Access, Equity, and Community Colleges


Gilbert, C., & Heller, D. E. (2013). Access, Equity, and Community Colleges: The Truman Commission and Federal Higher Education Policy from 1947 to 2011. Journal Of Higher Education, 84(3), 417-443.


The role of the community college has recently been brought to the forefront of higher education by current President Barack Obama as the United States strives to be a global leader with educational attainment. However, it was the Truman Commission that first brought concerns to Capitol Hill in 1947 with the concern of access and equity in higher education in the United States. In Access, Equity, and Community College: The Truman Commission and the Federal Higher Education Policy from 1947 to 2011, Claire K. Gilbert and Donald E. Heller offer a lens through which we can view and understand the trajectory of U.S. thinking about higher education policy from the end of World War II to the present day (Gilbert & Heller, 2013).

I personally connected to this piece because I have made my career in the community college sector for the last six years. I found some direct correlation to the articles general material and findings, based on recent experience at a professional conference for higher education, in which one of the presenters focused on similar material as the discussion focused access to higher education, and the role the community will play. Many of the topics I read through this article were familiar because of active research and development in my professional role. However, some of the historical information and findings from the authors were new to me, so I found that very appealing. The article did make a new idea for me in regards to research. The way these authors were able to springboard directly off of prior research to focus on what is happening today seemed simple yet essential to their piece. As I evaluate my own potential research methods, this article will be a valuable tool on how to use others research materials to bring credibility to my own. Another thing that grabbed my attention is how forward thinking and innovative ideas can pave the way for impact and change. The ripple effect of the Truman Commission is still being felt today. This article will influence me to strive for change with my own action research project to support access and equity in higher education.


Gilbert and Heller’s research was well developed and organized in its presentation to readers. The article did a great job of first introducing their audience to what they hoped to accomplish with their research. Next the article provided a solid background of the basis for their research, in this case The Truman Commission of 1947. The researchers laid out the initial intentions of the President’s Commission on Higher Education and their intent to review the progress that has taken place in the United States since the recommendations of the committee were presented. The report then concluded with findings that compared the commission’s recommendations against what has been accomplished to date. The article ready very clear and concise while presenting reliable information to engage readers.

Contribution to the Field

This article is important to my existing role as a leader working in an institution of higher education, and it is entirely appropriate to my current area of inquiry as an academic researcher. It contributes to the field of study because of the data and empirical evidence it provides. The author’s findings present detail on a monumental topic in higher education and how this movement affected access and equity in higher education. I also acknowledged strength in the author’s outcomes when they did not hesitate to recognize the shortcomings that still plague the education system in the United States beyond the Truman Commission findings. I found this article extremely valuable to me because it highlights the integration of the community college system and its purpose to help with access to education, which I hope to investigate more.

Literature Review

There were many points of this article that stood out to me. However, the key pieces of information that were most powerful to me is to see how progressive the idea of this commission was for the U.S. in the 1940’s. And also the material presented that shows how far we still have to go with improving access and equity in higher education system in 2014. Before this article I had some understanding of the Truman Commission, but not to the extent I do now. The article did an excellent job of educating me as a reader on the enormous impact this commission had on education policy and the development of the community college system while also guiding me to see the inadequacies of governmental processes in terms of education policy today. The author’s modelled the idea that although the commission paved the way for great change, several years later our country still faces challenges with many of the topics presented in this study.

Theoretical Framework

In reflecting on this article, I feel the author’s presented the reasoning behind their research and report. The article provided useful insight that help frame Gilbert and Heller’s intention to look at what has come about in a way of results in the U.S. since 1947 when the President’s Commission on Higher Education was introduced. The framework carried through the text appropriately presented analysis that supported the authors message that regardless of whether the report has been explicitly adopted into legislation and policy, its ideals and many of its specific recommendations have been incorporated over time (Gilbert & Heller, 2013).

Data Collection & Analysis

The data collection for this article was very clear. Gilbert and Heller used the 1947 President’s Commission on Higher Education report, as the basis to their research. They discuss the original report in great length to help layout the point of their research. They also use a variety of scholarly research findings, state and national statistics on higher education to help support their findings. The author’s presentation of statistics and data to support their findings were essential to me as a reader understanding the progression of the research results. Without some of the metrics being given in the writing, I would have found it hard to see the results in some of the findings being presented. The methods of data collection and presentation of the material seemed very traditional and easy for the reader like myself to follow and potentially replicate in the future.

Findings, Discussion, and Conclusion

The article Access, Equity, and Community Colleges: The Truman Commission and Federal Higher Education Policy from 1947 to 2011 brought some very significant findings to light. Gilbert and Heller were able to make logical connections to legislative and general changes in higher education since 1947. Their research document presented appropriate findings that helped me see some of the progress that has been made in higher education since the Truman Commission. I was convinced as a reader that there were sufficient evidence and findings presented for me to find this reading valuable and important in my research arena. The material presented made good connections to relevant material supported by qualitative and quantitative supporting evidence in supporting their research of change in access and equity with community colleges in the U.S. post 1947.

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