Colorado’s community colleges have played a vital role throughout much of the state’s history. The diverse programs offered today by the 13 colleges that make up the Colorado Community College System are the product of a long tradition of providing accessible, affordable education opportunities to students across the state who seek to improve their lives.
1800Education for a Changing EnvironmentPost-secondary education became available in Colorado in the latter half of the 1800s, with a focus on vocational and agricultural studies. Interest in vocational programs picked up steam as Colorado’s cities and towns sought to reduce their dependence on the volatile mining industry.
Colorado’s first community college, Trinidad State College, opened in April of 1925.
In the beginning the college shared space and faculty with Trinidad High School. It started with 37 students, compared to about 1,800 now. Learn more about Trinidad State’s history here.
Pictured: Faculty and students from Trinidad State College’s first graduating class, 1927.
1933Pueblo Community College
Pueblo Community College traces its origin to 1933, when Southern Colorado Junior College (SCJC) was incorporated. Classes were held on the top floor of the Pueblo County Courthouse and graduated the first class of 17 students in 1935. Learn more about PCC’s history here.
1937Lamar Community College
Lamar Community College, founded in 1937 as Junior College of Southeastern Colorado, officially joined the Colorado Community College System in 1968.
1941Northeastern Junior College and Otero College
Northeastern Junior College was founded in March of 1941 as Sterling Junior College by education leaders and interested citizens in Sterling, Colorado. In 1950, the college's name changed to Northeastern to reflect a larger service area. Learn more about NJC’s history here.
Otero College, also established in 1941, was the result of dedicated residents and members of the La Junta School District. On September 15, 1941, "La Junta Junior College" opened its doors to the first class. Learn more about Otero’s history here.
1950'sWorkers for a New Marketplace
As Coloradans left the mining towns for the more diverse economic centers such as Denver and Colorado Springs, demand was created for practical education that would make these “displaced workers” viable in the marketplace. Several private schools were opened, but there were also early attempts to create public vocational education opportunities.
Stenography was one of many vocational classes offered in the 1950s.
1958Sophomore class officers at Trinidad State College, 1958.
1962Colorado Northwestern Community College
Colorado Northwestern Community College was opened in 1962 as Rangely College to a freshman class of 82 students. Now CNCC serves over 1,000 students annually on two campuses and online. Together, the Rangely Campus and Craig Campus of CNCC boast unique academic programs such as Aviation, Park Ranger Training, and Paleontology, and both locations have respective local taxing districts that provide a 100% tuition buy-down for their residents.
1965Arapahoe Community College
Arapahoe Community College, founded in 1965 as Arapahoe Junior College, was the first 2-year college in the greater Denver metro area. The college grew out of a grassroots effort by Littleton residents who wanted to provide post-high school education in the area.
1967Colorado Community College System Created
Although some of our colleges were founded as early as the 1920s and 1930s, the Colorado Community College System was effectively created in 1967 with the passage of the Community College and Occupational Act.
This Act established the State Board for Community Colleges and Occupational Education (SBCCOE) to share control of the state’s system of community colleges with the local district school boards.Community College of Denver opened in 1967, with classes commencing in North Denver. Over the next few years, the college expanded into nearby retail storefronts due to a rapidly increasing enrollment. Then in 1975, CCD moved to the 150-acre Auraria Higher Education Center campus in downtown Denver where it currently resides today. Learn more about CCD’s history here.
1969The Beginning of Front Range Community College and Red Rocks Community College
It was an era of activism, long hair, miniskirts, bell-bottom pants, and an almost universal fondness for avocado green. This was the setting when arrangements were made for the construction of three campuses that, at the time, made up the Community College of Denver.
The North Campus (the original name for what eventually would become Front Range Community College in 1983) opened in 1968.
The West Campus (the original name for what eventually would become Red Rocks Community College in 1983) opened in 1969. Learn more about RRCC’s history here.
And the Central Campus (a short-term location for what is now the Community College of Denver) opened in 1970.Pikes Peak State College
PPSC was established as “El Paso Community College” in 1968 with the legislative mission to provide vocational and liberal arts programs to students from the Pikes Peak Region of Colorado. The College became a member of the Colorado Community College System in 1968 and changed its name to Pikes Peak State College in 2022.
1970Morgan Community College
On February 15, 1970, Morgan County Community College held its first class in a basement. Three years later, they joined the Colorado Community College System and changed their name to Morgan Community College. Learn more about MCC’s history here.
1983Community College of Aurora
Efforts to establish a college in Aurora, Colorado’s third largest city, began with a group of Aurora citizens in the early 1950s and by 1983 the Community College of Aurora was founded.
1986Colorado Community College and Occupational Education System EstablishedIn 1986, the SBCCOE established the Colorado Community College and Occupational Education System (CCCOES), which comprised the state community colleges governed by the board, as well as other providers of vocational education in Colorado. In 2002, the CCCOES officially became the Colorado Community College System (CCCS), and today we serve over 100,000 students annually across Colorado at 13 colleges and 35 locations.
PresentDriving Colorado's WorkforceWe continue to meet Colorado’s workforce needs by providing cutting-edge career and technical education, as well as dozens of transfer programs for students who wish to pursue degrees at four-year institutions. CCCS is proud to produced almost 40% of the degrees and certificates awarded in Colorado.