The History of Community Colleges

Community colleges have become a vital part of higher education system. Many events have contributed to the development and continued growth of American community colleges. Their history dates back to the early twentieth century, and largely came about due to the need for workers to operate the nations expanding industries. In addition there was also an increased pressure on the nation’s school system to fix any social issues or problems that were occurring; such as merging ethic lines, unemployment levels, supplying the nation with skilled vocational traits etc. (Cohen & Brawer, 2008).

Community colleges would thrive on the new responsibilities because they had no traditions to defend, or any alumni to question their role (Cohen & Brawer, 2008). Several different groups advocated for community colleges in the early twentieth century, including students and parents, educators, businesses, state universities, and government officials. Community colleges were first known as “junior colleges” and were lower divisions of larger private universities. They were defined as any institution that awarded the associate of arts or science as its highest degree (Cohen & Brawer, 2008).

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Organizationally, they tended to be very small intuitions that focused on general education classes with the goal of transferring to a four year institution. The growth of community colleges had a direct correlation with overall growth of higher education in the twentieth century. Our nation was in an academic transition, the percentage of high school graduates rose from 30 percent in the 1924 to 75 percent by 1960, with nearly 60 percent of high school graduates going on to higher education (Cohen & Brawer, 2008).

As educators began to realize that students needed more educational opportunities after high school; the idea of these smaller colleges came about. Educators saw that a lot of students were not able to go away to a four-year college after high school and they also saw that extending high schools for two more years would likely never happen (Brick, 1964). Understanding the need to establish a college, of which, provides an opportunity for the United States population to achieve a higher level of education, William Rainey Harper, the first president at the University of

Chicago, had a meeting with the Joliet superintendent of schools, J. Stanley Brown to create Joliet Junior College the first public junior college in 1901. Harper had been advocating a “2+2” approach to higher education, suggesting that undergraduates should focus on general education coursework in their first two years of college to serve as a foundation to specialize in a field of study in their next two years. Under this model, Harper recommended the dividing the university into two different parts; one was called the upper division and the other called the lower division.

The upper divisions were known as the “Senior Colleges” while the lower divisions as the “Academic Colleges. ” (Witt, Wattenbarger, Gollattscheck, & Suppiger, 1994). Harper wanted these two separate colleges to focus on the different levels of training; primarily, the “Senior Colleges” was to focus more on the advanced courses and research while the “Academic Colleges” focused more on the entry level and general education courses. Harper also envisioned that a two-year school would soon stand on its own; however, it would still be affiliated with the university.

Harper was not alone in his views of the “2+2” model in fact there were proposals for a junior college system dating back to 1851 by Henry Tappan president of the University of Michigan. Tappan proposed that junior colleges should relieve universities the burden of providing general education for young people, and insisted that universities would not become true research and professional development centers until they relinquish the lower division preparatory work (Cohen & Brawer, 2008). Harper had also advocated for weaker four year colleges to become junior colleges rather than waste money doing superficial work (Cohen & Brawer, 2008).

Many shared Harpers and Tappan’s model of junior colleges as a transition period from adolescence to adulthood. Although Harper was highly associated with these ideas in the creation of a two-year institution, he was not the only one involved with them. Alexis F. Lange, Dean of the School of Education at the University of California, also wanted to encourage students to further their education. Lange realized that there were a lot of students that did not need, nor want, to go on to a four-year college and he felt that community colleges should focus more on providing vocational preparation.

Thus, he urged college administrators to prevent the “wrong persons” from attempting to fulfill transfer requirements when these courses would only hurt them instead of help them (Witt, Wattenbarger, Gollattscheck, ; Suppiger, 1994). Lange proposed that community colleges should prepare students to be active and effective in community life. As more people became aware of the many benefits that a community college would offer a student, the creation of such an idea was inevitable to stop. In Lange’s view junior colleges would do more than prepare young people for college it would also prepare the vocations (Cohen & Brawer, 2008).

Businesses quickly noticed the advantages junior colleges had on the vocations and became big supporters of the domain of secondary education. As they were getting trained workers at the public’s expense. As a result junior colleges became heavily involved in career and technical education. This began during World War II, from 1941 to 1945, and expanded thereafter. The colleges are the main state agencies that provide career and technical education. Junior colleges also became more involved as centers of activity for entire communities. They provided academic, vocational, and technical courses, but also served communities in other ways.

Thus, the name “junior college” no longer fit, and in 1972 the state’s junior colleges, changed their names to “community colleges. ” This was a better description of the role the colleges played, and due to the funding for the intuitions was coming from the community. The only exceptions were junior colleges that were privately funded retained the original name of junior colleges. As seen through the years, community colleges have greatly increased in size, the average number of attending students go up to the thousands in size each year, providing better benefits in higher levels of education for those who want it.

Along with the demand for secondary education there were two major factors that contributed to growth of the community college system. First, was a California law in 1907 the “Upward Extension Law” authorizing secondary school boards to offer postgraduate courses. This law along with several other amendments served as a model for several other states to offer postgraduate courses (Cohen & Brawer, 2008). The Upward Extension Law only permitted the establishment of the junior college but provided no funding. It wasn’t until 1917 that a new law provided funding for junior college courses.

