Junior colleges are for students who "cannot,
will not, should not become university students."
Thus spoke one of the educational leaders who
established the junior college movement 100 years ago [i]. Community
colleges have obviously gone through a significant evolution since
the founding of the first junior college in Joliet, Illinois in
1901. A review of that history can provide you with many insights
into the changing roles of the community colleges and the many important
contributions that the system has made to American society.
total of six students enrolled in the first class at Joliet J.C.,
which was modeled after the first two years of a four-year college.
The initial goal
of the college was to accommodate students who desired to remain
within the community and still pursue a college education. The tuition-free
college started as part of the local high school system and was
accredited by the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges
The junior college movement
spread quickly beyond Illinois as the demand for higher education
and occupational training incessantly increased . During the
next 100 years, junior colleges modified their functions to meet
the needs of a growing and increasingly complex society. This evolution,
according to a study by Deegan and Tillery, can be viewed in terms
of the Five Generations [ii]:
1: Extension of High School (1900-1930)
The two-year college
largely evolved by adding grades 13 and 14 to high schools. This
legacy can still be seen today in many states, including California,
that still have laws grouping community colleges with high schools
and not with the other systems of higher education.
Around 1920, the American
Association of Junior Colleges proposed a variation on the role
of junior colleges, providing a path away from baccalaureate degrees
and toward vocational training.
2: Rise of Independent Junior Colleges (1930-50)
This generation is
characterized in terms of breaking away from the high school. As
late as 1944, approximately two-thirds of all public junior colleges
still had some degree of connection with the high school. As a result,
there was heavy control by local school boards (e.g. mandating textbooks,
supervision of faculty). There was slow growth in the public sector
during this period: 259 colleges in 1930 and only 299 in 1950. Increasingly,
junior colleges started emphasizing general education, student services,
and vocational education during this period.
3: Evolution to Community Colleges (1950-1970)
Due to the Truman Report,
the term "community college" became popularized. Many
states developed systems of community colleges during this period.
The number of institutions grew tremendously. Almost one a week
was being built in the mid-1960s. This period also saw the beginning
of the truly open door policy in which students were admitted to
the college regardless of previous academic records.
4: Emergence of the Comprehensive Community College (1970- mid-1980's)
During this period,
"Something for Everyone" became the institutions
motto. An emphasis on community service and noncredit programs developed,
as did non-traditional delivery. The curriculum became dominated
by occupational-technical programs (in terms of enrollment).
Generation 5: The Contemporary
Community College (mid-1980's to present)
During this period, six major trends emerged,
with implications that influenced institutional planning, management,
education, policies and practices, and legislation.
- The increased need for recurring adult education
required community colleges to offer cost-effective programs which
fell within their mission and learner outcomes.
- More pronounced demographics, economics,
and occupational characteristics caused community colleges to
offer programs that fit their local communities.
- Due to new information and learning technologies
which changed why, how, and where people learned, community colleges
needed to redesign curricula and methods of instruction. In addition,
faculty training in new technologies and instruction became essential.
- Increased competition for both public and
private resources demanded greater public accountability as a
result of good institutional planning, efficient management, and
clear evidence of achieving college objectives.
- State appropriations for maintaining infrastructure
of colleges became based on evidence of efficient management of
- The growing need for greater staff development
and employment practices that would bring special talent to the
events in the development of the public community college
Mission of the California Comminity Colleges
History of the California Community Colleges
[i] Lange, Alexis F., The Junior College,
Sierra Educational News Oct. 1920: 483-486
[ii] Deegan, W., and Tillery, D., & Associates.
Renewing the American Community College. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass,1985.