Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EDD)


Educational and Psychological Studies (Education)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Scotney Evans

Second Committee Member

Scott Ingold

Third Committee Member

Debbiesiu Lee

Fourth Committee Member

Don W. Stacks


Community colleges have long suffered an identity crisis since their inception. Throughout history, community colleges have shifted their missions due to various environmental forces such as the economic climate and societal needs. By employing qualitative content analysis, this study first investigated the salient themes of mission statements from 295 community colleges belonging to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Schools (SACSCOC), and secondly, explored whether there were major variations in the missions depending on their classification as an associate’s degree-granting institution or as a bachelor’s degree-granting institution. Thirdly, the study revealed how the themes of community college mission statements have changed since 2001 when the first state in the SACSCOC region began to authorize community colleges to confer baccalaureate degrees. Results indicate that the salient themes of access, workforce and economic development, and high quality and excellence remain steady as the top three themes since 2001, but that access has been eclipsed by the workforce development mission. The themes of responsiveness, comprehensiveness, and diversity lessened in salience while the new themes of community development, success, and quality of life improvement emerged. Additionally, the study demonstrates that the themes in institutional mission statements, operationalized by the institutions’ values, goals, and functions, do vary by their classification as an associate’s degree-granting or as a bachelor’s degree-granting community college. The thematic variations within mission statements over time and by institutional type are interpreted through the lens of resource dependency theory, and implications for the future of the community college and their students are offered.


community college; mission statement; community college baccalaureate; access; workforce and economic development; mission creep