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The Diverted DreamCommunity Colleges and the Promise of Educational Opportunity in America, 1900-1985$
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Steven Brint and Jerome Karabel

Print publication date: 1989

Print ISBN-13: 9780195048155

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195048155.001.0001

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The Great Transformation: 1970–1985

The Great Transformation: 1970–1985

4 The Great Transformation: 1970–1985
Title Pages

Steven Brint

Jerome Karabel

Oxford University Press

During the 1970s, the community colleges were finally able to realize the vocationalization project that visionaries in the junior college movement from Koos to Gleazer had favored for almost half a century. Since the 1920s, as we saw in Chapters 2 and 3, the advocates of junior college vocationalization pursued their project in the face of persistent student indifference and occasional overt opposition. But in the early 1970s, a complex concatenation of forces—among them, a changed economic context and an unprecedented degree of support for vocational education from key institutions—including private foundations, the federal government, and business—tilted the balance in favor of the vocationalizers. A key factor behind the sharp increase in vocational enrollments at the community college, we shall argue, was the declining labor market for graduates of four-year institutions. But the objective change in the structure of economic opportunities for college graduates was not, as the consumer-choice model would have it, the sole factor responsible for the shift in junior college enrollments; indeed, the impact of such objective changes is, of necessity, mediated through subjective perceptions—perceptions that, we shall attempt to demonstrate below, tended to exaggerate the economic plight of college graduates. Moreover, the community college itself, driven by a powerful organizational interest in expanded enrollments and in carving out a secure niche for itself in the highly competitive higher education industry, actively shaped its economic environment by pursuing those segments of its potential market—in particular, adults and part-time students— most likely to enroll in occupational programs. By almost any standard, the rise in vocational enrollments during the 1970s was remarkable. Between 1970–1971 and 1979–1980, for example, the proportion of A.A. degrees awarded in occupational fields rose from 42.6 percent to 62.5 percent (Cohen and Brawer 1982, p. 203). With respect to total enrollments (full-time and part-time) the picture was similar: between 1970 and 1977, the proportion of students enrolled in occupational programs rose from less than one-third to well over half (Blackstone 1978). In the midst of a long-term decline in the liberal arts, Cohen and Brawer (1982, p. 23) observed, “occupational education stands like a colossus on its own.”

Keywords:   Adult programs, Climate effects, Dental assistant programs, Educational opportunity, Florida community colleges, General Motors Corporation, Joliet High School, Kellogg Foundation

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