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Dallas County Community College District: Four Decades of Success

40th anniversary logo

Remember the 1960s? … love beads and go-go boots … the age of drugs, sex and rock ‘n roll … war protests, peace marches and assassinations … space exploration, the New Society and – yes – the Dallas County Community College District.

Forty years ago, during the turmoil and triumphs that enthralled a nation, Dallas-area leaders envisioned a city, community and county of well-educated, productive citizens who would lead the metroplex into the next century. They knew that progress, profit, culture and expansion would depend on an educated workforce, and their top priority was access: schools close to all residents; educational opportunities that would take students from where they were to where they wanted to go in their careers; and links to additional education, employment, workforce development and lifelong learning.

More than 1.5 million students later, DCCCD serves people of all ages from all walks of life who simply want to succeed both personally and professionally. Since 1965, the district’s campuses have welcomed high school students and adults whose common goal is to earn a degree or a certificate and to use that knowledge to better themselves and their communities. DCCCD – formerly the Dallas County Junior College District – continues to expand as the needs of its students continue to grow.

Throughout 2006 and 2007, as DCCCD celebrates its 40th anniversary, the district continues to enrich lives and build community.

First Steps

During the 1960s, when the United States underwent a cultural, environmental and political revolution of its own, Dallas-area leaders knew what they wanted: to establish a system of colleges that would meet the educational needs of the people who lived in Dallas and Dallas County.  A virtual “Who’s Who” of Dallas supported the establishment of the Dallas County Junior College District – individuals like R.L. Thornton Jr. and Margaret McDermott (who eventually served as the first chair and vice chair of the district’s board of trustees, respectively).

The district was founded in May 1965 after citizens voted to create DCJCD and approved a $41.5 million bond package to finance it. During its first seven years, the district welcomed students to four campuses, beginning with El Centro College in downtown Dallas. After an additional $85 million in bonds were sold in 1972, DCCCD’s other three campuses were added. That same year, the district adopted a new name and became a community college system to reflect its philosophy that all seven colleges were community institutions. 

Throughout its formative years, the district received critical support from the business and civic communities, and leaders scouted the entire country for the best people as DCCCD established itself and its mission to educate citizens. Most recently, voters approved a $450 million bond issue in May 2004, which covers new buildings and expansion at each college, plus the addition of five community education campuses in underserved or fast-growing areas of Dallas County – specifically, in Garland, Pleasant Grove, west Dallas, south Irving and Coppell. 

DCCCD’s purpose is to offer educational opportunities in several forms: an associate degree in either arts or sciences that comprises freshman and sophomore courses and that enables students to transfer to other colleges and universities; one- or two-year technical career programs with certification; and adult education programs that include workforce development, continuing education, and literacy and other basic skills programs for adults.

While the seven colleges in DCCCD offer a variety of programs and options, they each focus on creating an educational program designed for the individual student. With the help of taxpayers and funding from the Texas Legislature, the district continues to keep tuition rates low to help reduce financial barriers to higher education. 

Access continues to be the driving force for DCCCD.

Seven Solutions to Learning

From urban sidewalks to natural habitats, DCCCD’s seven colleges throughout Dallas County provide a unique set of learning environments and educational programs. There’s something for everyone at a Dallas County community college.

Take El Centro, for example … the district’s first college … which opened in 1966 and offers residents and downtown employees an opportunity to take classes near work or close to home. From nursing and allied health programs to urban education and fashion design, students can prepare for successful careers in a number of fields. Located near the West End entertainment district, the college is housed in a turn-of-the-century building that features both the courses and technology that students demand today. And they can DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit) to class by bus or light rail. (El Centro College now includes the Bill Priest Campus and a health sciences institute downtown.)

Campus expansion began in earnest in 1970 with Eastfield College in Mesquite and Mountain View College in Oak Cliff. Built on 244 acres of prairie, Eastfield College now is surrounded by development and residential areas as Dallas expands east. The campus is nicknamed “the village” and boasts national championship teams in baseball and golf. Students seek to enroll in the school’s acclaimed interpreter training program that teaches students American Sign Language, qualifying them to serve as interpreters for the deaf. Eastfield also offers the only auto body technology program in the district.

Mountain View College offers a natural setting for students and area wildlife in suburban Dallas neighborhoods. As students move from class to class, they enjoy a winding creek through the center of campus, large sculpture pieces and clusters of trees … and they can visit a declared natural habitat, too. Among Mountain View’s noted programs are the Teacher Training Academy, which “grows” teachers from high school to community college to a four-year university and back to the classroom; e-commerce, vital to business growth and development; a senior citizens’ day program that offers informational classes, lunch and opportunities for socializing; visual and performing arts; aviation; and more.

