The Growth of Community Colleges in the American States: An Application of Count Models to Institutional Growth

by William R. Doyle & Alexander V. Gorbunov - 2011

Background/Context: The establishment of community colleges in the American states stands as one of the most unique features of our system of postsecondary education. Four possible explanations have been suggested for the growth of community colleges. An economic perspective argues that the development of community colleges came about as a result of increased demand. The sociological perspective argues that these institutions were developed as a result of broader social forces. The political science literature focuses on the role of lobbying and constituent demands. The organizational ecology literature suggests that community colleges fill a unique niche.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: We seek to understand why certain states created large systems of community colleges, whereas other states developed few or none of these institutions.

Research Design: We test theories from the literature using a multilevel Poisson regression model, using Bayesian methods for estimation and inference.

Data Collection and Analysis: The data for this study come from a unique data set, compiled from a variety of sources of state-level data. The data cover all 50 states for the years 19692002. We estimate four models: a complete-pooling model with no unit-specific controls, a no-pooling model with controls for each state, a partial pooling model that allows state effects to vary, and a partial pooling model with a state-specific time trend.

Findings/Results: Our results indicate support for the idea that community colleges grew in response to changes in state populations and that states with a large number of other types of institutions of higher education saw slower growth. Little support is found for theories regarding community colleges as engines of stratification.

Conclusions/Recommendations: This study provides support for the idea that the supply of higher education institutions is responsive to demand. Little support is found for the role of social stratification in the development of new institutions. Political forces do appear to play at least a small role in the expansion of institutions. Existing institutions may slow the growth of newer forms of postsecondary education.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 113 Number 8, 2011, p. 1794-1826 ID Number: 16174, Date Accessed: 4/22/2021 10:01:33 AM

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