The Diverted Dream: Community Colleges and the Promise of Educational Opportunity in America, 1900-1985

By Steven Brint; Jerome Karabel | Go to book overview

PART II Community College
Transformation at the State
and Local Level:
The Case of Massachusetts

In the first part of this book, we considered the forces encouraging the transformation of American community colleges from transfer-oriented institutions with links to the rest of academia into highly vocationalized institutions focused on an educational trajectory that ends at its own doors. We argued that this transformation cannot be accounted for by either the consumer-choice or the business- domination models. Rather, we suggested that vocationalization was pressed by the junior college leaders and their allies as the best available strategy for pursuing institutional interests in a context of powerful structural constraints.

In Part II of this volume, we provide a more detailed analysis of change by concentrating on one state system. By examining the birth, growth and subsequent vocationalization of the Massachusetts system--a relatively late-developing community college system--we try to document the actual processes that led to vocationalization. Moreover, our evidence regarding Massachusetts, based on extensive interviews as well as archival evidence, tends, we believe, to confirm our main thesis: that community colleges advocated vocationalization in the face of both business apathy and student resistance because of organizational interests rooted in their location in the complex ecological structure of American higher education.

Three concerns, in particular, led us to include a case study as part of our analysis of the transformation of two-year colleges. First, we believed it necessary to balance our emphasis on the influence of national-level events and actors with an emphasis on the specifically local influences bearing on community college development. Second, we wanted to illustrate how national influences concretely shaped local practices. Finally, we wanted to understand the concrete mechanisms through which vocationalizing policies were implemented on the campuses.

This last concern requires some amplification. In our view, analysts too often discuss patterns and rates of institutional change in education, without considering

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