the customers and businesses we serve. With assets under administration of $8.3 trillion, including discretionary assets of $3.2 trillion as of December 31, 2019, we focus on meeting the unique needs of a diverse set of customers: helping more than 30 million people invest their own life savings, 22,000 businesses manage employee benefit programs, as well as providing more than 13,500 financial advisory firms with investment and technology solutions to invest their own clients’ money. Privately held for more than 70 years, Fidelity employs more than 40,000 associates who are focused on the long-term success of our customers. For more information about Fidelity Investments, visit