Higher Education and the Community

This last chapter is not intended to be a summary of the preceding chapters, although it relates closely to them. Rather, a discussion of higher education is a natural topic with which to conclude the book. Institutions of higher education must be involved in, and committed to, solving the various problems of communities and society if efforts at the local level are to be successful. Activation of the educative community cannot take place unless professional educators are involved; these educators can receive their motivation and training for community involvement from our colleges and universities.

Consequently, this chapter discusses the role of higher education in society. This role is partially based on tradition; in other ways, it is based on a constant evolvement of needs, responsibilities, and community awareness in conjunction with rapid social change. The chapter argues that a greater community emphasis is needed and presents some ideas and suggestions for creating this emphasis. Further, it is suggested that improved "town-gown" relationships and increased involvement of higher education personnel in community activities are very beneficial and worth pursuing.

Role of Higher Education

The university or college is primarily a reflection of the society in which it exists. In the United States, there has been rapid population growth, technological advance, and constant social change. Consequently, universities and colleges experienced constant growth and expansion during the fifties and sixties and had to adapt to a great deal of change. The seventies and eighties brought a leveling off in population growth, although demographers now suggest that the "baby boomlet" created by children of the fifties and sixties having their own children will increase growth for awhile. A high national debt and reduced emphasis on federal support for educational or social programs also have created considerable turbulence for universities and colleges. Unfortunately, both the earlier growth and the leveling off of college-age cohorts has not been matched with careful planning in many higher education institutions. Down sizing, shrinking to excellence, and program elimination due to financial exigency are some of the current terms for what has taken place in universities and colleges.

Before a university can transform society, it must be transformed from within. Administrators, alumni, state legislators, faculty, private supporters, and even students must realize and accept that the function of higher education should be a solution of societal problems, regardless of the cost, traditional direction, or required changes. In other words, the university needs to stand unique as an institution devoted to solving urgent societal problems. Such a statement will be in philosophical conflict with many in and out of higher education, because of beliefs that the university's role should be liberal preparation of the human intellect rather than vocational or practical preparation for life. However, utilizing the university to meet social needs is a premise upon which this chapter lies.

If it is believed that the community can become educationally activated, that education can solve community problems, and that a skilled human resource supply will be a leading force in keeping society strong, then the university can be a catalytic force for all of this. There are several specific ways higher education institutions currently act as a force to meet social needs:

1. Educating people at the undergraduate and graduate levels for citizenship roles.

2. Equipping people for successful careers.

3. Conducting research on a variety of problems.

4. Promoting cultivation of the arts.

5. Preserving the freedom of intellectual pursuit.

6. Providing specialized service on needs outside the university.

7. Taking the lead in solving problems vital to survival.

8. Providing outreach educational opportunities through community service or extension programs.

Hopefully, each of the above can be continued by all institutions of higher education without financial or societal constraints occurring.

A final aspect of higher education's role in society is the need for a continuous evaluation of how such institutions are doing. This includes assessing what the universities and their graduates are doing in society or communities and utilizing this information to make needed changes in higher education's direction. This latter function is perhaps the most difficult to accomplish and, frequently, is the one least likely to be adequately carried out.

Resources of the University

Universities and colleges have a variety of resources. All have a potential for helping local communities solve their problems and meet the needs of community residents. One important resource is access to skilled and talented human resources. The educational skills and experiences of university employees can be utilized not only for internal instruction or administration but also for teaching, research, and service in local communities.

Another resource is the knowledge supply available to those who desire it. Library materials, information on the local community, counseling information, and information accessible through computers are basic assets of the modern university or college. Research information and critical thought on a variety of topics also are typical by-products of college life. In addition, most institutions of higher education sponsor a wide variety of speakers, workshops, and special events each year that have tremendous potential for the dissemination of information to a variety of audiences. Such knowledge and information can be applied to solving community problems in various ways.

Related to the above resources is the outreach potential of most higher education institutions. Many universities have existing outreach programs through Cooperative Extension and/or university extension services. These programs provide educational opportunities and assistance to certain clientele, and usually the only requirement for increasing the availability of this resource is financial support. Some institutions of higher education also have made special efforts to help minority or low-income people obtain a college education through special grant or fellowship programs, work programs, and loan programs. Syracuse University's School of Education, for example, in the mid-eighties carried out a very successful fund drive for minority scholarship money initiated by donations gathered from School faculty and staff.

