ERIC Number: ED484347
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2004-Feb
The Organizational Efficiency of Multiple Missions for Community Colleges
Bailey, Thomas R.; Morest, Vanessa Smith
Community College Research Center
Community colleges are complex institutions serving a multitude of constituencies with dozens of programs and activities. However, this was not always the case; community colleges (once called junior colleges) were initiated a century ago with the focused purpose of providing the first two years of a four-year college education. The concept of comprehensiveness was established in 1947 when President Truman?s Commission on Higher Education encouraged the colleges to "attempt to meet the total Post high school needs of the community." Comprehensiveness has since flourished as colleges steadily adopted more missions (cited in Bogart, 1994, p. 62). Many community college advocates argue that the constant expansion of functions is a natural outcome of the community-based mission of the colleges. Regardless of strong institutional support for this transformation, during the past two decades academics and researchers have almost universally condemned the comprehensive model. Economists have suggested that the colleges should narrow their focus for fiscal reasons (Breneman and Nelson, 1980); sociologists have argued that the conflicting objectives of academic and vocational education reinforce class distinctions and accentuate inequality (Clark, 1960; Clark, 1980; Brint & Karabel, 1989; Dougherty, 1994); and even community college insiders have decried mission complexity, suggesting that "community colleges cannot accomplish their mission in an organizational structure where round, career-oriented students are placed into square academic holes" (Baker, 1999). The list of community college missions now goes well beyond the core degree granting programs that either lead to transfer or a terminal occupational degree or certificate. The first goal of this paper is to explain why, despite constant criticism, community colleges continue to pursue an organizational form based on comprehensiveness. Given the environment in which the colleges operate comprehensiveness mak to be sssful without changes in the incentives faced by the colleges, or at least without much more definitive empirical evidence of the disadvantages of complexity, either to the college or to the students. The second part of this paper, explores one approach to increasing organizational efficiency without reducing the number of activities, improving coordination and integration of these apparently disparate missions. It concludes that such coordination is extremely difficult to achieve, and that, once again, political and fiscal incentives militate against it. The costs associated with combining functions appear to outweigh any perceived benefits. This paper ends with a summary of these findings, and presents some recommendations for how colleges and state policymakers and legislators should think about, and respond to, issues associated with the growing mission diversification at community colleges. [Report produced by the Community College Research Center.]
Descriptors: Community Colleges, Organizational Effectiveness, Cost Effectiveness, Organizational Objectives, Criticism
Community College Reasarch Center, Teachers College, Columbia University, 439 Thorndike, Building, 525 W. 12th Street, Box 174, New York, NY 10027. Tel: 212-678-3091; Fax: 212-678-3699.
Publication Type: Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Two Year Colleges
Sponsor: Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, New York, NY.
Authoring Institution: Columbia Univ., New York, NY. Teachers College.