Community colleges are a uniquely American institution. The University of Chicago established the first Junior College in 1901 as a way to teach the first two years of a baccalaureate degree. Founding university faculty and administrators hoped establishment of junior colleges would make it possible for them to focus on advanced undergraduate instruction, graduate-level instruction and research.

More than 1200 community colleges now bring higher education to more than 10 million Americans each year. Junior Colleges grew into what are now known as "Community Colleges." Growth has occurred because this movement is holistically committed to meeting the needs of the majority of citizens living within a given community.

The Maricopa Community College District was established in the early 1960's to meet the needs of adults in Maricopa County, Arizona. The Maricopa Community Colleges evolved and continue to evolve. Responsible local governance is a major reason why the Maricopa Community Colleges have flourished. Local property taxes and tuition are the largrest sources of operating funds. No operating revenue comes from the State of Arizona General Fund.


The Community College Mission

A modern manifestation of the original junior college mission is stated in the form of one Maricopa Community College District goal...

University Transfer Education was the only original junior college mission and is still important. For example, it is possible to complete a Northern Arizona University baccalaureate degree at a Maricopa Community College. However, transfer courses are only one aspect of the modern community college mission. 

Workforce Development provides job training, retraining and upgrading of skills. About half of all Maricopa Community College District students enroll in community college courses to develop entry-level vocational skills or upgrade current skills as necessary to keep pace with technological change. However, Workforce Development and University Transfer Education are no longer mutually exclusive. Most vocational courses will now transfer to a university. Community college graduates with an Associate of Applied Science Degree can transfer to Arizona public university as a junior.

"General Education enables all students to exercise their obligations and privileges as citizens with intelligence and informed judgement." Modern community colleges are also committed to the belief that all graduates should possess the skills and breadth of knowledge necessary to live full and productive lives. The extent to which the Maricopa Community College District recognizes the need for General Education is expressed in the following goal. General Education is part of every Maricopa Community College District degree program: Writing (3 credits), Oral Communication (3 credits), Critical Reading (3 credits), and Computer Usage (1 credit). One credit is equivalent to 16 hours of classroom instruction.

"Developmental Education, including remedial and developmental instruction provides under-prepared students access to post-secondary education." In the words of Dr. Paul Elsner, former Chancellor of the Maricopa Community College District, "Not everyone is ready for college but most can be prepared." Nationwide more than one-half of all students admitted to some urban campuses are now enrolled in remedial courses and most will become able to read, write, communicate and compute at college level.

Open Admission is the hallmark of the community college movement. The only real requirement for admission to any of the Maricopa Community Colleges or Centers is "evidence of potential success in the community college." This does not mean that community college students leave college any less knowledgeable than persons who have completed equivalent university courses.

Entering students are assessed to learn how well they read, write and compute; Availability of remedial courses and free individual tutoring make Open Admission possible. There is an extensive body of research which proves that students who have completed college-level courses at a community college have the same degree of competence as students who have completed equivalent courses at a university.

Tuition for a community college education is about one-fourth of tuition at an Arizona public university. It was the intent of founders of the community college movement to make higher education affordable to everyone. Initially most community colleges required students to pay very little or no tuition. However community colleges have had to increase tuition in recent years as a way to compensate for inflation and rising costs. Regardless, the fact remains that on a comparative basis community college tuition is still a tremendous bargain.

Convenient location makes it easier for citizens to attend. The vast majority of students who attend each of the 10 Maricopa Community Colleges and 38 Satellite Centers lives within five miles of the campus where he or she attends. It has been the Maricopa experience that few citizens travel more than eight miles to attend a class.

Local control is important because no one has to attend a community college. While each of the United States has a law mandating high school attendance, and anyone who wants a professional degree must enroll at a university and complete a four-year baccalaureate program, there is no comparable mandate compelling a citizen to attend a community college. Community colleges must offer services citizens in their community will pay to receive in order to earn a salary for faculty, staff and remain open for business.


The Maricopa Community College District

The Maricopa Community College District was founded in the early 1960's when most community colleges opened. Growth of the Maricopa Community Colleges and Centers mirrors the growth of this movement across the nation.