The first to take advantage of this new law was Charles L. McLane, then-superintendent of Fresno Schools system. McLane argued that there were no intuitions of higher education within 200 miles of Fresno, and with the support from Stanford president, David S. Jordan they opened Fresno City College; the first junior college in California and second in the nation. Subsequent laws in California lead to junior college districts operating entirely independent of secondary schools as well as the beginnings of two year college systems in other states (Cohen ; Brawer, 2008).

Junior colleges began to spread across the nation, in 1909 there were only 20, but rapidly expanded to over 170 with thirty seven of the forty-eight states containing junior colleges in the early 1920’s. By 1930 there were 440 junior colleges and California had one fifth of the public institutions and one third of the students. Today there are more than 1100 public and private nonprofit two year colleges in the U. S (Cohen & Brawer, 2008). The second major factor in the growth of the community college system was the passing of the G.

I Bill after World War II. As a result, the GI Bill made the first large scale financial aid packages available, and made it possible for people to be reimbursed for their tuition as well as their living expenses while attending college (Cohen & Brawer, 2008). This caused a rapid increase in the number of students attending college, largely in part to opening the door for ethnic minorities, and lower income groups to attend college. Community colleges were now attracting a much large pool of students, who were using the system as a way moving up in class.

By now community colleges were everywhere In addition, community and junior colleges built educational facilities in their districts away from their original campuses. This was to provide even more convenient education for people who could not drive to main campuses or live in dormitories Along with the benefits of attending a junior college, there are some negative aspects associated with it as well. The most striking negative aspect is the notion that junior college is inferior to four-year universities. Unfortunately, this opinion is held by many in our society ranging from journalists to students who attend junior colleges.

By many, junior colleges are viewed as an extension of high school or places you went if you couldn’t get in anywhere else. For some, a junior college is a last resort for students who were unable to attend a university, but this does not represent every student at a junior college. This assumption causes apprehension and embarrassment to the students who attend junior colleges for reasons other than the “last resort”. Junior colleges have open admissions policies and programs for everyone, to ensure that no member of the community need miss the chance to attend (Cohen ; Brawer, 2008).

Since anyone can attend, another assumption arises. It is thought that junior college students are lazy or lack the knowledge to attend a four-year university. Yet junior college have become a primary bridge leading students into four-year universities. Thus, junior colleges are adequately preparing students to compete at a university level. With the increase in tuition at state and private universities many students are choosing junior colleges over universities. Junior college offers many students a cheap alternative to equivalent expensive university classes.

These students who are attending junior college to complete the general education requirements are making wise monetary decisions towards achieving their college degree. Yet the negative stigma is still attached to junior college students. Community colleges are different from other colleges and universities in many ways. The tuition fees are the most noticeable difference. Unlike universities, community colleges are lower in cost and size. The cost of attending a university could mean paying more than $50,000 a year.

The fact is that many students wanting to attend a university are not able to afford that amount of money. Some are forced to rely on a second job or find some type of financial aid to help assist them for the expenditures. At a community college you can get the similar courses you would get at a university for a much lower price. Not only is it lower in cost but the population of students compared to a university is much smaller. There are a number of students who are not able to take the courses they want due to the fact that the classes they choose are overcrowded with students.

In community colleges, classrooms are not as overpopulated therefore enabling more students into the course. In California, community colleges have a low cost per unit. Each in state student is required to pay $26. 00 per unit, and typically a course is between three and five units. Twelve units per semester are considered full-time, which means a full-time community college student pays only $312. 00 per semester. This equates to $624. 00 per academic year. Students who are not California residents are charged out-of-state tuition in addition to the enrollment fee.

Out-of-state tuition rates are set by each community college district but are generally between $190 and $220 per unit (cccaply. org/FAQ, 2010). This is significantly inexpensive compared with fees from other colleges and universities. The misconception that the junior college is a place for the educationally challenged, or that it offers an inferior education, have never been satisfactorily resolved. The junior college student will generally find the level of education to be on par with the four-year colleges.

As we have seen, the community college has become an essential part of the educational system in our society by being the right step for many different people with many different circumstances. For some students it provides a vehicle to transition from high school to the four-year college or university. For those people that are considering a career change, the community college provides the opportunity to learn a new skill or trade at an every reasonable cost. Yet for others, it simple affords the opportunity to continue ones educational goals, whenever one decides to resume his or her education.

Education is important in life. Had there not been a community college system, many people would not have realized their educational goals. As research has shown, without a formal education, most people are less likely to tap their full earning potential. It is important to look at the positives that the community college system provides to communities across the nation. If the people who discredit the community college system would take a deep look into it, they too would see the great fulfilling value of this institution known as the community college.

Bibliography: Brick, M. (1964). Forum and Focus for the Junior College Movement. New York: Bureau of Publications, Teachers College, Columbia University. cccaply. org/FAQ. (2010). Retrieved from cccaply. org: http://www. cccapply. org/faq/costs. asp Cohen, A. M. , ; Brawer, F. B. (2008). The American Communtiy College. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Witt, A. A. , Wattenbarger, J. L. , Gollattscheck, J. F. , ; Suppiger, J. E. (1994). America’s Community Colleges. Washington: American Association of Community Colleges(AACC.

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