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John Levin

Director, California Community College Collaborative
Professor and Bank of America Chair, Graduate School of Education
John Levin
Community Colleges
Our nation is at a postsecondary crossroads. With approximately 54 million of our labor force lacking a college degree — and nearly 34 million having no college experience at all — the United States is trailing global competitors in educational achievement. Through the C4 collaborative, Levin is working to inform policy makers and community colleges about the vast educational potential of America’s disadvantaged, non-traditional students and adult learners in higher education.

Areas of Expertise

Select Honors and Distinctions

  • Alumni Association Distinguished Graduate Professorship for 2005, College of Education, North Carolina State University (2006)
  • Sheffield Award, Canadian Society for the Study of Higher Education. Outstanding article in The Canadian Journal of Higher Education (2003 Volume XXXIII-I) (2004)
  • Senior Scholars Award, Council for the Study of Community Colleges (2002)
  • Research Award, Canadian Society for the Study of Higher Education (2000)


Q: Why is your work important?
My research addresses the behaviors and actions of higher education institutions, their administrators, faculty, and students and the interplay between and among the social, cultural, political and technological domains that surround and engulf higher education institutions. I hope to shed light on a phenomenon — such as the increasing marketization of higher education institutions so that the public and practitioners in higher education become aware of the dangers of reductionist actions that subvert the purposes of education.

Q: What is the ultimate goal of your research?
Different student populations have different needs and respond in different ways to institutional interventions. So, my goal is to present new knowledge — or to turn old knowledge in its head and look at it critically so that we gain new insights.

Q: How has the C4 helped to improve the quality of instruction at community colleges?
The California Community College Collaborative (C4) has conducted research on promising instructional practices at community colleges, on the use and proliferation of credentials at community colleges, on university graduate students’ career choices and on community college faculty of color. We have also help form policy on the California Master Plan, on financing community colleges and other timely topics.

Q: How do working students' educational experiences and outcomes differ from non-working students?
The majority of college students work, however, the more affluent the student, the less they work. As much as 30 percent of students view themselves as workers who go to college, not students who work.

Q: Where does the United States stand regarding educational achievement compared to global competitors?
Twenty years ago, the U.S. had the largest participation rate of a specific age group —18-24 — in higher education. That is no longer the case. Its research universities are rated among the most productive in research in the world — the majority of the top 20 are U.S. institution. But the middle is weak and the lower end is comparable to some developing countries. This is a reflection of the growing stratification and gaps in wealth and prosperity in the U.S.

Q: How do your students inspire you?
The students I study inspire me with their resilience — that in spite of daunting conditions they press on. I am reminded of the students who work from 5-midnight, go home, sleep a little and get up to go to class at a community college where they are trying to find a way into a nursing program by taking the pre-requisite courses and maintaining a good GPA, and then go home to change for work at the end of the day.