This study was an examination of the contemporary definition of the American Community College. The research highlighted: (1) the historical overview of the first four generations of the American Community College; (2) the contemporary mission controversy; (3) new mission focus for community college; and (4) a refined definition for the fifth generation of the American Community College. This two-phase qualitative research analysis defined the fifth generation of community colleges and examined the magnitude of entrepreneurial activities in public community colleges throughout the United States using a stratified sample method. Constituent groups were selected from three institutional types (rural, suburban, and urban) from Maryland community colleges. A total of eight community colleges (three rural, three suburban, and two urban institutions) were selected with 34 constituents participating in this study. Additionally, this study analyzed institutional documents and websites from 300 of the 979 public community colleges for evidence of entrepreneurial activities (AACC, 2006). The responses from the constituent groups and evaluation of institutional documents revealed a mission shift and supported our argument for a refined description of the mission focus of the next generation of community colleges to be entrepreneurial.
a. Objectives or Purposes
This study was an examination of the contemporary definition of the American Community College. Session participants will be engaged in an intense conversation about the controversial mission description of the comprehensive community college. To help raise awareness of the scope of the controversy, the paper will cover recent research highlighting: (1) the historical overview of the first four generations of the community college; (2) the contemporary mission controversy; (3) new mission focus for community college; and (4) a refined definition of the fifth generation of the American Community College with an examination of entrepreneurial activities.
Three central research questions guided this study: How do community college constituent groups describe the next generation of the American Community College? To what extent are community colleges involved in entrepreneurial activities and what is the evidence that supports this entrepreneurial involvement?
Currently, many community colleges are unable to measure the mission direction because they are not able to articulate a clear definition of the direction or mission focus. In addition, current descriptions do not clearly align with the direction of the institution. Meaningful discussions concerning the next generation of community colleges require a description that more accurately describes the various functions of the community college. The current definition of comprehensive community colleges has limitations because it does not capture the unique issues facing the contemporary community college. This paper is designed to re-examine the mission with the intent of identifying a more representative mission definition—one that will assist community colleges in their efforts to effectively articulate their services and focus to the communities that they serve.
b. Perspectives or Theoretical Framework
This study builds upon the Deegan and Tillery’s (1985) Community College Generational Model (DTCCGM) and is designed to explore contemporary perspectives of the mission focus of the American Community College. Using the central research question as a focal point, constituent groups such as executives, administrators, faculty, and students were queried on their perspectives of Deegan and Tillery’s (1985) six identified variables such as mission, students, curriculum, support services, facilities, and relationships with schools, university, government, and private sector. Additionally, using the definitions based on the Schumpeter’s (1934) Model of Entrepreneurship (products, production methods, markets, forms of organization, and forms of leadership), the institutional websites and documents were examined for evidence of entrepreneurial activities. The researchers argue that the current description, comprehensive community college, no longer describes the functions of the contemporary community college. The paper will increase session participants’ awareness of the current status and future role of the American Community College. Based on our findings, the researchers engage the participants in a conversation and refine the definition of the fifth generation of American Community Colleges.
According to Deegan and Tillery (1985), the community college sector has experienced four generations of development: high school extension, junior college, community college, and comprehensive community college. However, the Deegan and Tillery (1985) classifications left the fifth generation undefined. This two-phase qualitative research analysis presents the fifth generation of community colleges with an examination of entrepreneurial activities using Schumpeter (1934) model of entrepreneurship.
c. Methods, Techniques, or Modes of Inquiry
This qualitative research design used a two-phase method which included multi-case, multi-site methodology and content analysis of institutional documents. A qualitative research approach was employed due to the phenomenon (American Community Colleges) being studied through the eyes of the constituent groups. In addition, qualitative research methodology was selected because of its practicality, usefulness, and convenience (Nachimias, 2000; Patton, 1980; Reinhaz, 1992; Strauss & Corbin, 1990). A multi-case, multi-site design strengthened the validity and reliability of the results of the case study method by allowing the researchers to conduct pattern-matching among the constituent groups and institutions (Tellis, 1997; Yin, 2003).
Yin (2003) outlined five key steps for case study methodology. These steps included developing theory; selecting cases and designing data collection protocols; conducting case studies; and writing individual case reports. The researchers used Yin approach to conduct this investigation. The main variables investigated were mission, students, curriculum, support services, facilities, and relationships with schools, university, government, and private sector.
Content analysis was employed in order evaluate institutional websites and documents such as leadership (i.e. President’s, Chancellor’s, Provosts or CEO’s), mission and vision statements. Using the definitions based on the Schumpeter’s (1934) Model of Entrepreneurship (products, production methods, markets, forms of organization, and forms of leadership), the institutional websites and documents were examined for evidence of entrepreneurial activities based on four regions (Northeast, Northwest, Southeast, and Southwest) and were coded accordingly.