Today, with an unduplicated count of more than 285,000 students per academic year, the Maricopa Community Colleges and Centers are the largest public institution of higher education in America. Approximately 40% of all Maricopa County residents have attended one or more of the Maricopa Community Colleges and approximately 10% attend each year.

Students have changed. In the early 1960's, when the community college movement was born, the typical student was an eighteen year old Anglo male who was either planning to go into business or transfer to a university and earn a baccalaureate degree. Currently the male-female enrollment ratio is about 60% female to 40% male.

Age distribution has shifted with students under 20 years of age comprising about 25% of the enrollment, while those from 20 to 24 years of age remain at about 25%.  Those 30-39 and 40-49 have decreased slightly over time.  Those aged 50 and older remain steady at about 7%.

International students who identify themselves as not having U.S. citizenship have contributed as well to the diversity at Maricopa colleges.  The immigrant group comprises over 40% of the international student population, followed by the refugee group at less than 1% of the international student population. 

The modal modern community college student is a thirty year old employed female who is taking one course because that is what she needs to do to earn more money on the job.

University Transfer Education has changed. In the past students tended to transfer from high school to community college to university in a linear progression. Linearity has been replaced by swirl. For example, many students enrolled in one or more of the Maricopa Community Colleges indicate they previously attended a state university, many are simultaneously enrolled at one of the Maricopa Community Colleges and a state university. Almost half of all Maricopa students indicated previous attendance at more than one Maricopa Community Colleges. Many college students attend the institution of higher education that most cost-effectively meets their needs.

Transfer education has been facilitated by development of Articulation Task Forces (ATF). ATFs coordinate college to university transfer. College students who follow ATF developed programs can often transfer to a public state university as a true junior as if they had completed their first two years at the university campus.

Workforce Development has changed. The Maricopa Community Colleges now offer hundreds of Career and Technical Education Porgrams. Partnerships with local businesses and industry have also become a powerful part of the mix. Twenty-five years ago, when community colleges were in their infancy, jobs tended to change little from year to year. Modern jobs have a vitality that makes it necessary for workers to constantly learn new skills, to use computers, and to interact with other persons as a basic condition of employment. The modal modern Maricopa student is more interested in advancement in her job than in completion of a degree. Continuing education has become a must for most employees and community colleges are uniquely positioned to meet this need.

The Maricopa Community Colleges use Computer-Assisted Open-Entry/Open-Exit courses to teach most computer software application courses.

Developmental Education has grown. Initially, community colleges were perceived as colleges in the traditional sense. Few persons with serious academic deficiencies enrolled. Community college students with all levels of academic preparation and skill now enroll and the need for remedial education has increased dramatically. Each of the Maricopa Community Colleges and Centers now has a Learning Resource Center where students can receive free individualized tutoring in basic academic skills and in many courses. In addition, the Maricopa Community Colleges now provide free basic literacy instruction to approximately 10,000 adults per year at numerous off-campus locations throughout Maricopa County.

Full-Time Faculty are much the same. While faculty are now recruited from a broader base ability to teach continues to be the major criteria for continued success. Full-Time Faculty are governed by Resident Faculty Policies that evolved over the past 30 years.

Diversity is another foundation of the community college movement. According to the American Association of University Professors the Maricopa Community Colleges now employ more female than male Residential faculty and females earn an average salary that is $500 more per year than their male colleagues (Academe, March-April 2001).

What has changed is the fact that community colleges now employ several part-time "Adjunct Faculty" to every single member of the full-time "Residential Faculty." Most Adjunct Faculty are professionally employed outside the field of education and teach one or two classes per semester that are related to the profession in which they are employed. Employment of Adjunct Faculty makes it possible for a community college to teach the "state-of-the-art" as practiced in the real business-industry world and to be more flexible in the number of courses offered. Since Adjunct Faculty do not have tenure only the best tend to be rehired. Use of Adjunct Faculty contributes to excellence in instruction and has been integral to the success of the community college movement.


Workforce Development

Occupational Educators have always had close Business/Industry ties. Workforce Development curriculum has traditionally been based on the employment needs of local employers. The Maricopa Community Colleges host hundreds of occupational programs.

