Gateway to Opportunity?
A History of the Community College in the United States

Foreword by W. Norton Grubb
Paper: 978 1 57922 452 3 / $33.50
Published: January 2011  

Cloth: 978 1 57922 451 6 / $95.00
Published: January 2011  

Lib E-Book: 978 1 57922 531 5 / $95.00  
About Library E-Book

Published: March 2012  

E-Book: 978 1 57922 532 2 / $26.99
Published: February 2012  

Publisher: Stylus Publishing
224 pp., 6" x 9"
Can the U.S. keep its dominant economic position in the world economy with only 30% of its population holding bachelor’s degrees? If the majority of U.S. citizens lack a higher education, can the U.S. live up to its democratic principles and preserve its political institutions?

These questions raise the critical issue of access to higher education, central to which are America’s open-access, low-cost community colleges that enroll around half of all first-time freshmen in the U.S. Can these institutions bridge the gap, and how might they do so? The answer is complicated by multiple missions—gateways to 4-year colleges, providers of occupational education, community services, and workforce development, as well as of basic skills instruction and remediation.

To enable today’s administrators and policy makers to understand and contextualize the complexity of the present, this history describes and analyzes the ideological, social, and political motives that led to the creation of community colleges, and that have shaped their subsequent development. In doing so, it fills a large void in our knowledge of these institutions.

The “junior college,” later renamed the “community college” in the 1960s and 1970s, was originally designed to limit access to higher education in the name of social efficiency. Subsequently leaders and communities tried to refashion this institution into a tool for increased social mobility, community organization, and regional economic development. Thus, community colleges were born of contradictions, and continue to be an enigma.

This history examines the institutionalization process of the community college in the United States, casting light on how this educational institution was formed, for what purposes, and how has it evolved. It uncovers the historically conditioned rules, procedures, rituals, and ideas that ordered and defined the particular educational structure of these colleges; and focuses on the individuals, organizations, ideas, and the larger political economy that contributed to defining the community college’s educational missions, and have enabled or constrained this institution from enacting those missions. He also sets the history in the context of the contemporary debates about access and effectiveness, and traces how these colleges have responded to calls for accountability from the 1970s to the present.

Community colleges hold immense promise if they can overcome their historical legacy and be re-institutionalized with unified missions, clear goals of educational success, and adequate financial resources. This book presents the history in all its complexity so that policy makers and practitioners might better understand the constraints of the past in an effort to realize the possibilities of the future.

Table of Contents:
Foreword—W. Norton Grubb

The Institutionalization of Community Colleges:
The State of the Union
The Institutional Effectiveness Movement and Higher Education
What Is an Institution?
The Community College: A Contradictory Institution

Chapter One: The Creation and Institutionalization of Junior Colleges in the United States, 1900–1980s
An Aristocracy of Talent: The Origins of Higher Education in the United States
Educational Innovation: The Creation of Junior Colleges, 1900–1940s
A Reformation: The Reinstitutionalization of Community: Colleges Due to Increasing Student Access, 1950s–1960s
Community Colleges, Segregation, and Equality, 1960s–1980s
Whither To? Reaching a Plateau of Orthodoxy, 1970s–1980s

Chapter Two: Institutional Ambiguity: Continued Struggles of the Contradictory College
A Critique of Orthodoxy: The New Left Evaluates Community Colleges, 1970s–1980s
Revised but Confused Orthodoxy: The Contradictory Community College’s New Missions, 1990s–2000s
Are There Economic Returns to Community College Credentials? An Economic Assessment, 1990–2010

Chapter Three: Overburdened and Underfunded: The California Community College
Origins of the California Junior College
Massification of Higher Education and Post-War Planning
Segregated Education in California and the Junior College
The California Postsecondary Education Commission
The Master Plan Revised: Declining Budgets and a New System of Accountability
Conclusion: Accounting and Accountability

Chapter Four: The Ambiguous Legacy of the Community College: Policy, Administrative, and Educational Implications
The Reduction of Education to Human Capital
The Legacy of the Community College: A Limited Opportunity
Institutional Reform? Three Principles for Policy Makers

Selected Bibliography
About the Author

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Reviews & Endorsements:
"Beach's focus on the community college as an evolving social institution offers a perspective not found in earlier literature... For readers interested in the history of the community college as a social institution, this book offers a concise treatment of its subject with numerous references to many important articles and texts that have reported on change and practice at the community college. Approaching the community college as a social institution offers a perspective that should be used more often to better understand the development, changes, and dilemmas in the history of this uniquely American experiment in post-secondary education."
- Community College Review
"The question of whether or not [community colleges] expand access by democratizing higher education or constrain access by diverting students away from higher-prestige institutions is one that is continually and hotly debated... J.M. Beach critically and comprehensively reexamines this well-worn territory in an effort to connect the origins of community colleges with the institutions that they have become in today's higher education milieu... Beach elucidates provocative questions that educators, colleges, and policy makers must consider."
- Harvard Educational Review
Related Titles by Subject:
See Community Colleges ( Higher Education )