Richland College, part of Garland in north Dallas since 1972, enrolls DCCCD’s largest number of students on a single campus. Many students earn associate degrees and then transfer to four-year institutions, where they pursue a bachelor’s degree. The campus offers academic programs in areas such as fine arts, business and science, as well as technical programs in fields like semiconductor manufacturing. Nontraditional students – such as displaced homemakers or senior citizens – can prepare for new careers through Richland’s Adult Resource Center and its Emeritus program, respectively.

After more funding was secured in 1972, both Cedar Valley College and North Lake College opened in 1977; Brookhaven College opened in Farmers Branch (north Dallas) the following year, completing the current seven-campus district. Cedar Valley, located in Lancaster, treats students to the view of a 17-acre lake and rolling hills as they fire pottery, paint and act. They can learn about sound in the Commercial Music Studio, where future sound technicians, engineers and musicians receive training. The college also offers a noted veterinary technology program and a Law Enforcement Academy.

Located in Irving, North Lake College is a mecca for students who learn on a campus that is terraced and a place to enjoy. North Lake partners with many hi-tech and corporate partners in the Irving/Las Colinas business corridor, and students pursue studies in areas as diverse as visual arts and history to construction, real estate, mortgage banking, Microsoft systems engineer certification and other types of technology. North Lake also partners with the community and welcomes residents to a new library and the Academy of Irving ISD on its grounds.

In Texas, studying geoscience is a natural, and Brookhaven College provides that opportunity to seasoned professionals who travel from throughout the southwest and around the world to learn more at the Ellison Miles Geotechnology Institute. From science to the arts – the School of the Arts, that is – and child development classes and facilities, Brookhaven offers a range of programs that prepare students for successful careers. And the college partners with major automobile manufacturers to train students in state-of-the-art automotive technology classrooms and facilities.

Each of the seven colleges in DCCCD is accredited individually by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award the associate degree.

Bricks and Clicks

Economic development and distance learning are critical to students and their future employers, as well as businesses and corporations whose leaders want employees to continue their education throughout life and work. DCCCD set the pace for distance learning in 1972 and is nationally recognized for development, production and distribution of courses delivered by television, videotape and the Internet. The heart of this distance learning operation is the R. Jan LeCroy Center for Educational Telecommunications, and the Dallas TeleCollege offers more than 100 courses that are pre-recorded and offered at scheduled times through public broadcast or cable; students also can earn an associate degree online. And online classes are even more convenient because they meet students’ hectic schedules, yet students can still interact with professors and other students in real time. Education is changing, and DCCCD is leading the way.

DCCCD and 30 other educational institutions created a virtual institution called the Western Governors University; the district was WGU’s pilot institution for Texas and is the only community college system in the state that participates in the virtual university. WGU’s institutions offer approximately 500 courses and more than 30 degree programs. The district also is involved with the Southern Regional Electronic Campus, the University of Phoenix, Starlink and the Virtual College of Texas. DCCCD is a national leader in online and distance learning.

Opportunities for Everyone

Students are DCCCD’s top priority, and the district continues to provide educational opportunities for a diverse population. One of its top recruitment programs is Rising Star, which ensures graduating Dallas County high school seniors the financial support to further their education. The program, which started with high schools in south Dallas, includes all Dallas County public high schools. High school seniors who earn a “B” average and exhibit financial need can become a Rising Star.

With a dropout rate of 40 percent in Dallas County and an even higher 60 percent rate in Dallas ISD, the need for the Rising Star program is critical to the future of employers, employees and communities in the area. And Rising Star students have a choice concerning their educational program. They can enroll in an associate degree program, or they can choose to pursue any one of more than 120 occupational training or professional certification programs offered by the DCCCD. 

Access to higher education is the key to success, and the district seeks to eliminate financial barriers for students by offering scholarships, grants, loans and other programs.

Future Plans, Past Pride

With steady enrollment growth and a focus on access and “students first,” DCCCD and its seven colleges will continue to meet the needs of students, employers and the community as it looks toward future anniversaries and accomplishments. More than 64,000 credit students and 25,000 continuing education students continue to take classes, earn degrees and certificates, and pursue technical careers each semester as the district grows. Technology, changing needs and future trends will shape the future, but DCCCD will continue to offer higher education opportunities at affordable costs to those who wish to succeed.