Teachers College, Columbia University

Multiple Missions of Community Colleges: Conflicting or Complementary?

By Thomas Bailey & Irina E. Averianova

From their beginnings in the early 1900s, community colleges have undergone a significant shift in their purpose and mission. Starting primarily as junior colleges with an emphasis on academics, the colleges are now complex institutions taking on a broad array of educational, social, and economic functions.

Many community college advocates hail the comprehensiveness of these institutions, arguing that their ever-expanding mission meets a commitment to serve the changing needs of the community. But critics suggest that the colleges have abandoned educational missions that should form the foundation of a democratic society and squandered resources in an attempt to serve "too many masters." In this report, the authors clarify the underlying assumptions of both sides in the community college multiple missions debate.

A brief of this report is available for download.

A version of this report was published in The Catalyst, vol. 30, issue 2.