Many universities have special programs to serve certain groups of community residents. For example, the University of Southern California's Gerontology Center provides a variety of services to senior citizens in the greater Los Angeles area. Pre-retirement training, retirement programs, special courses, research related to older adults, and summer courses for gerontological professionals are only some of their activities. In addition, the Center promotes research, program development, and an increased awareness of the needs of elderly people among various other university units.

Other university examples can be described. For example, the University of Nebraska at Omaha has a community service and public affairs unit that has been involved in a variety of inner city programs. The University of Michigan developed a joint educational project with the community. Undergraduate students can receive academic credit in various courses for work they do in the community by serving as tutors or by working with parent education. Numerous schools award credit for community internship or volunteer activities.

Some primary resources of universities and colleges have been described to show the potential of service to communities. It is suggested that universities can and should play an even bigger role in society and within the life of local communities. Most of this enlarged role is needed in the form of helping communities understand and solve their own problems. Consequently, the modern university and college must place a greater emphasis on community involvement. This includes service in helping community residents with various needs and in promoting a greater commitment to education and assistance at the community level among university students, alumni, and faculty.

Tripartite Functions and the Community

The role of the university is based on three traditional functions: Teaching, research and service. This section will discuss each of them. They will not be discussed in terms of what is currently taking place, as that varies significantly from university to university. Rather, each function will be discussed as it could be performed with the community and community education as basic frames of reference.

Starting with the Community

This subsection is included prior to describing the three functions to emphasize the importance of considering community as a basis for planning university programs, rather than the other way around. One scholar has even suggested that universities be renamed as communiversities, where community needs and problems are central focal points for university activities. In fact, quality education experiences for people in and out of higher education come from the interaction of universities or colleges as major units of socialization with the realities of existing community problems and needs.

Just as the need to develop a sense of community in community residents and educators was emphasized earlier, there is a need for university personnel to understand what is a community and how it can be studied. The promotion of a positive attitude toward the community, a greater awareness of community problems, and efforts to enhance "town-gown" relationships should facilitate the development of a feeling of community responsibility. This could then be reflected through research, service and attitudes developed by students in the college classroom. Thus, it is believed that through the influence of any community experiences, each individual associated with an institution of higher education will become better attuned to the setting in which current or future work takes place. Fantini (1984) in analyzing several of John Dewey's philosophical tenets, presented some ideas that have relevance for higher education professionals. He suggested such people have a responsibility to help individuals take advantage of all the diverse learning environments within a community. This assumes that educators at various levels take on a coordinating role, help communities solve a variety of problems, and work to enhance the quality of each person's educative experience within the community.

Similar to earlier suggestions made for educators at the community school level, university employees should also learn what they can about youth and adults in their home and community settings. An understanding of community and family needs could result from this attempt to observe people where they live. Following are several instances where some community-related involvement on the part of an institution of higher education representative takes place. For example, a chemist conducts some research related to an observed nutritional problem. A sociologist brings some beginning college students to a small, rural community so they can study social relationships and patterns. A university graduate professor takes a group of students to a nearby planned community so they can better understand such a site's special needs. A community college faculty member teaches an occasional high school class to obtain a sense of higher education needs and interests. Finally, some schools of the inner city are utilized as a laboratory for future teachers to learn how to create a community-centered classroom.

The Teaching Function

The teaching function of universities and colleges falls into two categories: The preparation of people for various careers and the training of people to be teachers. This latter function will be dealt with primarily, as a greater use of the community in education depends on the skills and attitudes of teachers working there.

The preparation of people for a multitude of occupations, however, is an important function of higher education. Here, too, a community orientation to learning can benefit communities and their problem-solving efforts. Thus, graduates of universities and colleges must know how to cope with change, must understand how to promote positive human relationships, and must have an understanding of their impact on a community and its problems. If university graduates are not committed to serving the communities in which they live and work, in other words, to establishing some horizontal relationships within the community, efforts to create a more satisfying life for all residents will be difficult to achieve.

