Rebecca Diemer, a doctoral candidate in HEP, was awarded Outstanding Dissertation of the Year by the College of Education and Human Development. Below is her dissertation abstract:
"The Making of the Virginia Community College System: A Critical Historical Analysis"
This study of the master planning process of Virginia’s public community college system investigates the factors that influenced decisions for site selection of the community colleges and the ways in which the community college system was integrated into the larger postsecondary education system in Virginia. This research illustrates how the State Board of Community Colleges and the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia navigated the political, economic, and social environments primarily within the timeframe of 1966-1970, the first four years of the Virginia Community College System, as state officials established the Virginia Community College System, which today serves 57% of Virginia’s undergraduate population. This research expands the prior work of histories written about the foundations of a few other state community college systems, and an oral history about the Virginia Technical College System (VTCS). Despite these prior works, the economic, social and political influences that led to the creation of the Virginia Community College System (VCCS), the connections between the business industry and the foundations of the system, and the importance of geography in the planning of the system have remained largely undocumented.
Grounded in archival research methods and critical historical analysis, the study presents three primary findings. First, the planning process was heavily influenced by the local business leaders and industry in Virginia, which fostered a transactional focus for the system. Second, officials chose to pursue a community college infrastructure at the cost of extension campus opportunities, layering the community college system on top of the technical college system and avoiding additional costs and increased competition for established four-year institutions. And finally, the expansion of the community college system into geographically remote areas created a paradox of choice for rural students in Virginia.
April 22, 2019