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  • The American Community Collegeby Arthur M. Cohen, Florence B. Brawer, and Carrie B. Kisker
  • Xueli Wang
The American Community College( 6thed.) Arthur M. Cohen, Florence B. Brawer, and Carrie B. Kisker San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2014, 592 pages, $75.00 (hardcover)

Since its initial appearance in 1982 and with its subsequent editions over the past three decades, The American Community Collegehas been an oft used text for graduate courses on community colleges and an accessible resource for anyone in higher education administration concerned about these unique postsecondary institutions. Like previous iterations, The American Community College(6th ed.) is intended to serve as an all-encompassing, integral book offering useful information for almost anyone interested in the function and evolution of community colleges, especially since 1960. Through this 15-chapter text, coauthors Cohen, Brawer, and Kisker achieve this goal by engaging in a comprehensive discussion of a range of topics surrounding community colleges.

The book begins with a historical account of the social forces undergirding the origin and evolution of community colleges. Positioning these institutions in the larger landscape of American education, chapter 1 highlights the “untraditional” nature of community colleges and lauds their tireless pursuit of new approaches to resolving persistent problems in education. This chapter also sets the tone for the remainder of the book, as it briefly touches upon virtually every facet of the mission and functions of community colleges, with a particular emphasis on the sometimes opposing forces that drive these institutions’ constant adaptation to serve contemporary needs.

Chapters 2 and 3 offer descriptions of community college students and faculty. Chapter 2 documents the changing demographics of students over the years. Compared to earlier editions, this chapter adds a timely discussion of new topics, including international student enrollment, complex enrollment patterns, as well as the challenges of measuring student “success” at these open-access institutions. Chapter 3 presents national trend data on the profiles of full-time and part-time faculty and portrays the faculty workplace in the community college context. Through a discussion of myriad factors that shape faculty careers, this chapter reveals the complexities and conflicts faculty experience [End Page 203]in pursuit of a profession through community college instruction.

Chapter 4 provides an overview of the common forms of organization, governance, and administration of community colleges, involving comparisons across types of governing and coordinating units and a discussion of the role of the local district, the state, and the federal government. Closely related, chapter 5 outlines the various funding sources and patterns for funding allocation often tied to modes of community college governance as described in chapter 4. Like the fifth edition, this chapter also explains the relationship between tuition and financial aid, describes efforts in generating and saving costs, and the sixth edition presents a section comprised of information on performance-based funding.

Chapters 6 and 7 explore two key facets of institutional operation: instruction and student services. Chapter 6 introduces a wide array of techniques used in community college instruction, such as online and hybrid instruction, writing across the curriculum, learning colleges, and supplementary instruction, among others. The chapter concludes with a thoughtful discussion of assessment of instructional effects. Highlighting the importance of student engagement and the key role of services developed to facilitate it, chapter 7 contains an overview of student engagement and outlines the scope and key emphases of student services at community colleges. The chapter also briefly discusses funding and effectiveness of student services.

Next, the authors dedicate chapters 8 through 12 to the following core functions of community colleges: developmental education, liberal arts and upward transfer, general education, occupational education, and community education. These functions are not necessarily exhaustive and the way they are defined remains fluid across community colleges. Each chapter consists of a historical perspective, reviews programs and offerings designed to serve the intended audiences, and considers pressing and emerging issues. More specifically, Chapter 8 uncovers dilemmas regarding placement and outcome assessment of developmental studies. Chapter 9 interweaves issues surrounding liberal arts, transfer to 4-year institutions, and articulation policies. Chapter 10 explores the challenges of offering and transforming general or integrative education. Chapter 11 presents occupational education, known as...


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pp. 203-205
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