Four constituent groups -- executives, administrators, faculty, and students -- were represented as constituents in this research study. Constituent groups were selected from three institutional types (rural, suburban, and urban) from Maryland community colleges. A total of eight community colleges (three rural, three suburban, and two urban institutions) were selected with 34 constituents participating in the study.
Four regions - Northeast, Northwest, Southeast, and Southwest – were assigned to 300 of the 979 public community colleges in United States for this phase of the study for evidence of entrepreneurial activities (AACC, 2006) using stratified sampling.
Yin (1994) outlined a case study protocol which included “overview of the project (project objectives and case study issues), field procedures (credentials and access to sites), questions (specific questions that the investigator must keep in mind during data collection), and guide for the report (outline and format for the case study report)” (p. 69). This research study followed this protocol and was implemented through relevant trainings of all interviewers.
Based on the sample size of 300, 75 institutions were assigned to each of the four regions. Then, evidence of entrepreneurial activity (new products, production methods, markets, forms of organization, and forms of leadership) using institutional documents was examined such as websites that included leadership, mission, and vision statements. Manifest and latent coding was utilized in order to classify the data by entrepreneurial activity. Once coded, the data was then computed manually and electronically for an analysis by region and entrepreneurial activity.
d. Data Sources or Evidence
Interviewers used face-to-face, one-on-one structured interviews with each participant at a prearranged time; a one-day visit was made to each site in the fall of 2003 and 2004. During these site visits, interviews were conducted with various constituent groups. The interviews ranged from 30 minutes to 90 minutes in length (Creswell, 2003; Yin, 2003).
Consistent with the conceptual framework, constituents were asked to focus their comments on the future of community colleges. Specifically, constituents shared their perspectives on six variables of the fifth generation of community colleges: (a) mission, (b) students, (c) curriculum, (d) support services, (e) facilities and (f) external relationships. During each interview, constituents were given an interview questionnaire to assist with the questioning for the interviews. Each interviewer followed these questions and did not deviate from the questions outlined on the instrument.
Data Coding and Analysis
After interviews were conducted, the interview notes and tapes were transcribed. Each transcription was then saved using Microsoft Word in a rich text format, in order for the data to be inputted into the qualitative research software, Altas.ti. This software improved the researchers’ ability to enhance data coding and analyses.
Atlas.ti, qualitative research software, assisted with the data analyses which were initially competed manually. This software provided a uniform and technical method for coding interview transcriptions. In addition, this software provided useful resources such as a convenient manner in which to code the data from the transcripts, identify quotes, and perform frequency charts (Yin, 2003).
The coding process also included an assessment by institutional type, constituent group or entrepreneurial activity in order to improve the study’s ability in searching for patterns and themes within a particular setting or across cases and regions (Denzin & Lincoln, 1994; Patton, 1990; Yin, 2003). Case analysis provided a more comprehensive, systematic, and in-depth analysis (Denzin & Lincoln, 1994). The cross case analysis was based on institutional types (suburban, suburban, and urban) and constituents (executives, administrators, faculty, and students) and region and entrepreneurial activities using the six identifiable themes.
The unit of analysis was sentences and words from interview notes, institutional documents, and transcriptions. The classifications were then re-evaluated for themes and sub-themes within each variable for further narrowing and included iterative processes (Babbie, 1983; Creswell, 2003). Themes were organized based on Deegan and Tillery and Schumpeter’s classifications and further segregated to include emerging themes for mission, student, curriculum, support services, facilities and external relationships as well as new products, production methods, markets, forms of organization, and forms of leadership.
e. Results and / or Conclusions / Point of View
Since participants told us in the first phase that community colleges were becoming more entrepreneurial, we probed further for evidence of entrepreneurial activity by examining institutional documents from community college leadership, mission, and vision statements during the second phase. Research findings from the second phase of the study were presented by entrepreneurial activity and region (northeast, northwest, southeast, and southwest) within United States. Using Schumpeter’s (1934) Model of Entrepreneurship, institutional documents were assessed for entrepreneurial activity (new products, production methods, markets, forms of organization, and forms of leadership). The findings in this study highlighted that contemporary community colleges’ engagement in entrepreneurial activities demonstrated an investment in the areas of new products, production methods, and markets as well as new forms of organization and leadership.
