An alternative assessment to higher education outcomes: Differentiating by institutional type

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Abstract

In this paper we propose higher education, and community colleges in particular, be evaluated not solely on their functional merits, but on their value in promoting, what Dewey (1966) called an “active citizenry.” Rather than considering only how well higher education meets the needs of democratic capitalism, we investigate alternative methods of assessing the contribution of higher education to the development of active citizens. In this exploration we consider how higher education preparation differs based on an individual's gender, race, class, academic program and the postsecondary institution attended. We explore alternative concepts of assessment in higher education not as proof we have discovered the method for assessing outcomes of higher education, but, rather, as an alternative approach to understanding the potential outcomes of higher education at its different institutional levels. Of special significance for our study is the finding that although students who attend a community college, for example, may not be as successful economically as university students, attendance at a community college is associated with an increased sense of self-empowerment. When we consider community colleges have a higher proportion of students who are typically marginalized by postsecondary institutions, the community college does appear to offer opportunities for students that are not measured only in economic terms.

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