A College for the Community?: A Comparison of the Histories of an Urban (San Antonio College) and Rural (Navarro College) Community College in Texas



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This study is a historical comparison of an urban (San Antonio College) and a rural (Navarro College) community college in Texas from their establishment until 1980. Based on oral histories and archival research at each of the institutions, this comparison seeks to humanize the history of the community college through in-depth investigation of historical actors at these schools, while also searching for possible variation in development rooted in differences in local context. San Antonio College, established in 1925, is located in the center of a large city with a diverse urban economy and a sizable Mexican American population. Navarro College, established in 1946, is located in Corsicana, the county seat of Navarro County in east Texas. Navarro County is largely rural, with an economy historically tied to cattle, cotton, and oil. The findings of this study reveal that, for both schools, the impact of the government (at all levels) and the community was larger than the existing historiography of the community college suggests. For the rural campus specifically, receptiveness to the needs of the local community was key in the college’s success and often drove administrative decision-making. Administrators, often portrayed as the key figure in the development of the community college in previous histories, wielded greater power at Navarro College, where the relative position of faculty was depressed in comparison to San Antonio College, and the smaller size of the institution allowed for more rapid change. This study argues that students, depicted as either the beneficiaries of access or the dupes of diversion in the historiography, faced passive obstacles to success due to the selected colleges’ broadening missions and widening curriculum, but ultimately profited from the affordable and convenient opportunities these schools offered for academic and social growth. This dissertation should serve as a model for future historians seeking to strengthen the community college historiography by comparing suggested national trends to the experience of individual institutions.



Community College History, Higher education, Education, Texas History, United States Education History