Community College Missions: A Theoretical and Historical Perspective

Given the importance of mission definitions, institutional leaders and government policymakers need to be more conscious of the multiple (and sometimes conflicting) missions of the community college, their evolution, and the tensions between them.

In this article, the authors examine how to determine what the missions of the community college are; what forces shape the development of missions; and what the impacts are of one or another set of missions on community colleges, their students, and their external environments.

By means of this examination, the authors address a key question: To the extent that community colleges can determine their missions, should they aim to be comprehensive—encompassing multiple missions—or should they become more narrowly focused?

This article appeared in New Directions for Community Colleges, issue 136.