With as many as half of all psychology majors taking some course work at community colleges, an APA committee is gathering more information about psychology students and faculty at the two-year level.
"Community colleges affect a large number of psychology majors who will become the psychology of the future," says Ann Ewing, PhD, chair of the Board of Educational Affairs Community College Working Group (CCWG), which has conducted a survey of psychology at two-year colleges, and a psychology professor at Mesa Community College in Arizona.
"We need to work together with [other] psychology teachers and recognize that we're part of the psychology pipeline," she adds.
CCWG sent a 17-item questionnaire to 1,500 community colleges and received 273 responses, most of which were from public colleges. The survey revealed that:
While an estimated 534,500 students take psychology courses at two-year colleges each year, colleges reported a range of 70 to 2,130 students enrolled in psychology classes at their individual institutions.
53 percent of the responding colleges have a designated "department of psychology." The remaining colleges tend to combine psychology with other disciplines, such as sociology, anthropology, economics and political science.
Most two-year colleges do not offer specific psychology majors and do not track how many students intend to major in psychology. Usually, students who intend to major in psychology earn general degrees that include a few introductory psychology courses.
On average, 64.5 percent of psychology courses at two-year colleges are taught by full-time faculty.
Approximately half of full-time psychology faculty have a doctoral degree; more than a quarter of part-time psychology faculty have a doctoral degree. Slightly more than 71 percent of the responding institutions have at least one doctoral-level psychologist on staff, and nearly 95 percent have at least one master's-level psychologist.
An estimated 9,456 masters- and doctoral-level psychologists teach courses at community colleges.
64.1 percent of two-year institutions required a master's degree in psychology to teach psychology courses. Another 43.2 percent required graduate credits in psychology, with 18 credits being the most common requirement reported.
Community colleges generally have equal numbers of men and women faculty. While full-time faculty were almost evenly divided by gender, about 57 percent of part-time, two-year faculty were women.
16 percent of full-time community college faculty and 21 percent of part-time faculty are ethnically diverse. In comparison, about 10 percent of all undergraduate faculty are minorities, according to an April 2000 report by APA's Research Office.
The results of the survey will be used to help CCWG transition into the executive committee for a newly approved APA governance group, Psychology Teachers at Community Colleges (PT@CC, pronounced "P-tack"). The new executive committee will be charged with developing PT@CC into a network community college faculty can use to stay connected to psychology and each other, learn about new developments in the field and become active in organized psychology--a group parallel to APA's Teachers of Psychology in Secondary Schools (TOPSS).
"Especially with isolated community colleges, it's hard for faculty to stay connected," Ewing explains. "They become part of the faculty of their college, and don't think of themselves as psychologists as much. We want to reinforce that identity as a psychologist."
The PT@CC executive committee was approved by APA's Council of Representatives last August and is now exploring ways to address the needs of psychology teachers at two-year colleges.
"The last few years have been really good to community college faculty," says Ewing. "There have been lots of opportunities for participation in psychology organizations that have never been available before. We want to keep that going and add to it."