Consequently, it is suggested that all students in higher education institutions need to be exposed to community theory and community education. This could be achieved through course work outside of their particular area of emphasis, through some type of off-campus exposure to the community such as some of the volunteer tutoring programs described earlier, or through participation in a university-wide program of community action or service.

Preparation of teachers and school administrators requires forming a partnership with the community. Such a partnership is necessary so that a much larger exposure to the community becomes possible and future educators learn how to use the community as an educational resource, how to help parents and children use the community, and how to develop curricula that will enable students to understand relationships between a particular subject and their life in the community.

As was described in earlier chapters, the teacher might serve in various roles in addition to classroom instruction: Directing a community social action activity, participating in home visitation, and helping to solve certain community problems were some of those mentioned. Education at the college level should include information and experiences that will prepare teachers for these tasks.

Another teacher-training consideration should be the preparation of personnel who will be involved in community schools. Potential community school directors, counselors, administrators, and teachers all require exposure to the philosophy and concepts of the community education movement, including an understanding of such notions as the educative community, lifelong learning, and non-traditional education delivery modes. Emphasizing a greater utilization of the community will include much of the information needed, but some universities may want to develop special courses and experiences to supplement a prospective teacher's program. As noted in Chapter Two, several universities have established community education centers where such courses and experiences are natural parts of a professional preparation program.

Teachers who will be involved in community schools or who wish to contribute to a greater utilization of education in the community will need exposure to a variety of teaching and learning approaches. Using the community as a classroom and ensuring that people receive an exposure to a variety of experiences requires a flexible approach to education. Thus, teachers and administrators must be skilled at promoting self-inquiry, capable of working with people at all ages, able to involve parents and students in curriculum development, and willing to employ individualized instructional approaches when they will be beneficial (see Hiemstra & Sisco, 1990, in the Chapter Two bibliography).

The training of teachers who plan to work in the inner city areas of large communities requires a somewhat different approach. Teachers need to know how to study a community so that student needs can become a central part of the teaching-learning process. Courses or experiences in studying the community, assessing community leadership (analyzing the power structure), and working with community groups should be available at the college level to help prospective teachers acquire such skills. For example, teachers in the inner city will frequently need to know how to build a satisfactory self image in students, how to work with parents who may have a dislike for education, and how to cope with children with special problems, such as those from low-income or single-parent homes. Similar kinds of needs, but at the adult level, should be addressed in the preparation of educators who will work with adults in some capacity. Spikes and his colleagues (1980--see the Chapter Two bibliography) provide several ideas pertaining to appropriate university roles in an inner city.

Universities and colleges can meet many of these needs with only minor changes in their current teacher-training programs. The instruction of students, for example, should include a method of helping prospective teachers understand the need for a commitment to the community. This might include early exposure to teaching in a community setting through laboratory sessions in actual community settings, visitations to various community agencies, and practice teaching experiences as early as the freshman year.

A greater understanding of, and commitment to, the community also could be promoted through any on-campus courses prospective teachers take. Courses that focus on educational needs throughout the life-span, provide opportunities to study the community, help to build community-based curricula, and teach about community action models or social action agencies within the community are some of those that could be offered.

The extended student teaching experience near the conclusion of a training program also could be used to help prospective teachers understand community dynamics. For example, a graduate from an Iowa university taught in a high school for half a term as the first portion of her student teaching assignment. She then worked in an inner-city community action program where she was involved in youth and adult programs. The Merrill-Palmer Institute in Detroit also is used by some future teachers as a vehicle for intensive involvement in community program. The institute's curricula are designed such that students can spend a term or longer studying there and participating in a variety of community action programs.

The Service Function

An important service function for universities initiating an increased emphasis on community will be the in-service education of teachers already on the job. This might involve some type of non-traditional alternative for teachers such as workshops or independent study activities, going back to college for more traditional graduate training, or some arrangements for graduate credit based on programs, experiences, or courses off the college campus. The focus of these in-service programs would be not only updating current skills and knowledge, but also providing knowledge and approaches related to greater community involvement and understanding.

