Community College Baccalaureate Degrees: A Case Study of Internal and External Policy Actors’ Perspectives
Wetendorf, Fred Henry
State (pseudonym) is one of nearly half of the states in the U.S. that currently allows community colleges to offer four-year degrees. Adding more bachelor degrees in state is needed to address a growing population, workforce demands, and the increasing cost of higher education that limits access to potential graduates. It is important to ask, by offering their own baccalaureate degrees, are community colleges abandoning their traditional mission, often referred to as “mission creep”? Or are community colleges advancing their missions by addressing pressing societal and workforce issues? Using a constructivist paradigm approach, a case study method was used to carefully examine the perspectives of internal and external policy makers regarding the educational landscapes of a baccalaureate degree offering a community college. A purposive sample of eight participants was sought from individuals who were involved in the processes that led to approval and implementation of the community college baccalaureate degree at Basswood College (pseudonym). Primary source material was gathered from a legislator, workforce representative, college administrators and faculty members. Additional participants were identified through the interviews with participants and added to expand the perspectives of policy actors to add depth to the study. The interviews were conducted on site. In addition to the interviews, other data collection measures included a field journal containing notes, and documents made available to the researcher by the study participants. Data transcribed and coded resulted in themes, descriptions, and interpretation of the study’s finding. To protect the confidentiality of all interview participants the names of those interviewed, as well as other names, colleges, and locations identified in the study were all masked with fictitious names. The results will focus attention to the ongoing transformation of a community college’s educational infrastructure, encourage further research on this topic, and assist policymakers in the process of allowing more community colleges in the U.S. to offer bachelor’s degrees.