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Defending the Community College Equity Agenda

edited by Thomas Bailey and Vanessa Smith Morest

Publication Year: 2006

Community colleges enroll almost half of all undergraduates in the United States. These two-year colleges manifest the American commitment to accessible and affordable higher education. With about 1,200 institutions nationwide, community colleges have made significant progress over the past decade in opening access and have become the critical entry point to higher education for many Americans who traditionally have been left out of educational and economic opportunity. Yet economic, political, and social developments have increased the challenges community colleges face in pursuing an “equity agenda.” Some of these include falling state budgets combined with growing enrollments, a greater emphasis on outcome-based accountability, competition from for-profit institutions, and growing immigrant student populations. These trials come at a time when community colleges confront crucial economic and workforce development pressures that may impact their mission. How can community colleges continue to maintain their open-door policies, support underprepared students, and struggle to help enrolled students complete degrees and certificates that prepare them for success in the workplace? Building on case studies of colleges in six states—New York, Texas, Florida, California, Washington, and Illinois—this volume offers a fresh examination of the issues currently facing American community colleges. Drawing on their fieldwork supplemented by national data, the authors analyze how these challenges impact the community college mission of educational opportunity—especially for low-income students, students of color, and other underserved groups—and how colleges are responding to a drastically different environment. They then propose a set of strategies to strengthen the role of community colleges in providing both access and opportunities for achievement for all students.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press


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pp. vii-viii

List of Contributors

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiii

First and foremost, we must thank the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and particularly Jesse Ausubel, our program officer at the foundation. In 1996, on behalf of the foundation, Jesse asked Teachers College to submit a proposal for a community college research center. This led to the founding of the Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Teachers College. As a project of CCRC, this book, and indeed all...

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1. Introduction: Defending the Community College Equity Agenda

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pp. 1-27

During the past two decades, access to higher education has become increasingly important. Individuals without education beyond high school have limited access to good jobs. At least some college education has become the minimal entry requirement to the middle class. College access has therefore become fundamental to economic opportunity in the United States. Young people perceive that reality, and when...

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2. Double Vision: How the Attempt to Balance Multiple Missions Is Shaping the Future of Community Colleges

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pp. 28-50

Community colleges have been balancing multiple missions for more than half a century. The Truman Commission’s recommendation that community colleges should serve ‘‘the total post–high school needs of the community’’ (President Truman’s Commission on Higher Education, cited in Bogart, 1994, p. 62) paved the way to massive expansion and endless controversy. There are two important parts to this...

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3. Performance Accountability as Imperfect Panacea: The Community College Experience

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pp. 51-86

In the 1990s, performance accountability burst into the awareness of higher education policy makers. The theme was to make higher education institutions demonstrate how well they were performing by citing not enrollment growth but, instead, gains in student learning, graduation, and placement in good jobs. The hope was that performance accountability—particularly if an institution’s funding was tied to...

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4. Increasing Competition and Growth of the For-Profits

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pp. 87-109

Throughout the 1990s and into the early years of the twenty-first century, the growth of for-profit education providers was one of the most closely watched trends in higher education (Burd, 1998; Strosnider, 1998; Selingo, 1999; Blumenstyk, 2000). Influential analysts foresaw a much more competitive higher education landscape in...

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5. Virtual Access

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pp. 110-131

Distance education has become a central component of the discourse on higher education. With descriptions such as ‘‘open education’’ and ‘‘e-learning,’’ references to the most recent forms of distance education hint at the educational promises of the new technologies: increased access to higher education, a more engaging learning experience for students, and preparation for success in the new information technology...

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6. The Limits of ‘‘Training for Now’’: Lessons from Information Technology Certification

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pp. 132-154

Workforce development in the United States is largely carried out in community colleges, particularly for middle-level jobs, as well as in four-year colleges and universities for middle-level and professional positions. Typically, students complete a series of courses designed by educators to meet the skill demands of relevant occupations, and then they receive credentials based on courses passed...

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7. ‘‘Lights Just Click on Every Day’’

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pp. 155-194

More than twenty years ago, academically underprepared students were described as ‘‘the thorniest single problem for community colleges’’ (Cohen and Brawer, 1982, p. 236, cited in Smittle, 2003), and the same seems to be true today. Within higher education, community colleges ‘‘often have the neediest students, the most academically underprepared, and the economically disenfranchised’’ (Hebel, 2003, p. A21)....

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8. ‘‘Like, What Do I Do Now?’’: The Dilemmas of Guidance Counseling

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pp. 195-222

In a simpler world without occupational choices, where sons succeed their fathers and daughters become mothers and homemakers, there are few decisions for young people to make about their occupations. As occupational possibilities expand, some mechanisms must facilitate the choice among them. This process has increasingly taken place in schools and colleges, as occupational preparation has moved into...

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9. Twice the Credit, Half the Time?: The Growth of Dual Credit at Community Colleges and High Schools

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pp. 223-245

It is Wednesday afternoon and students are taking their seats for Nancy Johnson’s English 101 class at NWSCC, in Washington. These are not typical community college students. Although about 30% of the enrollments at this college are nonwhite, there are no African American or Hispanic students in the class. Of twenty-four students here today, four are of Asian descent, roughly reflecting the distribution of Asian...

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10 The Community College Equity Agenda in the Twenty-First Century: Moving from Access to Achievement

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pp. 246-270

In 2001, community college faculty, staff, and students celebrated the hundredth anniversary of the founding of the first junior college, originally designed to provide lower-division college education to allow elite universities to concentrate on research and advanced professional training (Brint and Karabel, 1989; Dougherty, 1994). At that time, access to higher education in general was still restricted to a small elite....


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pp. 271-297


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pp. 299-305

E-ISBN-13: 9780801889592
E-ISBN-10: 0801889596
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801884474
Print-ISBN-10: 0801884470

Page Count: 328
Illustrations: 1 line drawing
Publication Year: 2006

OCLC Number: 232160421
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Defending the Community College Equity Agenda

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Educational equalization -- United States.
  • Community colleges -- Curricula -- United States.
  • Community colleges -- United States -- Administration.
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