December 2007 Volume 20, Number 12
Saying Goodbye to the Two-Year College?
Mark David Milliron
Calm down. No one is talking about, advocating, or even playing with the idea thatwe do anything but continue the life-changing, economy-essential work of community and technical colleges. Indeed, the global movement toward thisdemocratic, open-access education model is on the advance
and we are allworking to increase its momentum. There is, however, a conversation starting
about ending one of our movement’s key descriptors, a descriptor that while
convenient, is of little to no value. Indeed, it is more often a significant problem.The term two-year college goes back over 100 years to the inception of juniorcolleges, another term that most institutions in our movement no longer use for ahost of reasons. The two-year term is based on the typical length of time it took tocomplete degrees in a full-time, often-residential, model of education. It stayedwith us as the post-Truman-commission, more-comprehensive community collegesemerged through the 60s and 70s. And now, as our more complex andmultimission
basic skills, adult education, transfer, technical, and vocationaleducation
institutions have risen in profile, the two-year term has for manystates, federal agencies, associations, foundations, and community groups becomea safe umbrella moniker. In report after report, accreditation profiles, associationwhite papers, and even our own marketing literature, the two-year college termhas become a staple of our vocabulary.However, there is a compelling set of conversations emerging about why we needto say goodbye to this term. While comfortable and traditional, and while theaccreditation agencies seem to have no clearer way of referring to us, the term ishurting us. Put simply, it hurts our students, institutions, and supporters.
Hurting Our Students
In the League for Innovation’s recent monograph
Learning and the Road Ahead
another of the road-ahead surveys exploring key trends in the communitycollege
learning swirl was again a key focus. Learning swirl is based on the ideathat students are not coming to us in a neat, linear pipeline progression. They areswirling into and out of our educational programs and services at all different agesand stages. Indeed, even though we are seeing an increase in right-from-high-school students, our students by and large follow diverse pathways through ourprograms. More often than not, they come to us underprepared for college-levelwork, with varying life responsibilities, sometimes taking care of kids and/orparents, and often working well over 40 hours per week. This is why we in thecommunity college movement
especially those of us who attended a community