Student Opinion on Community College Baccalaureate Degrees

Article excerpt

This study addresses the question of community college baccalaureate degrees and whether such degrees would, or would not, preferentially benefit minority, two-year college students. A survey was developed to identify student attitudes concerning the offering of a baccalaureate degree by the two-year college they presently attend. Minority student's responses indicate that offering a four-year degree at their community college is an option that would encourage them to complete a degree.

Introduction

The origin of the American community college movement, in its present form, generally has been attributed to William Rainey Harper of the University of Chicago (Monroe, 1972). During the 1890s, President Harper was successful in separating the first two years of his institution into the Academic College and the last two into the University College. These divisions evolved into the Junior College and the Senior College of the University of Chicago in 1896. By 1907, California had authorized a statewide network of community colleges (Fields, 1962), and in 1921, the American Association of Junior Colleges was founded (Vaughn, 1998). In 1944, the United States Congress passed the Servicemen's Readjustment Act, which became known as the GI Bill, providing financial assistance to American veterans who wished to pursue a college education.

Historically, these colleges offered two broad areas of study, occupational and academic. However, the 1947 President's Commission on Higher Education added five additional purposes to these two areas of study: general education, adult and continuing education, developmental and remedial education, student personnel services, and community services (Tunnell, 1987). By 1990, approximately five million students attended community colleges nationwide (Cohen, 1990). Today, the community college is an accredited educational institution that awards an associate degree. Less costly, more numerous, and less restrictive in their admissions, these colleges seek to make higher education available to virtually everyone (Lucas, 1996).

The present study addresses the question of community college baccalaureate degrees and whether such degrees would, or would not, preferentially benefit minority, two-year college students. A number of recent articles consider the advisability of two-year college baccalaureate degrees (Evelyn, 2000; Garmon, 2001; Manzo, 2001; Walker, 2000; Walker & Zeiss, 2001; Walker, 2001). Walker (2001) reports that eight states have already authorized community college baccalaureate degrees. He contends that "this vision calls for the further democratization of higher education by making access to the baccalaureate degree available through the open-door colleges of the world." Manzo (2001) observes, "To some, it is the next logical step in the 100-year-old community college movement. To others, it is a path leading away from the movement's core mission and longstanding values." Indeed, some of the most vocal critics of the community college baccalaureate degree come from the ranks of the community college movement itself. Manzo quotes Dr. James L. Wattenbarger, professor emeritus, University of Florida-Gainesville, as saying "The authorization of community colleges to offer baccalaureate degrees is not a new idea - just a bad one." The focus of this study, however, is not whether community college baccalaureate degrees are a good idea, but whether or not such degrees would preferentially benefit minority community college students.

Methodology

Although Tyler Junior College has a fairly high number of minority students, they transfer to four-year institutions in lower numbers than their non-minority counterparts. The study was designed to ascertain whether or not those students would consider their chances of earning a baccalaureate degree enhanced if it were possible for them to stay at Tyler Junior College. The conclusions do not necessarily generalize the to other institutions. …