Community Colleges Focus of New Book

Book co-edited by education professor aims to bridge the gap between research and practice

John Levin, arms crossed

John Levin, a professor in the Graduate School of Education

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( — A book co-edited by a University of California, Riverside professor that was published today (July 24) provides a comprehensive look at community colleges, historically and at present.

John S. Levin, the director and principal investigator of the California Community College Collaborative at UC Riverside, co-edited “Understanding Community Colleges” with Susan T. Kater, assistant to the chancellor of the Maricopa Community College District in Arizona. The book was published by Routledge.

The 15-chapter book provides a broad overview of the community college landscape, and covers topics including management and governance, finance, student demographics and development, teaching and learning, policy, faculty and workforce development.

The book is intended to bridges the gap between research and practice, said Levin, who is also the Bank of America Professor of Education Leadership at UC Riverside’s Graduate School of Education. He said the there is a fair amount of practical and opinionated research focused on community colleges, but not much based on theory.

The book is being published at a time when community colleges have become centerpieces in fixing the nation’s education and productivity ills. The federal government is allocating billions of dollars to community colleges for job training. And the White House hosted a community college summit.

Meanwhile, enrollment numbers at community colleges are jumping. Between 2000 and 2010, there was a 25 percent increase. Community colleges now enroll 43 percent of college and university students, about 25 percent of whom are in community colleges in California.

“Despite this, community colleges continue to be the most understudied,” said Levin, who has studied community colleges for 25 years.

With “Understanding Community Colleges,” Levin and Kater set out to change that. Here are some details from the chapters:

Jim Palmer, a professor of higher education at Illinois State University, writes about state fiscal support for community colleges. He suggests that the fiscal health of community colleges will increasingly be determined by policies and initiatives internal to the institutions.

Ken Meier, formerly vice president of student learning at College of Marin and a former senior administrator at Bakersfield College, focuses on the history of the community college mission. He writes that U.S. community colleges are adaptive institutions, with missions expanding as social and economic policies at the local, and now national and international, stages evolve.

Lindsey Malcolm, an assistant professor of higher education administration at The George Washington University, writes about the demographics of community college students. She argues that community colleges have evolved into a de facto minority-serving institutional sector.

The book also includes chapters by several people with UC Riverside ties.

Luciana Dar, an assistant professor of education at UC Riverside, wrote about the political economy of vocational education. Virginia Montero Hernandez, who earned her Ph.D. from UC Riverside in 2010 and is now an assistant professor at University of Morelos in Mexico, and Christine Cerven, a Ph.D. graduate (sociology) from UC Riverside and now at UC San Diego as a post-doc, wrote about adult student development.

Levin’s chapter, “Understandings of Community Colleges in Need of Resuscitation: The Case of Community College of Faculty,” argues that the institution is both expanding and fragmenting, becoming separated from its public image as a school or as a stepping stone in higher education and functioning more as an elaboration of its historical core for community and personal development.

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