Teachers College, Columbia University

CCRC Releases Groundbreaking Book on Challenges Facing Community Colleges

NEW YORK, NY (November 29, 2006) — The Community College Research Center (CCRC) today announces Defending the Community College Equity Agenda, the most in-depth look to-date at the challenges confronting community colleges.

The volume examines the economic, political and social challenges that have made it increasingly difficult for two-year institutions to ensure that all students have an equal shot at college preparation, access and success. 

“Today’s community colleges operate in a drastically different environment than they did even a decade ago,” said Dr. Thomas Bailey, director of CCRC and co-editor of the volume. “The conversation has shifted away from focusing primarily on getting students into the doors of community colleges. While we still have work to do on access, colleges now need to focus on improving the success of those students.”

Currently enrolling over 10 million credit and non-credit students every year, community colleges are the critical entry points to higher education and economic opportunity for almost half of the nation’s college students and a disproportionate share of low-income, minority and academically unprepared students. Community colleges have historically operated according to an “open-door” mission, providing college access to a range of students, many of whom attend part-time.

The increasing link between educational attainment and economic prosperity has heightened interest in the potential contribution of community colleges to an educated workforce. At the same time, demographic factors, such as immigration and a growing population of young people, are reshaping the realities of delivering postsecondary educational opportunity in the nation’s two-year colleges.

Drawing on research derived from the real-life experiences of 15 community colleges nationwide, the book examines trends including:

  • the increasing emphasis on performance accountability at community colleges;
  • the ongoing problem of weak academic preparedness;
  • the opportunities and challenges of online education; and
  • the growth of for-profit institutions.

The book offers several recommendations for community colleges, among them:

  • Colleges must think of reform in terms of broad institutional policy that changes the fundamental way a college operates, rather than pursuing a more typical approach of initiating discrete, small-scale programs targeted at a limited number of students.
  • Colleges must design and use better data systems to track student progress to understand how students move through college and to recognize the points at which they face the most serious barriers.
  • College operations and incentives currently emphasize enrollments. This should be changed so that funding, accountability systems, professional development, human resource policy and program planning and coordination are also explicitly designed to promote student progress and success.
  • Colleges use an often bewildering variety of approaches to developmental education and student services, but they need a much better understanding of which strategies are most effective.
  • Colleges need to focus more on how well students learn through online education programs.

The book is available for purchase through Amazon.com.