For a course or program to become part of the Maricopa Community College District curriculum it must have been approved by an Instructional Council which consists of a faculty member from each college where the program is offered and approved by the "District Curriculum Committee" of chief academic officers and faculty. Most Adjunct Faculty have been or are full-time employees in the business or industry they teach. These relationships continue to thrive. However the times have changed and the Employer-Educator Alliance has intensified. There are a number of reasons why this has occurred.

Workers need to be more knowledgeable than in the past. An example of how the technician of today needs to be much better educated than the technician of yesterday is that in 1965 an automobile mechanic who had read 5,000 pages of technical manuals could fix any automobile on the road. Today that same technician would have to decipher 465,000 pages of technical text to do the same job. Community colleges teach the needed knowledge.

There are fewer persons in the work-force from which to choose. The large numbers of persons born immediately after World War II are nearing retirement. They had fewer children than did their parents resulting in an overall lesser number of persons coming into the workforce for employment.

Furthermore, approximately 25% of all Arizonans leave high school without having earned a high school diploma. While about 80% of all American high school graduates sought full-time employment immediately upon graduation from high school in 1960 more than 60% of this cohort now defer full-time employment and elect post-secondary education instead. It is a fact that most of the young people interested in full-time employment today are either high school dropouts or from the lowest quartile of academic achievement.

Employers ally themselves with community colleges as a way to obtain the training services needed to upgrade employee skills. Examples of intense new Employer - Educator alliances include...

Customized courses and programs in partnership with specific firms as necessary to upgrade employee skills. An illustration of this type alliance is the fact that the Maricopa Community College District Office of Workforce Development, which is responsible for coordination of this service, conducts more than 6,000 hours of customized training each year for one large public provider of health care services. Workforce Recruitment and screening services are also offered to firms that create jobs in Maricopa County.

Recruitment of firms that create jobs in Maricopa County in alliance with the Regional Economic Development Organizations; and Initial workforce recruit-ment and start-up employee training in alliance with new firms that have located in Maricopa County, Arizona or existing firms that are expanding. These services are coordinated by the Maricopa Community College District Office of Economic Development. An example is the recruitment and initial employee training of nearly 600 people for a large credit card company that is now based in Maricopa County, Arizona.

Promotion of Small Business Development. The Arizona Small Business Development Center Network is based within the Maricopa Community College District and community colleges across the State.

Demographic changes in the United States, combined with an emerging general use of knowledge-based technology have resulted in development of Employer-Educator Alliances that are much more powerful than those which existed in the recent past.


Community Colleges Represent a Successful Societal Experiment

The United States of America is a nation with major societal problems. An unacceptable number of young people fail to earn a simple high school diploma, a large percentage of the population is either illiterate or only marginally literate, many citizens live in poverty and less than 25% of all minority citizens ever obtain the benefits that can be derived from post-secondary education.

This situation exists at a time when the United States of America needs a better educated citizenry than ever before. It takes well educated workers to produce and repair the technology-based appliances, automobiles and equipment now in general use. The United States of America presently participates in an international market place. It will be necessary for American workers to become more knowledgeable and productive than in the past in order for the American business and industry to compete in this new era.

No citizen can successfully address the challenges of this nation by him or herself. The inter-related nature and scope of the problems facing this nation are so enormous that any one segment of the educational establishment, business or industry would only fail without allies. It will take an alliance which includes business and industry, which includes all levels of education and can marshal the resources of everyone in each community, plus state and federal leadership and support to meet the challenges which face this nation.

The fact that it will require an alliance of all citizens to create solutions to the challenges which face this nation makes sense. Just as the all of the above discussed problems are inter-related, the reality of the situation is that all citizens of the United States of America share the same habitat. Whatever affects one citizen of the United States of America affects every citizen of the United States of America.

It is obvious that community colleges by themselves, nor any other segment of this society, have the resources necessary to address the challenges which face this nation alone. But the challenges are addressable. Business/industry-education and interinstitutional educational alliances are being formed, issues are being identified, programs are being put into place and impressive progress is sometimes being made. The community college system is well-established and positioned to participate in the emerging alliances. The United States of America will be a land of opportunity for all.