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New Center for Research Involving Community Colleges Established at Teachers College, Columbia University

A national center focusing on community colleges--which already enroll nearly 40 percent of the college students in America and which will play an even larger role in the future of American education--has been established at Teachers College, Columbia University, by a $1.7 million grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

The Community College Research Center, which will be part of the College's Institute on Education and the Economy, will emphasize cutting-edge research on the promise of the community college and work to strengthen the link between the scholarly community and the community-college community.

Dr. Ralph Gomory, president of the Sloan Foundation, expressed the hope that the new center "will work closely with community colleges to better understand the important effects that community colleges have in this country."

"Community colleges have expanded dramatically in the years since World War II," said Arthur E. Levine, president of Teachers College and a nationally recognized expert on higher education. "They are the newest sector of higher education and have experienced the fastest growth in the history of higher education. With that growth, major policy questions have arisen regarding their purpose, their impact, their programs, and their future directions."

Levine described community colleges as "one of the nation's most outstanding educational resources," and he added that the new Center "would seek to develop a new generation of scholars and scholarship focusing on emerging policy issues about the key roles community colleges can and do play."

As more and more new populations attend college and as economic development moves higher on the national agenda, community colleges will be front and center in the nation's future, Levine said.

"When we speak of the transition from school to work, we will be speaking more often of the community college," said Thomas Bailey, director of the Teachers College Institute on Education and the Economy, who also serves as director of the Community College Research Center. "When we speak of retraining our nation's labor force, we will also be speaking more often of the community college. The role of the community college in our changing national economy has to be more closely studied."

A national advisory committee of community college practitioners, policymakers and academics will be established to help set the research agenda for the Center.

The new research initiated by the Teachers College Center will include analysis of the academics of the community college and the role the institutions play in local and regional economic development.

Researchers will also look at the "shadow community college," the growing area of non-degree programs and services in such areas as short-term job training, customized training, adult basic education and remediation.

One of the overall objectives of the Center will be to work towards improvements in the data available to study community colleges. The Center will also establish relationships with particular community colleges that can serve as sources of information and sites for case studies.

The Center will fund fellowships to doctoral students who are interested in developing dissertations on community college issues. The fellowship recipients will work at the Center and participate in the Center's research projects.

The creation of a new Community College Research Center carries on a tradition at Teachers College, which was instrumental in shaping community-college administration and curriculum in the post-World-War-II era.

Led by the late Professor Walter E. Sindlinger, the Teachers College Community College Center, in existence throughout the 1960s and 1970s, prepared administrators to serve in the growing number of community colleges.

Today, those administrators are presidents of community college systems literally from coast to coast. Many will be part of the national advisory committee for the new Center.

The work of the Teachers College Community Center also resulted in the College's Milbank Memorial Library having one of the best collections in the nation on the topic.

Teachers College is a graduate school devoted to education across the lifespan and both in and out of the classroom. The College is affiliated with Columbia University but retains its legal and financial independence. Some 4,500 students are currently studying for master's and doctoral degrees. In the 1996 survey conducted by the editors of U.S. News & World Report, the College was ranked as the number-one graduate school of education in America.

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