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Reviewed by:
  • Defending the Community College Equity Agenda
  • Barbara K. Townsend
Defending the Community College Equity Agenda Thomas Bailey and Vanessa Smith Morest (eds.) Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006, 328 pages, $45.00 (hardcover)

The title of this book, Defending the Community College Equity Agenda, immediately reveals its purpose: to endorse the community college's efforts to ensure that everyone has an equitable opportunity to enter and succeed in higher education. This defense includes measuring the community college's role in providing equity, evaluating possible challenges to it, and suggesting ways the institution could bolster this mission.

As evidence, the book relies upon the results of the National Field Study, conducted by the Community College Research Center, which is headed by Bailey with assistance from Morest. The study included extensive fieldwork with 15 community colleges in six states over a 3-year period (2000-2002). The only chapter not drawn from this study is one by Bailey about the influence of for-profits upon community colleges.

The book begins with Bailey and Morest's introduction of the equity agenda and the community college's part in each aspect of this agenda. While the community college has long been known for its open access mission, defined as making higher education accessible to anyone, Bailey and Morest go beyond access to state that the equity agenda also includes students' "preparation" and "college success" (p. 5). Students must be adequately prepared to succeed in college, they must have financial and geographical access to college, and they must be helped while in college to succeed. The community college assists with students' preparation for college by working with high schools through dual credit programs and by providing developmental education courses. Access to higher education is facilitated by the community college's low tuition costs in relation to those of other higher education institutions and by its ubiquity. There are over 1,100 community colleges with some having multiple campuses so that there are 1,500 community college campuses. One measure of their accessibility is their enrollment: almost half of all credit-earning undergraduates are enrolled in community college (p. 3). Finally, the community college facilitates success while in college partly through its developmental education program and its student services.

As Bailey and Morrest note in the first chapter, there are several "threats" (p. 24) to the institution's equity focus; each of these threats is examined in an individual chapter. These chapters include not only Bailey's aforementioned chapter on for-profit institutions but also Kevin Doughterty and Esther Hong's chapter on performance accountability, and Jim Jacobs and Norton Grubb's on information technology certification, which is examined in terms of the college's vocational [End Page 74] education mission.

In contrast to these threats are the programs that facilitate the equity agenda. Thus Delores Perin and Kerry Charron write about developmental education; Norton Grubb writes about guidance counseling (one of the offered student services); and Morest and Karp write about dual credit courses offered by community colleges.

Three additional chapters include a conceptual look by Morest about the multiple missions of the community colleges and Rebecca Cox's exploration of distance education, which Bailey and Morest consider to be both a threat to and a facilitator of the equity agenda. In the concluding chapter Bailey and Morest summarize and comment upon the previous chapters, including ways the community college can move forward on its equity agenda.

For those wanting to learn more about how student services can facilitate the equity agenda, the book offers little information. The role of student services in for-profit institutions is briefly discussed in Bailey's chapter on for-profits. Cox's chapter, "Virtual Access," includes an endnote noting issues about the availability of student services to students taking on-line courses. The chapter that may be of most interest to readers of this volume is Grubb's "'Like What Do I Do Now?': The Dilemmas of Guidance Counseling." The chapter begins with a description of the variety of counseling needs students have in terms of academic, career, and personal counseling. Grubb then describes the types of counseling students are likely to receive: primarily academic with...


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pp. 74-75
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