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Are Public 2-Year Colleges Secondary or Higher Education?

This question is repeatedly asked, sometimes by people who enjoy academic exercises and sometimes by people who really believe the question is a fundamental one. If the question is reworded to say, "Is a 2-year college a high school or a university?" the answer is simple, "Neither." Appropriately, 2-year colleges do include some work that is high school level in nature, as many universities did until recently and as a few still do. Such work may be to strengthen a student in a basic area where he is weak. Obviously, much of the academic and technical work in the 2-year college is college level in nature.

One of the best answers to date comes from the President's Committee on Education Beyond the High School:

Community colleges are not designed, however, merely to relieve enrollment pressures on senior institutions. They have a role and an integrity of their own. They are designed to help extend and equalize opportunities to those who are competent and who otherwise would not attend college, and to present a diversity of general and specialized programs to meet the needs of diversified talents and career goals.3

As the support patterns of 2-year colleges are closely related to the programs and services offered, much study is needed to present a clear picture of the image or the several images of 2-year colleges. Certainly, one consistent image of the 2-year college is concerned with providing a transitional experience for the student as he progresses from the high school to the more advanced levels of the university.

How Can Support Be Secured for Land Acquisition and Improvement and for Planning and Constructing Facilities for the 2-Year College?

Should a new 2-year college be started, as many have been, by asking the high school to share its facilities? Is it wiser to wait until funds are available for site and an initial building program? Should an industry seeking to benefit from college services be encouraged to assist in providing equipment? Would such assistance subsequently result in the industry suggesting enrollment restrictions not consistent with the policy of a public institution? Since it does not appear logical for the student to be charged for capital investments for buildings and equipment, from what source should these funds be sought? What responsibility, if any, rests with the

Second Report to the President. The President's Committee on Education Beyond the High School. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, July 1957. p. 65.

locality, the State, and the Nation? Should non-Government agencies be solicited by public institutions, or should these sources be left for the private colleges? Would cooperative work-study programs and internships in industry help?

What Should Be Considered a 2-Year College?

Here, again, the pliable state of the public 2-year college movement is recognized. In this particular study, an effort was made to be inclusive rather than restrictive. As a result, data were reported on the financing of public 2-year colleges that were locally controlled and supported, either as a part of a unified public school district or under a support and control pattern separate from the lower grade levels; 2-year branches of public 4-year colleges and universities; State technical institutes; and State-controlled and supported 2-year colleges.

For a number of reasons, primarily related to the manageability of data, no reference was made to other institutions rendering services similar to some of those provided by the public communityjunior college. Examples of these are the Wisconsin adult or vocational-technical high schools and the North Carolina area vocational schools.

Will these latter types of institutions ultimately become public 2-year colleges also? Or is a new kind of educational institution emerging, bridging in still another way the gap between high school, on the one hand, and college study or life work on the other? Possibly, more consideration should be given to the similarities, rather than to the differences, between public and private 2-year colleges. Certainly, the duration of many programs is one obvious similarity. Other identifying elements might be the nonprofit nature of these institutions and the common core of general education. Should special-purpose 2-year colleges be urged to expand their general education programs?

What Is a Desirable Level of Current Support?

No meaningful answer can be given to this question except in relation to four other major considerations. These are, type of programs offered, staff salary schedule, size of the college, and extent to which administrative salaries and maintenance costs are charged to the college. The variations found in these four items account for the fact that currently "desirable" operational support

for 2-year colleges ranges from less than $600 a year to more than $1,000 a year per student.

It would seem unwise for any State to write into its laws any statement expressed in dollars as a desirable level. Periodic evaluation of the support pattern is essential with consideration given to such facts as:

A. Sixty to seventy-five percent of the current operational cost is usually spent on instruction;

B. Technical education programs cost considerably more than liberal arts programs; and

C. Economies in community college operation do not usually occur until an enrollment of 400 to 500 is reached.

How Can Effective Procedures for Setting Support Be Formulated?

One of the most frequently recurring questions deals with effective procedures for establishing and operating 2-year colleges. Part of the answer to this question is concerned with establishing adequate support levels.

Different methods are being used successfully today. One is found where a State approval agency, by regulation, requires that the State, the district, and the student shall each contribute a certain fraction of the actual cost. Another method specifies that the student tuition shall be limited to a certain amount, the State's share to a certain amount, and the local district shall pay the remainder. Still another approach is the foundation method, where the State guarantees a certain level of support. The district may increase its share and thus increase this level. Generally, the tuition cannot exceed a certain fixed amount.

Although the present study does not examine effective procedures, it does suggest that the principles for establishing these procedures for support patterns are generally based on the following assumptions:

A. The student share should be kept low so that qualified students are not priced out of continuing education.

B. Some State approval agency needs to have the authority to provide criteria for establishment of public 2-year colleges as well as for determining the ratio of district to State support. C. The local institution should have the authority to exceed its local share if it chooses to do so.

D. An effective procedure should include provisions for periodic reevaluation in terms of experience and changing

costs. Certainly, it is not wise to determine by law that any level of education be priced at a certain dollar amount. These questions are not new to the community college idea; some were identified by Koos, Eells, and others in early studies over a quarter of a century ago. Today, however, new forces are acting upon the 2-year colleges, perhaps creating pressures toward different conclusions than were held at the start of the junior college movement. The directions toward which the States move during the next 5 to 10 years in developing their public 2-year colleges may well determine the answers to the questions stated and the ultimate role of the public 2-year colleges in the United States.

APPENDIX

State Exhibits of Statutory and Regulatory Provisions for Financing Current Operations and Capital Outlay for 2-Year Colleges and Actual Practices Used

ALABAMA

In Alabama there are two 2-year colleges which receive public support. One is a 2-year branch of a 4-year State college, and the other is a private 2-year college receiving State funds.

Private Institution Receiving State Support

I. Support Formula in Laws:

A. Current Support-None.

B. Capital Outlay-None.

II. Support Formula in Official State Regulations:
A. Current Support-None.

B. Capital Outlay-None.

III. Support Formula in Actual Practice (1960–61):

A. Current Support-Legislature makes biennial appropriations directly to Walker College for support and maintenance. State, 30 percent; local, none; tuition, 70 percent.1

B. Capital Outlay-100 percent from the local area.

2-Year Branch of a 4-Year College

I. Support Formula in Laws:

A. Current Support-None.

B. Capital Outlay-None.

II. Support Formula in Official State Regulations:

A. Current Support-None.

B. Capital Outlay-None.

1 The 1961 Alabama Legislature authorized similar direct appropriations for Marion Institute (a private 2-year college). This action was reported after the text and tables of this study had been compiled.

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