Actually, extension or outreach efforts by colleges and universities to deliver credit and non-credit courses and upgrade the abilities of people at the community level has become an important service feature. As one example of how this can work, the Syracuse University graduate program of Adult Education for several years offered a Masters degree or credit toward other degrees entirely through off-campus weekend courses. A person could earn three graduate credits through participation in four Friday evening and all day Saturday class sessions held every other weekend. Ten such courses made up the Masters program. Courses on such topics as community and the adult educator, program planning, adult learning, educational gerontology, and critical issues in education provided participants with exposure to various community-related topics, an opportunity to become familiar with many community resources, and a vehicle for examining personal philosophies, abilities, and approaches to working with others. Currently, many aspects of the program are being converted to a distance education delivery mode so that it can become even more widely available.

The service component of a community-oriented university also can involve working in communities on a variety of special problems. As an illustration, university professors from a School of Education could help a local public school establish a community education program. A professor with expertise in evaluation could help some agency examine its effectiveness in reaching goals and meeting community needs. A voluntarism specialist could help local literacy programs recruit and train tutors. The counseling staff could develop a career counseling center to help community residents explore personal abilities and various job opportunities. Members of a psychology department could help an agency establish a mental health or community crisis center. Special education experts could develop a clinic that serves community residents with special needs.

Another service that universities could perform is the teacher training of instructors who work in vocational-technical schools, community colleges, or private-proprietary schools. Such teachers often have had little or no formal training on how to work with adults or how to study a community. Adult education specialists could develop credit or non-credit workshops aimed at upgrading such skills. A related function is the need within many business and industrial settings for improved training capacity. Various university personnel interested in human resource development could provide counsel, courses, and training resources.

The Research Function

There are many community problems, such as school dropouts, unemployment, the under-educated, and drug abuse, that require attention. Unfortunately, the required resources and knowledge about solutions frequently are in short supply. Universities could assist in the development of solutions by concentrating some of their efforts and resources toward action research on specific community problems such as those described above.

Another important research need is the evaluation of ongoing community education and other types of programs. A viable partnership between the community and higher education could result in evaluation specialists from local colleges and universities carrying out various evaluation efforts on community projects and programs. This also could involve such functions as training agency representatives to administer their own evaluation efforts, providing evaluation assistance through such resources as computers, and designing any needed corrective efforts.

The development and field-testing of new teaching methods and techniques is a third research function that could benefit the educational efforts of communities. Public schools or other educational agencies and universities could cooperate on determining where new methods were most needed and various educational sites within the communities might serve as testing grounds for refining the methods.

New Functions to Consider

There are various new functions related to the community that universities and colleges could assume if commitments were made and if supporting resources were granted. One new function might be educational planning. This could include closer cooperation with state departments of education, increased planning and consultative support for regional resource centers or service units, and provision of a centralized computer data bank of educational information.

The educational planning function could expand to helping local educational agencies in such areas as proposal writing to qualify for federal or state grants, instituting more systematic programs of accounting or record-keeping, and helping schools make long-range projections on community educational needs. Universities might even employ planning specialists who work with a variety of public and private agencies in planning their educational programs. The educational investment framework proposed in Chapter Seven could be the type of tool such specialists employ in decision-making efforts.

Universities and colleges throughout the United States and in other countries should make an increased commitment to dealing with urban communities and their problems. Assistance here could include such functions as training community-change specialists to work in urban environments, training community leaders regardless of their educational backgrounds, and helping to establish better patterns of communication and cooperation among citizens, school officials, and leaders in urban communities. No doubt a number of problems of rural communities, such as declining population in some areas, the in-migration of new types of residents in other areas, and the loss of agricultural income, also could be addressed in greater detail.

Another function might be the training of more teachers skilled at working with adults. These specially trained teachers could work in adult basic education or literacy programs, adult high schools, and a variety of other adult education settings.

A final function to be suggested here deals with the potential partnership between a university and business and industry. Some of the possibilities include helping to translate emerging knowledge, developing technology into practical applications, providing advice on curriculum design and learning theories about adults or youth to software designers, and even assuming some of the education and training functions currently implemented by a business or industrial firm.

