Campus: CSU Fullerton -- December 02, 2002

Cal State Fullerton Economist Calculating Community College Success Equation


A Cal State Fullerton economist is delving into the range of services that state community colleges are offering and determining if the institutions are fulfilling their missions.

“Community colleges offer a wide range of programs to a variety of constituent groups,” said Andrew M. Gill, professor of economics, who is conducting the study with Duane E. Leigh of Washington State University, Pullman. “They provide general education courses for students eventually transferring to a four-year university, as well as vocational school education, apprenticeship opportunities and on-the-job site training.

“Yet community colleges are often judged solely on their transfer rates,” Gill added. “There is no reason to measure their success solely on one aspect of their mission. We feel that viewing them in this way is misguided on two fronts: it ignores the dramatic changes in the breadth of the curriculum offerings at community colleges. And, the emphasis on transfer rates overlooks the value these institutions provide in allowing students to determine whether they complete a vocational or an academic education.”

The researchers, who received a $78,232 grant from the Public Policy Institute of California, spent recent months gathering data on California’s community colleges: what types of courses are offered and the demographics of the institutions’ local service areas. Gill and Leigh are now organizing what they have found and categorizing the colleges by programs and other services.

“We want to understand why the institutions chose the mix of academic and trade programs that they did — what is it about their community demographics that affected the choices made in what each college provides,” Gill said, adding that the researchers are looking at not only the race, income and ethnicity of those in the community, but whether a community college has close links to businesses, is located in an urban or rural area, near other community colleges or in close proximity to a University of California or California State University campus.

“Community colleges have become very entrepreneurial in the last 20 years,” Gill noted. “Community colleges are offering students the services they need to invest in themselves and increase their earning potential. During the last recession, when many engineers were being laid off, they were going to community colleges for retraining. It’s an example of how two-year institutions served a need in their communities.”

Gill, a member of the Cal State Fullerton faculty since 1984, teaches courses on labor economics, principles of microeconomics and econometrics. He is co-editor of Contemporary Economic Policy and, with Leigh, has authored a number of articles about community colleges. Gill holds a doctorate in economics from Washington State University.

Media Contacts: Andrew Gill at (714) 278-3076 or agill@fullerton.edu
Pamela McLaren of Public Affairs at (714) 278-4852 or pmclaren@fullerton.edu


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