Defining the Community College Model

  • Rosalind Latiner Raby

Despite recent advances for countries to offer compulsory secondary education, traditional universities have not altered their structure to respond to the social demands for higher education. University admittance remains limited and therefore highly competitive. Fifteen years ago, Cerych (1993, p. 5) noted that “the existence of a recognized alternative to traditional universities [is] indispensable.” Today, this alternative pathway has become the domain of the community college model which not only offers options for university overflow, but also offers a “second chance” for nontraditional students to achieve a higher education. These institutions maintain a flexibility characteristic that enables them to idealize and demonstrate in a practical way the means by which new generations can receive skills to ensure a stable employment that in turn increases economic development, social prosperity, and improves social conditions.1 Even in countries where the term “democracy” is not utilized, the concept remains that these institutions provide opportunity and an equalization where none previously existed. The skills-based training that is needed to grow economic and social capital is that skill-set that community college models provide.

Although these institutions play a cohesive role in national education forums, a basic understanding of their construct remains illusive due to the fact that these institutions are defined by local needs. Despite the variance, basic similarities exist that define community college models as a unique form of postsecondary education that offers short-term semi- and professional terminal courses as well as an academic curriculum that results in an associate in arts or sciences, and in some cases, the means to transfer to 4-year universities. The curriculum is more advanced than secondary school, but remains below the baccalaureate level, except for those few models that offer baccalaureate degrees. According to Cohen and Brawer (2003) community colleges “include public and private comprehensive two-year colleges and technical institutions, but exclude vocational schools and adult education centers and proprietary business and trade colleges” (p. 5). Raby (1996) details the various terms2 that have defined these institutions, and Table 1.1 depicts the array of institutions that exist worldwide. While various countries call these institutions by different names (most notably, 2-year college, junior college, technical college, polytechnics, college of further education, and community college), the distinct lines between these terms are increasingly becoming blurred. In fact, this book will use all of these various terms interchangeably and will refer to them as community college models. This chapter identifies those historic and contemporary characteristics of community college models that make them distinct from other postsecondary institutions. A foundation emerges to explain the continued attractiveness of this model upon which the various chapters in this book elaborate.


Community College Citizenship Education Junior College High Education Student Nontraditional Student 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rosalind Latiner Raby
    • 1
  1. 1.California State UniversityNorthridge

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