History of Grand Rapids Community College
Grand Rapids Junior College (GRJC) was founded in 1914 by the Grand Rapids Board of Education after a resolution was passed by the University of Michigan’s faculty which encouraged the establishment of junior colleges in Michigan. In the ’50s and ’60s, language in the constitution and legislative acts further clarified the role of community colleges in Michigan. This, along with current needs of the community served, provides the College with direction and purpose.
The College was first located in Grand Rapids Central High School. Eight faculty members taught rhetoric and composition, mathematics, history, biology, physics, Latin, and German. The first graduating class numbered 49 students. By 1945, enrollment had grown to 1,200 students, who represented 53 Michigan communities, five states, a territory, and one foreign nation. During the ‘50s, the College’s enrollment doubled. Under the 1966 Community College Act, the state of Michigan included postsecondary vocational-technical education in the definition of the community college program. As a result, GRCC now offers more than 45 occupational programs.
In 1991, Kent County taxpayers voted to redistrict GRJC, which became Grand Rapids Community College. For the first time GRCC had its own Board of Trustees and its boundaries were extended beyond the Grand Rapids Public School District to include the 20 districts within the Kent Intermediate School District. By 1996, the College was serving more than 25,000 full- and part-time students.
Today, GRCC’s eight-block downtown campus includes several classroom buildings, a learning center and library, Spectrum Theater, the Applied Technology Center, a remodeled music building, a fieldhouse with natatorium, a student center (including the new Diversity Learning Center), Bostwick Commons, and the state-of-the-art Calkins Science Center. An off-campus “Learning Corner” has been added to serve the East Hills and Eastown neighborhoods as well as the greater Grand Rapids Community. Another such "Learning Corner" is on the way in the West side of Grand Rapids.
In addition, GRCC has two Michigan Technical Education Centers (M-TECs ) in West Michigan. The Patrick Thompson M-TEC , located in Holland, opened in Fall 2000 in partnership with the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District. Its open entry/open exit instruction eliminates the need for students in manufacturing and industry-related occupational programs to conform to a traditional semester time frame. The Leslie E. Tassell M-TEC in Grand Rapids opened in 2002. This world-class facility offers training in manufacturing, auto service, and building and construction trades. GRCC is now expanding its offerings in Ottawa County by partnering with Grand Valley State University to offer courses on its Meijer Campus in Holland.
In 2008, GRCC President Dr. Juan Olivarez left the college and after a lengthy search process, Dr. Steven Ender was selected as the new president.
In Winter 2009, more than 15,000 students enrolled in more than 1,600 liberal arts and occupational courses. The diverse student body represents students from Kent and surrounding counties as well as students from across the U.S. and 22 other nations. Another 13,000 learners are served by non-credit instructional opportunities. In addition to traditional classroom environments, students may also receive instruction through community and distant service-learning offerings, seminars, workshops, training classes, distance learning options and other educational formats.
GRCC employs a faculty of more than 250 full-time and 350 part-time members as well as a staff of 650, all of whom are focused on the College’s priorities to be student-centered, collaborative, and flexible. Throughout its 95-year history of academic excellence, GRCC has maintained a solid reputation as a premier transfer institution and is nationally recognized for both its liberal arts and occupational programs.