History of Community and Junior Colleges

In the course of the twentieth century, American society has witnessed advent, growth and evolution of community colleges. At present, there are at least ten educational institutions of this kind almost in every state of the country. However, approximately ninety years ago their number was rather small, and only very few people had the opportunity of obtaining qualified training. The causes of such rapid development have been studied by many scholars. For example, we can refer to the book by Arthur Cohen and Florence Cohen, who examine this question and explain the reasons why these institutions have become so widespread.

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First, it should be pointed out that they take their origins in Chautauqua movement that strived to raise cultural, educational and professional level of the citizens. In part, the establishment of community colleges was one of the best ways of coping with this task (Cohen & Brawer, 2002, p 1). But their primary objective was to help those, who were virtually devoid of any chance of receiving higher education and strengthening their social positions. We should mostly speak about people, who did not possess financial means and inhabitants of rural areas (Shaw & Jacobs, 2003, p 6). Early prototypes such as Joliet Junior Colleges acted as a supplement to high school. They were supposed to improve professional skills of the graduates; normally the emphasis was placed upon technical skills so that the person could fit workplace requirements (Cohen & Brawer, 2002). Thus, we can argue that the advent of junior and community colleges was motivated by the increasing demand for competent employees. Kathleen Shaw and Jerry Jacobs believe that increasing industrialization and urbanization created necessary conditions for this new phenomenon (2003).

If we look at this question from chronological perspective, we can observe that the necessity for junior colleges became dire in sixties. Sociologists and educators usually pay attention to the sharp increase in the number of these institutions. Partially, this was connected with the waves of baby boomers (Cohen & Brawer, 2002, p 34). In the following decades the need for them did not diminish. Therefore, we can conclude that the development of educational institutions was influenced by economic, demographic, and probably even political factors. Political aspect has been put in this list because baby boom was closely associated with the events of World War II and geopolitics.

Apart from that, it may be prudent to examine the changes in the structure and curriculum of junior colleges. As we have pointed out earlier, at the dawn of their existence, they mostly tried to improve technical skills of school graduates, namely we may mention welding, mechanics, or basics of engineering, assembling etc (Shaw & Jacobs, 2003). Now the range of courses is much wider, it includes jurisprudence, medicine, telecommunication and so forth. Furthermore, at the very beginning, there was practically no relation between them and universities, i.e. such students seldom reached the higher level of academic hierarchy. Currently, the situation is drastically different as many graduates aim to pursue their academic careers.

Sociologists and educators are reluctant to advance any hypothesis about the role of these institutions in the future, especially about the status in the eye of the public or functions which they would perform. Nonetheless, we can state that they have already made an immense contribution to the well-being of the country and their importance will not diminish, because American industry will still need effective workforce and community colleges are a reasonable alternative for many people.


  1. Cohen. A. Brawer. F (2002). The American community college. John Wiley and Sons.
  2. Shaw. K. Jacobs. J (2003). Community Colleges: New Environments, New Directions. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science., (586), 6..

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