2011 TC Pressroom
Teachers College, Columbia University
Teachers College Columbia University

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Sloan Foundation Extends Grant to Community College Reserach Center

Since 1996, with support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Teachers College has been studying roles that community colleges play in higher education. For the past three years, the CCRC has looked at missions of community colleges and evaluated concerns such as workforce and economic development, remediation, determinants of student success at community colleges, and the integration of academic and vocational education.

In April 2000, the Sloan Foundation approved a three-year extension of the grant to the CCRC. "The renewal of the grant reflects both the quality of the research carried out by the Center so far and a growing conviction among foundations and government funders of the central role that community colleges play in the nation's education system," said Thomas Bailey, Professor of Economics and Education at Teachers College and Director of CCRC.

As Director, Bailey heads a team of senior research associates, research associates and research fellows who established the direction the Center is taking. Their main focus has been the broad changes in higher education, including the growth of for-profit competition, and the changes in the traditional view of higher education in which students just out of high school go to college full-time for four years, live in a dorm, and after graduation, work or go on to postgraduate education. "That is a minority of students," Bailey noted. "There are more older, part-time, working students who live with their parents or on their own."

With more part-time students mixing work with education, people are attending more than one institution, Bailey said. "That looks like it should benefit community colleges." Yet some of these two-year schools are losing enrollment to four-year schools or to for-profit organizations that provide specific certification.

Many four-year colleges in turn try to avoid providing remediation, leaving this as a possible community college function, which sets up a whole new set of standards for these institutions. "Teachers at community colleges believe they will become known as remediation institutions instead of real colleges," Bailey said.

"These are the questions we want to be able to address-what is their place," he explained. "Are there policy issues we should be addressing?"
Under the extended grant, researchers will conduct case studies at approximately 15 community colleges around the country to examine issues affecting the development, growth and changing roles of community colleges in the United States. They will look at some of the same issues they have been studying since the Center's inception as well as distance education, alternative skill certification and standards, new competitors, and accountability.

According to Bailey, community colleges are neglected institutions that do not tend to attract the attention of scholars. "Since community colleges are vital to the aspirations of people and their communities, it is important that they become part of the mainstream research agenda," he said. That is where the CCRC comes in. "In addition to carrying out our own research," Bailey added, "CCRC is looking to improve the capacity for research within community colleges and in the broader community. We want to disseminate existing research, and hopefully attract new scholars to the field and promote discussion and debate about crucial issues."

As part of its mission, CCRC is committed to strengthening the network of researchers that are looking at community colleges through conferences and joint projects. "We may find someone not doing community college research, but doing something relevant to it," Bailey said. "We want to be a catalyst for other people to get involved in this research."

Teachers College faculty members involved in this research include Associate Professor Margaret Terry Orr, Associate Professor Delores Perin, Associate Professor Kevin Dougherty, and Assistant Professor Gregory Anderson. Doctoral students and recent doctoral graduates are also involved in the project.

Orr has looked at the relationship between community colleges and secondary schools with a focus on integrating programs to support school-to-career transitions.

Perin has studied literacy skills of community college developmental education students and is currently researching remedial education in these schools, including instructional practices, policy and student outcomes.

Although he is new to the faculty at TC, Dougherty has published widely on community college issues. He recently completed a project for CCRC examining the role of these institutions in workforce training, and he is currently looking at the impact of federal, state, and private accountability systems on community colleges.

In addition to funding from the Sloan Foundation, the CCRC has received funds from the U.S. Department of Education to assess the emerging trends in the way individuals attain postsecondary occupational education. Bailey, who is principal investigator on the study, explained that though this study builds on earlier national assessments, the current changes in postsecondary and work-related education are creating both uncertainties and opportunities for postsecondary educators.

Bailey is also doing a study for the US Department of Education, in conjunction with the National Center for Postsecondary Improvement (NCPI), regarding the effect of the for-profit sector on community colleges.

The National Science Foundation provided CCRC with a two-year grant to study the Institutional Impact of Advanced Technological Education (ATE) Grants on community colleges. The primary focus of this study is to understand the process through which educational reforms funded by the ATE program are influencing technician education at an institutional level.

Work with community colleges is not new to Teachers College. In the years following World War II, TC was instrumental in shaping community college administration and curriculum. In the early 1960s and 1970s, the Teachers College Community College Research Center prepared administrators to serve the growing number of community colleges. Some of those administrators now serve on the National Advisory Board of the current Center.

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