From access to outcome equity: Revitalizing the democratic mission of the community college

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By expanding higher education's enrollment capacity, community colleges are understood by many to play an important democratizing role in the American postsecondary system. As public institutions, they also face demands for accountability, productivity, and efficiency, which in recent years have led to a greater market orientation. This article analyzes the ideology of efficiency and its effects on the acclaimed democratizing mission of the public two-year sector. It argues that open access in the traditional sense of nonselective, low-cost enrollment has been eroded by the stratification of educational opportunity and by declining college affordability. Technical and economic efficiency are discussed as concepts having meaning and application distinct from the ideology of efficiency and that are not inherently at odds with equity goals. Performance accountability is explored as a mechanism to collect and examine detailed student outcome data and balance efficiency concerns with a focus on equity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)92-119
Number of pages28
JournalAnnals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
StatePublished - Mar 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences


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