For example, community colleges in the northwest region appeared to have the highest indication of entrepreneurial activity in the area of new forms of leadership with a stronger focus on new product development. Most of the community colleges in the region had leadership and vision statements that acknowledged entrepreneurial activities than any other region. In contrast, we found that most of the community colleges throughout the southeast region did not have vision statements. Consequently, in the southeast region, entrepreneurial activities of new products were referenced the most in leadership and mission statements. Finally, in the southwest region, community colleges demonstrated higher amounts of entrepreneurial activity especially as evidenced by their mission statements. In particular, they reached out to attract new markets by going after minority and older students followed by continued interest in new product development such as curriculum innovation, intellectual property, expansion in delivery services, etc.
The research findings demonstrated the ever-evolving mission of community colleges shifting from comprehensiveness to an entrepreneurial focus. For example, the concept of the comprehensive community college could not illustrate the interdependence of internal and external relationships required to address issues such as articulation, transfer, diversity of population, budget and finance, accountability, productivity, and the overall academic success of students. There is a need to have a concept of the role of the community colleges that illustrates how it embraces underlying community and national trends or identify and responds to ever-changing societal needs. For example, a surprising finding for this study was that constituents believed that colleges must become more enterprising and develop stronger focus on relationship building (which will become the rule instead of the exception). The fact that some constituents eloquently expressed the need for community colleges to become more concerned about the academic success of all learners; engagement of the students and redefined roles of faculty may reveal another constraint of the current comprehensive community college concept. Another compelling finding was that all constituents stated external relationships as fundamental to the image of the community college; viewing relationships with business and government as key to future organizational success.
The findings also clearly revealed how technology may change the way community colleges fulfill their mission (O’Banion, 2000; Oblinger, 2003). An advantage of working with a variety of constituent groups in the process of defining the role of community colleges might be the identification of subgroups that have distinct perceptions about the definitions.
While these results may not be representative of the perspectives of all constituent groups, it supports the need for further investigation of a more descriptive definition of community colleges. Based on the review of the literature and findings, we argue that the fifth generation of community colleges may be classified as the Entrepreneurial Community College focusing on “new products, new production methods, new markets, and new forms of organizations” with a strong thrust towards the external constituent and environment (Schumpeter, 1934).
A New Name, New Direction, and The Next Generation
It is evident that contemporary community colleges are engaged in a multiplicity of functions. This research revealed that the roles and functions of the community college extend beyond the current comprehensive community college classification. Analysis of the data identified six key features for the Entrepreneurial Community College mission focus (accessibility, accountability, affordability, and diversity (academically, ethnically, culturally, etc.)) and entrepreneurial activities (new products, new production methods, new markets, and new forms of organizations). These areas are intricately connected to contemporary societal issues found in the communities served by these community colleges.
Although the concept of the comprehensive community college explains the magnitude of the functions of the community college, it falls short of the groupings of intimacy and spontaneity of the community college’s relationship within its local environment. Some of the responses from the constituents and institutional documents in this study can be explained within the context of the comprehensive community college classification. However, this research draws an extended inference from the findings and suggests that the mission focus of the next generation of community colleges can best be explained from an entrepreneurial context. This research proposes that the term, Entrepreneurial Community College, presents an opportunity to address and respond to the changing constituent needs of future community colleges.
f. Educational or Scientific Importance of the Study
Despite the wide-spread interest and concern, what counts as an accurate description of the contemporary generation of community colleges remains inadequately specified in the research undertaken since Deegan and Tillery’s (1985) seminal study. Accurately defining and describing the mission of America’s community colleges is an increasingly important task for community colleges leaders and for those making policy decisions about community colleges. Deegan and Tillery documented four generations of the community college by examining the mission and the sector’s evolution. The four generations included high school extension, 1900-1930; junior college, 1930-1950; community college, 1950-1970; and comprehensive community college, 1970 to Mid-1980s. If institutional change is ever-presented—as evident by characteristics of the modern community college—the important issue is how do community colleges accurately describe the next generation of community colleges?
Many changes have taken place since the missions of community colleges were comprehensively studied and evaluated, chief of which is that no clear definition of the contemporary mission of community colleges has emerged due to the ambiguity and confusion regarding the comprehensive mission. Many have speculated about the mission function and composition which have included perspectives on the problems and challenges of the fourth generation (Brint & Karabel, 1989, 1995; Cohen and Brawer, 1996; Deegan & Tillery, 1985; Dougherty, 2001; Levin, 2001; McCartan, 1983; Reitano, 1998; Smith, 1995). Specifically, the comprehensive mission caused many problems because of its ambiguousness and inability to have a specific direction. As Reitano (1988) commented, “the need for two-year colleges to re-evaluate their historical missions becomes increasingly great” (p. 125). Comprehensive community colleges continued to be “all things to all people” (Bailey & Averianova, 2000, p. 4). Yet, the comprehensive mission poses many challenges because of the academic, fiscal, and immeasurable realities (Brint & Karabel, 1995; Dougherty, 2001).