Updated July 2008
In the span of some 40 years, College of the Canyons has been transformed from a tiny community college serving several hundred students into one of the nation’s fastest-growing, large community colleges (those with 10,000 or more students).
Since holding its first classes in makeshift quarters in the fall of 1969, the college and the Santa Clarita Community College District have been propelled forward by a combination of the community’s rapid growth and an unwavering vision and commitment to create the best community college in the country.
The college has grown quickly – at a pace that has consistently surpassed enrollment projections. Enrollment for the fall 2007 semester hit 21,300, beating growth projections by several years. The latest enrollment trends indicate the student population will continue to grow quickly – and, if history is any indication, the pace of that growth will be more accelerated than anyone can predict.
This sort of rapid, seemingly unrestrained growth has demanded flexibility and innovation. It also has created demands for new academic, occupational and athletic programs, training partnerships with business and industry – and the facilities to house them.
The campus of today reveals a significant number of new buildings and continuing construction activity. These facilities – and the ones that will be completed in the near future – are stark evidence of the highest level of construction and preparation for the future since the original campus was built in the early 1970s.
Most of the college’s square footage has been built over the past 20 years. It is no coincidence that this period of growth and development has occurred during the tenure of Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook, who has served as superintendent-president since 1988. In 2008, she was named chancellor of the district.
She has radically changed this campus not only to keep up with the community’s demands, but to anticipate the educational and training programs that will be in demand in the future.
When Dr. Van Hook arrived in 1988, she quickly got down to business and spearheaded a major update of the college’s master plan. The result was a seemingly non-stop series of construction projects that continues today – and that has dramatically changed the college’s face and character. The college was housed in eight major buildings in 1988, including Cougar Stadium; by 2008, another 10 major structures had been built, among them the 926-seat Performing Arts Center, the Library, Mentry Hall, the Family Studies & Early Childhood Education Center, Aliso Hall, Aliso Lab, Pico Canyon Hall, Hasley Hall and an entirely new campus in Canyon Country.
During this period, academic and occupational offerings also have been vastly expanded. The college offers associate in arts and science degrees in 61 academic programs, as well as credentials in 69 certificate programs.Academic programs range from Animation to Television, Film and Video Production, from Audio/Radio Production to Video Game Animation, from Biotechnology to Theatre Arts, from Child Development to Paralegal Studies, and from Dance to Industrial Manufacturing. And the list goes on.
College of the Canyons’ institutional philosophy is to educate both the body and the mind. Sixteen intercollegiate athletic programs – divided equally between men’s and women’s sports – provide outstanding opportunities. Notable achievements include the football team’s state and national championships in 2004, the men’s golf team’s four state championships since 2000, and women’s golf’s state championships in 2001 and 2007.
Helping meet students’ needs has been a historically supportive and generous community, which has always approved requests for bond funding for capital construction projects. The most recent bond measure, Measure M, was approved by voters in November 2006, providing $160 million in general-obligation bond funding to pay for the next big wave of expansion and modernization projects. The measure – the fourth in the college’s history – will allow the Santa Clarita Community College District to add more classrooms and labs, build permanent facilities and equip classrooms at the new Canyon Country campus, upgrade technology to expand instruction in public-safety and other high-demand professions, and improve earthquake, security and fire safety. The locally generated funds also will help the district secure as much as $80 million in additional state matching funds.
Local voters approved creation of the college in 1967. Taking the helm of the fledgling institution was the first superintendent-president, Dr. Robert Rockwell. College of the Canyons officially opened in temporary quarters at William S. Hart High School in Newhall in 1969, with all classes scheduled late in the day, after high school students had left. The college purchased 153 acres of land along the east side of Interstate 5, south of Valencia Boulevard and north of McBean Parkway, in 1970. It was here that the college relocated, moving into a collection of modular buildings as permanent facilities were being built.
Construction of the addition to the Physical Education building and the Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook University Center on the Valencia campus are well under way, as are plans to expand Mentry Hall, the Library, and the Student Services and Administration buildings. The innovative University Center, meanwhile, allows students to earn bachelor, master or doctoral degrees from a collection of public and private universities that offer their programs here. The idea is to improve access to education by eliminating the need for residents to commute long distances to obtain advanced degrees. And, the College of the Canyons Canyon Country campus opened in August 2007 with nearly 3,400 students in new, modular facilities. When the permanent buildings, funded by a combination of Measure M and state funds, are completed, this campus will accommodate up to 10,000 students.
The college participates in several innovative partnerships that have redefined the traditional role of community colleges. Academy of the Canyons, operated by the William S. Hart Union High School District, opened at College of the Canyons in 2002 and allows promising high school students to attend high school and college concurrently. In addition, the Early College High School funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and operated by the Hart district, opened on the Canyon Country campus in August 2007. Also operating at the college are the Center for Applied Competitive Technologies and Employee Training Institute, both of which have helped local businesses become more efficient and train employees in the latest emerging fields, along with funding from a Department of Commerce grant of $1.3 million. In partnership with Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital, the college operates the Clinical Education Center at the hospital. And, the College of the Canyons Biotechnology Center provides a 2,000-square-foot clean room in partnership with the Mann Biomedical Park.
Gateway to Opportunity
College of the Canyons has served as a gateway to higher education, professional training and, by extension, opportunity for the community. Nearly 200,000 people have attended the college since it opened 39 years ago. Thousands have graduated. And, many students have returned to pursue their professional careers. Some 45 percent of the college’s staff members were once students here. The college’s commitment to excellence is a tradition reflected by its innovative, results-oriented leadership. As the next chapters of the college’s history are written, the outstanding foundation that has been laid will be further built upon and the institution will continue to uphold the ideals of education and contribute to the development of our vibrant, thriving community for generations to come.
College of the Canyons • Santa Clarita Community College District
26455 Rockwell Canyon Road, Santa Clarita, CA 91355
Phone: (661) 259-7800 • Internet: http://www.canyons.edu