This article examines the relationship between community colleges and universities in Canada and the United States based on increased involvement of community colleges in offering baccalaureate programs. The article employs a theoretical framework borrowed from the study of jurisdictional conflict between professions. After considering the types of possible and occurring jurisdiction settlement over baccalaureate preparation between universities and community colleges, the author concludes that the older, simplistic criterion—based on credentials awarded—that defined the division of labor between postsecondary sectors should be replaced with newer, more complex and multifaceted criteria that relate to program and client characteristics.
In the 1990s, in both the United States and Canada, small but increasing numbers of community colleges began to award the baccalaureate (Floyd, Skolnik, & Walker, 2005). As of October, 2010, according to Russell (2010), 54 community colleges in
18 states had received approval to offer a total of 465 four-year degree programs; up from 21 institutions in 11 states offering 128 programs just six years earlier. Community colleges in four of Canada’s five largest provinces, accounting for two thirds of the population, are now eligible to award the baccalaureate, and 32 colleges are offering 135 baccalaureate programs.1 The surge in community college baccalaureate activity allegedly occurred in response to two related pressures. One is a general increase in the demand for improved opportunities for people to attain a baccalaureate both for their own benefit and for the benefit of society (Clark, Moran, Skolnik, & Trick, 2009; Lumina Foundation for Education, 2009; National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, 2006). The other is the increased demand for a particular
type of baccalaureate, what has been called the applied, or workforce-focused, baccalaureate (Floyd & Walker, 2009; Skolnik, 2005; Townsend, Bragg, & Ruud, 2009; Walker & Floyd, 2005). Underlying the increase in demand for the baccalaureate and the growth of the community college baccalaureate in particular are economic pressures
associated with global competition (Levin, 2004).
Attempts by community colleges to obtain the authority to award the baccalaureate have in nearly all cases been opposed by universities and have injected a significant new competitive element into the relationship between community colleges and universities. For example, in Florida, the community college baccalaureate generated “significant concerns” about competition with universities (Russell, 2010, p. 5), and in Michigan, the attempt by community colleges to get authorization to award bachelor’s degrees has “stirred tensions between community colleges and universities” (French, 2010, p. 4A). In Ontario, there has been open conflict over territory between the universities and community colleges since the colleges obtained the authority to award baccalaureate degrees (Urquhart, 2004), and in British Columbia, the baccalaureate in nursing has become contested territory between community colleges and universities (Chapman & Kirby, 2008). To date, there have not been any in-depth studies of the impact that awarding baccalaureate degrees by community colleges has had on their relationship with universities or on the perceptions of stakeholders from both sectors about the magnitude of any resulting problems. Still, the examples just cited suggest that this might be a fruitful area for investigation. These examples suggest also that the impact on the relationship between community colleges and universities should be an
important consideration in state and provincial policy making regarding the community college baccalaureate.
community college baccalaureate, interinstitutional relationships, professional jurisdiction,