History of Johnson County Community College

In the 1960s, residents of Johnson County began to seriously consider the creation of a local college. The area had a rapidly growing population and a good school system from which a local college could draw students, and it was hard to ignore the community college movement emerging in California, Florida, Illinois and Texas. The idea was not unopposed, however; some residents felt the county didn't need to assume the increased expenses of maintaining a college.

Then, in June 1963, the nation's leading experts in community college education gathered in Kansas City for the Midwest Junior College Conference to discuss the potential of community colleges in the U.S. Residents in Kansas City, Mo., were considering forming a large district that would probably include three community colleges. The movement was hard to resist.

Across the state line, the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners formed a committee of 18 residents to study the feasibility of a community college for Johnson County. The chairman of that committee was Dr. Wilbur T. Billington, a prominent banker with the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank and a member of the board of education of one of the local school districts. With the help of the League of Women Voters and the American Association of University Women, the feasibility committee conducted a county-wide needs assessment that demonstrated a greater need for a local college than had heretofore been suspected. The committee began to build the case for a community college in Johnson County.

A citizens action committee was mobilized to implement the recommendation of the feasibility committee. A petition signed by all school boards in the county requested the formation of a community junior college district to be governed by six trustees elected at large. Johnson County Community College became the first new college recommended for creation under the Kansas Community Junior College Act of 1965. A special county-wide election was held in March 1967, and the proposed community college was approved by a 3-1 majority. The district was formally established in June 1967, and voters were asked to elect college trustees in September. Thirty-six people filed for the election. Among the six elected to the new board was Dr. Wilbur Billington.

In 1968, the board obtained a "no-fund warrant" to provide for interim financing until the first tax levy could be established. The board also selected the first president for the college, identified the site that would eventually become the permanent campus and developed the first mission statement for the college.

In 1969, county residents voted approval of $12.9 million in general obligation bonds to purchase more than 200 acres in Overland Park, which would turn the idea for a college campus into a reality. In the meantime, the first JCCC classes were conducted in leased facilities in Merriam that fall. Initial enrollment was 1,380 students.

Three years later, in the fall of 1972, classes and all operations were moved to the permanent campus at College Boulevard and Quivira Road. Nearly 100 full-time faculty members were teaching more than 3,600 students.

Over the years, JCCC has continued to expand its student enrollment, instructional program, faculty and staff, and physical facilities to meet the needs of the community. Today, more than 20,000 credit students and about 15,000 continuing education students enroll at JCCC each semester. Full-time faculty and staff number approximately 1,000, with another 1,700 people working part time. A full range of undergraduate credit courses is available, forming the first two years of most college curricula. In addition, more than 50 one- and two-year career and certificate programs are offered to prepare students to enter the job market in high employment fields.

JCCC is the state's largest institution of higher education and a board member of the League for Innovation in the Community College.