Renowned Researcher Named President of Teachers College
Bailey LED Community College Research Center since 1996
Thomas R. Bailey, director of the Community College Research Center (CCRC) since its founding in 1996, has been named the next president of Teachers College, Columbia University, where he has been an economics of education professor since 1990. He will succeed President Susan H. Fuhrman, who has served since fall 2006.
Bailey led the growth of CCRC from a small center with a handful of staff members investigating a little-known sector of higher education to a nationally known source of independent research that has driven a resurgence of interest in community colleges and guided major reform movements. Today, the CCRC has a staff of 65 people and conducts some 40 projects per year. It has taken the lead in using data and research-based measures to boost graduation rates. The center also has spearheaded the movement to change the criteria for assigning students to remedial courses, a route that derails many from ever completing a degree.
But Bailey’s signature achievement might have been leading the drive to change the focus of community colleges from providing universal access to offering high-quality instruction and working to ensure that all students complete their degrees.
“When we started, I would say that 95 percent of community college presidents could not have told you their graduation rate, especially in the public sector,” Bailey says. “The reason is that colleges in the public sector are paid on enrollments, so if your enrollment went up, you got paid more money. It didn’t matter if you replaced the entire freshman class every year and never had a sophomore — as long as your enrollment went up, you were paid more money.”
Bailey co-authored the landmark book Redsigning America’s Community Colleges: A Clearer Path to Student Success (Harvard University Press) which championed a guided pathways approach, holding that students are more likely to complete a degree if they choose a program and develop an academic plan early on rather than navigating the typical “cafeteria menu” of disconnected courses, programs and support services. More than 250 colleges in 28 states are now working on the implementation of the guided pathways reform model articulated in the book.
With colleges across the country adopting reforms that grew out of the last 20 years of CCRC research, Bailey has recently been leading CCRC in a planning process to set its agenda for community college research into the future. Bailey will continue as the director of CCRC during the transition to new leadership and will continue to be involved with CCRC research around selective areas.
“Working at CCRC has been an extremely rewarding experience for me,” Bailey said. “I will miss having so much day-to-day collaboration with my fellow researchers and staff at CCRC. Their talent and dedication is inspiring, and it has been an honor to work with them. And it has likewise been a privilege to work with community college faculty and staff, state personnel, philanthropists, advocates, and others all over the country who share the goal of improved opportunities and outcomes for all students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
“The opportunity for me to take on this new role has certainly been built on the success of CCRC and all I have learned as CCRC’s director.”
On his future as president of Teachers College, Bailey said, “This is an incredibly important time for Teachers College. Profound inequities remain in our society and education system. We have witnessed a quiet re-segregation of schools throughout much of the nation, and we are now hearing challenges in the public discourse that question the fundamental value of higher education. The importance of Teachers College and other schools of education in responding to these challenges, in advancing equity, providing crucial research that can deliver the foundation of reform, and in training students who will go on to make improvements in education has never been higher.”
Bailey earned his B.A. and Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard and MIT, respectively.
James Jacobs, former President of Macomb Community College, has said that “when the CCRC was started by Tom, community colleges were basically in the backwoods of any kind of research. Over the years, through his creativity and his persistence, Tom has really built a research agenda that is increasingly the agenda for all of us in community colleges.”