Bailey Campaign Story | Teachers College Columbia University

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Bailey Campaign Story

America’s 1,200 community colleges are the major gateway to higher education for low-income students and students of color. Indeed, there are more low-income African American and Hispanic students at Bronx Community College alone than in the entire Ivy League.  

“If you’re going to increase the population that has some college, it isn’t going to be among upper middle-class white people,” says Thomas Bailey, TC’s George & Abby O’Neill Professor of Economics and Education. “Community colleges will have to play a central role.”

Bailey, the founding director of both TC’s Community College Research Center (CCRC), has been perhaps the single most influential voice over the past 20 years in focusing attention on the potential of community colleges to serve as an engine of upward mobility for the students they serve and of economic growth for the country.  

Bailey, a Harvard- and MIT-educated economist, and his colleagues at CCRC, were among the first to ask why more than 60 percent of community college students need remedial coursework, and why these courses fail to engage them; why so many students drop out of community colleges before graduating; and why these institutions often fail to meet regional employment demands.

 More specifically, CCRC has:

  • Emerged as a national authority on dual enrollment programs, in which high school students take college classes in order to improve their chances of completing a two- or four-year degree.
  • Provided research that supported the creation of the state of Washington’s Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (I-BEST) program, which prepares low-skilled adults for high-demand jobs. I-BEST is now being replicated in other states.
  • Completed a study for the Virginia Community College System that documented the low success rates of remedial programs.
  • Received $5 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to research which community college teaching and support strategies work best to improve student completion rates. CCRC is expected to issue a report of its findings in 2012.


In 2006, Bailey and CCRC received $10 million from the U.S. Department of Education to establish the National Center for postsecondary Research, which focuses on measuring the effectiveness of programs designed to help students transition to college and master basic skills needed to advance to a degree. And last year, Bailey was tapped to chair a national committee on measures of student success at two year institutions. 

“When the CCRC was started by Tom over 10 years ago, community colleges were basically in the backwoods of any kind of research,” says James Jacobs, President of Macomb Community College. “Over the years, he has really built a research agenda that is increasingly the agenda for all of us in community colleges.”

Published Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011


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