Klamath Community College was created to fulfill a community vision for improved prosperity. Starting in 1991, a group of community leaders formulated a plan called the Klamath 2002 Vision Statement. The heart of the 2002 vision statement involved rallying community support for a new community college to improve jobs, the local economy, and the regional quality of life. Responding to their extraordinary leadership efforts, in May 1996, Klamath County voters overwhelmingly approved formation of the Klamath Community College Service District with a 79 percent affirmative vote. In addition, voters agreed to establish a $3.5 million tax base to operate the district.
On July 1, 1996, KCC became the seventeenth community college in Oregon. Initially, KCC contracted with Rogue Community College for educational services. During its first year of operation, KCC offered three one-year certificates to students: business assistant, computer software specialist, and criminal justice. At the same time, KCC contracted with Oregon Institute of Technology to provide general education courses, student health services, and library services. Classes were conducted in facilities rented from the Klamath County School District and Klamath Falls City Schools.
During its first year as an accredited institution, KCC provided services to approximately 3,000 students. In July 1997 KCC contracted with Portland Community College for educational services. The KCC Board of Education appointed Dr. Wesley R. Channell as the College’s first permanent president on August 1, 1997.
In December 1997, the Oregon State Board of Education approved the charter for KCC, and in January 1998 it authorized the KCC Board of Education to award degrees and certificates. In April 1998 the curriculum in KCC’s first catalog was approved by the Oregon State Board of Education and Portland Community College. Classes and administrative offices expanded to rented facilities on Williams Avenue. In the same month KCC submitted its application for initial candidacy to the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges (NASC), now known as the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU), the accrediting agency for the region. On November 10, 1999, KCC received initial candidacy for regional accreditation at the associate degree level. At its January 2005 meeting, the NWCCU granted initial accreditation effective September 1, 2004. Accreditation was reaffirmed in 2009 and in 2018.
While KCC was advancing its bid for accreditation, it was also working on finding a permanent home. In September 1999, President Channell announced the purchase of 57 acres, which included two buildings that would become KCC’s permanent location. The buildings were redesigned and renovated, and on March 27, 2000, KCC students attended their first day of classes on the new campus. Additional buildings were completed in fall 2002 to provide eight additional classrooms, computer labs, a new Learning Resource Center, food service, and student study areas.
The Klamath Community College Board of Education accepted President Channell’s retirement and appointed Vice President Fred Smith as president on May 1, 2004. Dr. Smith resigned his position on August 1, 2007. Gerald Hamilton was then appointed as interim president on September 1, 2007. He was appointed president on February 26, 2008.
As part of ongoing efforts to meet ever-changing community needs, KCC added two new buildings in 2010: a 30,000-square-foot Health Sciences Building and a 16,000-square-foot Career Technical Center.
In spring 2012, the Board of Education selected Dr. Roberto Gutierrez to replace President Hamilton following his retirement. Dr. Gutierrez became KCC’s fourth president in July 2012.
Also in spring 2012, KCC was selected as a participant in the Achieving the Dream Reform Network and has received national attention for instituting mandatory student orientation and advising, which have resulted in greater student retention and success. As a regional leader behind the vision and drive of President Gutierrez, KCC is creating a college-going culture in the region.
To support this college-going culture, KCC has embarked on the Klamath Promise with its K-12 partners by implementing a fifth-year high school program in 2013 and 2014 and establishing a blended K-12-to-college program in which students can earn college credit toward certificates and degrees as early as eighth grade.
In 2014, KCC began offering courses at the Innovation and Learning Center in Lakeview, Oregon, where students attend courses in face-to-face and synchronous classrooms. Also in 2014, KCC expanded educational options beyond two-year degrees by partnering with Southern Oregon University. This effort carries on a similar partnership KCC has with Oregon State University in agriculture. Finally, KCC has expanded learning opportunities by adding distance education, synchronous course delivery, and hybrid courses, thus allowing the College to offer its students classes anywhere and anytime.
In 2016, KCC embarked on another exciting development: the design and construction of Phase II, which included two new buildings. The Works Skills Technology Center opened in fall 2017. The center focuses on community workforce needs and houses the Klamath Center for Education and Training. Founders Hall opened in spring 2018. Founders Hall is a one-stop-shop where students can access advising, registration, financial aid, tutoring, and the KCC library.
Most recently, the presidents of four public colleges and universities in southern Oregon met at KCC to create the Southern Oregon Higher Education Consortium, an alliance aimed at streamlining students’ educational pathways and addressing the region’s specific workforce needs. Through the partnership KCC, Oregon Tech, Southern Oregon University, and Rogue Community College agree to share information, collaborate on complementary programming and facilities, and work cooperatively on professional training, technology and programming.