The 91-year history of the San Jose City College makes SJCC one of the 10 oldest community colleges in California. Opening its classes in September 1921, it is among the earliest of the “junior” colleges started in the 20th century. A study of the records indicates that the first junior college was established in Joliet, Illinois in 1902, the result of advocacy by such notable American educators as William Rainey Harper, President of the University of Chicago; David Starr Jordan, President of Stanford University; and Alexis F. Lange, Head of the University of California Education Department. Harper’s efforts led to the founding of the junior college in Joliet. As one looks at the developments in California, however, keep in mind that the enabling legislation was different from what happened in Illinois. In short, the difference is that the Illinois model is a “downward” reach of the university, but in California it is an “upward” extension of the high school.
Only recently have various acts of the legislature addressed the impact of that circumstance.
A quick look at the first five significant pieces of legislation shows some of this development: 1907 – The Thompson Act enabled high school districts to offer “post graduate” courses that would approximate the courses offered during the first two years of university work; 1917 – The Ballard Act enabled high school districts to set up junior college programs; 1921 – The Hughes Act provided for the organization of junior college districts; 1921 – The Harris Act provided funding for junior colleges; and 1927 – The Jones Act added to existing provisions concerning the organization of junior college districts.
While the Hughes Act of 1921 provided for the organization of junior college districts, two existing entities were granted exemption status from the law. One was the Fresno System and the other was the California State Normal School, which with the new law, changed its name in 1921 to the State Teachers College of San Jose.
San Jose Junior College acted as a department within State Teachers College that would later become San Jose State University. The San Jose Junior College stayed in this role until 1953 when the oversight of the college was transferred to the San Jose Unified School District. During this transfer the school district purchased property from the Southern Pacific railroad and relocated the campus to its current Moorpark Avenue location along with the San Jose Technical High School. In 1958 the college was renamed San Jose City College. In 1963, due largely to a faculty led effort, the San Jose Community College District was formed in 1963 and in the same year talks began to purchase the property from San Jose Unified School District and buy out the Technical High School.
Through the 1960’s and 1970’s San Jose City College owned more property than it currently sits on. The boundaries of SJCC stretched east from current Bascom Ave. to Menker Ave. (Menker is two streets further east of the current day Leigh Ave.) portions of this property were sold off for the development of Interstate 280 and traded to incorporated the current land where the multipurpose field currently resides. In 1986 the district was renamed the San Jose/Evergreen Community College District to incorporate the naming of our sister college Evergreen Valley College which opened in 1975.
In 1999, 2004 and 2010 voters within the San Jose/Evergreen Community College District have passed bond measures to help re-build the campus an provide modern technology and facilities for the students at San Jose City College. Some of the buildings completed as part of these bond proceeds are the Cesar Chavez Library, Student Center, Science Complex, Parking Garage, Career Technology Building, Technology Center, Multi-Disciplinary Building, Carmen Castellano Fine Arts Center, and the major renovations of the Business, Cosmetology and Reprographics buildings. The developments of two new building are currently underway for the new Kinesiology/Wellness & Athletics Building and a new Theatre /Drama Building to be completed within the next 2-3 years.
Located close to California’s Silicon Valley, the college offers all the benefits of being close to the world’s hub of technological innovation and entrepreneurship. San Jose City College currently serves the Milpitas, San Jose, and other surrounding communities and serves approximately 10,000 students per semester.