Developing New Community Theory

A suggestion was made in Chapter One that a modern theory for studying and understanding the community was needed. Many of the references cited throughout this book are evidence that such information is being sought and disseminated. In addition, many of the ideas, tips, and suggestions presented in the preceding chapters hopefully have helped to build some basic foundations for this theory.

It is suggested further that universities should take the lead in developing theory and a corresponding knowledge base that is used to help communities solve many of their problems. Leadership at the community level will be enhanced by leadership at the university or college level and an effort to strengthen the town-gown relationships. Education can be used to solve community and societal problems, but it must be a process that shows people how to help themselves. The goal of higher education has always been to help individuals grow in knowledge and ability. A needed step is to extend that goal to the community.

Study Stimulators

1. Examine the programs and philosophies of any local colleges or universities. Delineate some ways you believe such institutions are reaching out to, or working within, the community. Are there other ways you could suggest?

2. What are some of the existing higher education resources currently being under-utilized that you would like to see employed at the community level?

3. In this chapter three primary university functions are examined in relation to the community. How realistic are these functions in today's level of dollar support for higher education?

4. What are some of the crucial functions your local colleges or universities should be playing in the solution of community problems?

5. Because of various urban characteristics, it was proposed that a modern theory of studying and understanding the community is needed. Suggest some elements of that theory. How would such a theory differ for rural communities?

Selected Bibliography

Apps, J. W. (1981). The adult learner on campus. Chicago: Follett Publishing Company. 264 pages. Index. This book provides 14 chapters that describe the circumstances of an increasing number of adult learners returning to college or attending for the first time.

Apps, J. W. (1988). Higher education in a learning society: Meeting new demands for education and training. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 241 pages. Bibliography. Name index. Subject index. The author describes some of the planning needs related to universities and colleges, continuing education, and adult education in the United States.

Berdahl, R. O. (1971). Statewide coordination of higher education. Washington, DC: American Council on Education. 285 pages. Bibliography. The author conducted a study to determine what changes occurred in higher education during the previous ten years. Such topics as planning, budgeting, programs, and problems are discussed.

Bosley, H. E. (1969). Teacher education in transition: An experiment in change (Volume I). Emerging roles and responsibilities (Volume II). Baltimore: Multi-State Teacher Education Project. 345 and 365 pages, respectively. Appendix. These volumes describe the activities of a multi-state teacher education project designed to improve teacher education. Case studies of various state programs are included. The volumes discuss the use of teacher aides, media, and new developments in teacher education.

Boyer, E. L. (1990). In search of community. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 319 276). 16 pages. The author argues that a set of standards for campus governance is needed to guide higher education in meeting many of the needs of students and faculty as members of an important community of scholars.

Brockett, R. G. (Ed.). (1991). Professional development for educators of adults (New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, No. 51). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 107 pages. Index. The editor has pulled together 10 chapters involving 10 authors on various professional development issues. Graduate study is one of the issues covered.

Carnegie Commission on Higher Education. (1970). The open-door colleges. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company. 74 pages. References. Appendices. This booklet, one of several higher education reports of the commission, establishes some policies for community colleges. Roles, future issues, and some suggested goals are among the topics discussed.

Community leadership development: Implications for extension. (1986). (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 288 666). 41 pages. This publications summarizes recent national efforts that could be useful in developing and conducting community leadership programs. The roles for extension staff are described.

Fantini, M. D. (1984). John Dewey's influence on community and non-formal education. Community Education Journal, 11 (7), 17-24. The author analyzes Dewey's philosophical system and suggests various linkages to community education philosophy and programs.

Gamson, Z. F. (1989). Higher education and the real world: The story of CAEL. Wolfeboro, NH: Longwood Academic. 290 pages. Bibliography. Index. This book provides the history of the Council for the Advancement of Experiential Learning in the United States (also known as the Cooperative Assessment of Experiential Learning and the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning). Several case studies related to adult education, higher education, and experiential learning are presented.

Goodlad, J. I. (1984). A place called school: Prospects for the future. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company. 396 pages. Index. This book is the result of an eight year study in 13 communities. Observations of classrooms and interviews with teachers, parents, and students provide much of the book's information. The study concludes that schools are not living up to their potential and various controversial recommendations are provided.

Harvard Business Review. Published bi-monthly by Harvard University's Graduate School of Business Administration. A wide variety of opinion and research in education is included in the Journal's articles. Occasional articles on community education will be found.

Holt, M. E., & Lopos, G. J. (Eds.). (1991). Perspectives on educational certificate programs (New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, No. 52). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 101 pages. Index. This volume provides practitioners with a variety of perspectives on educational certificate programs available through American colleges, universities, and businesses. Eleven authors are involved with nine chapters.

Journal of Higher Education. Published bi-monthly by the Ohio State University Press in affiliation with the American Association for Higher Education. The journal publishes articles generalizable to a variety of post-secondary settings.

Journal of Research and Development in Education. Published quarterly by the University of Georgia's College of Education. The journal published original articles concerning education.

Journal of Teacher Education. Published six times a year by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. Each issue is thematic on some issue related to teacher education.

Knowles, M. S. (1980). The modern practice of adult education (Revised Edition). Chicago: Association Press. 400 pages. Index. Appendices. The author presents and describes his conceptualization of a teaching paradigm which he describes as from pedagogy to andragogy. Eleven chapters make up the main part of the book. In addition, there are several appendices filled with various resource ideas. [Note: A non-annotated reference to this book was in Appendix 6-B.]

Mahon, J. M., Fortney, M., & Garcia, J. (1983). Linking the community to teacher education. Action in teacher education, 5(Summer), 13-19. This article talks about the direct community involvement that can be built into a conventional teacher training program. The placement of students in non-school settings, community agency internships, serving as aides in adult education, and comparing cultures are some of the topics covered.

Oliver, D. W. (1976). Education and community: A radical critique of innovative schooling. Berkeley, CA: McCutchan Publishing Corporation. 415 pages. This book provides a sometimes radical view of the role of education. The goal is to create a balance in promoting individual development while recognizing the diversity among people. Ethics, quality of life, and specific community examples including the Kibbutz and Highlander are discussed.

Powers, D. R. (1988). Higher education in partnership with industry: Opportunities and strategies for training, research, and economic development. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 367 pages. Bibliography. Name index. Subject index. The author describes some of the needs for both industry and education in the United States and the role that higher education must play in terms of various economic aspects.

Schoeny, D. H., & Decker, L. E. (Eds.). (1983). Community, educational, and social impact perspective. Lanham, MD: University Press of America. 229 pages. Index. Twelve authors and fourteen reactors make contributions to this book. It covers six main areas of knowledge: Educational programs, school closings, political process/citizen participation, coordination of human services, social issues, and cost effectiveness.

Sheppard, R. J. (1986). Research and development and the role of the urban university in strategic economic development planning. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 277 799). 13 pages. Urban universities have a role to play in economic development. Coordination between state and local government, the private sector, and the academic community can lead to effective partnerships to formulate economic development plans.

Simpson, E. G., Jr., & Kasworm, C. E. (Eds.). (1990). Revitalizing the residential conference center environment (New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, No. 46). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 105 pages. Index. The editors provide nine chapters that examine the adult residential center as an important conference learning environment.

Stephens, M. D., & Roderick G. W. (Eds.). (1978). Higher education alternatives. London: Longman. 176 pages. Index. The book talks about higher education from an international perspective. The open university, higher education in developing countries, and permanent education are among the issues developed.

Teachers College Record. Published quarterly by Teachers College, Columbia University, New York. The journal publishes articles devoted to an understanding of education today.

Teather, D. C. B. (Ed). (1982). Towards the community university. London: Kogan Page. 244 pages. Author index. Subject index. Twelve chapters by various authors make up the book. The future of universities from an international view is explored. Specific chapters are on such topics as independent study, continuing education, teleconferencing, and radio and television universities.

Tough, A. (1991). Crucial questions about the future. Lanham, MD: University Press of America. 133 pages. References. The author provides several views and observations about the future. There are several policy implications included.

Wallenfeldt, E. C. (1983). American higher education. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. 230 pages. Index. Bibliographic essay. The author presents nine chapters ranging over such topics as governance, funding, accreditation, and evaluation of higher education in the United States.


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