MiraCosta College History
1930s - The Beginning
In 1932, when a furnished house in Oceanside rented for around $13 a month and hamburger sold for 10 cents a pound, talk of establishing a community college in North County started. Though the idea was initially rejected, it soon became evident that an economically shaken Oceanside needed a way to provide local students with a college education without having to leave home.
In 1934, the Oceanside-Carlsbad Union High School District Board of Education voted to establish a community college, to be located in one wing of Oceanside High School and led by Superintendent/Principal George R. McIntyre. Known then as the Oceanside-Carlsbad Junior College Department of the Oceanside High School District, the school opened on September 3, 1934, with 20 faculty members who taught about 120 students. The college offered 16 courses that were accepted as credit toward advanced standing at the University of California. The college also offered vocational courses for students not wishing to transfer to a university.
Fresh from high school, students formed social clubs and participated in many activities. In the first two years after opening its doors, the college formed football, basketball and track teams; the drama department presented two plays; and the A Cappella Choir performed in different towns in the district. The journalism class established the weekly school paper, “O-C Campus,” which was a combination of the high school and college newspaper.
The students also published a yearbook, the “Phalanx” and formed a sorority, “Coraphilia” and a fraternity, “Keymen.” To differentiate themselves from the high school students who shared the same campus and followed the same bell schedule, freshmen students wore green felt skullcaps, nicknamed “dinks.”
A student booklet printed in the late 1930s highlighted the importance that student activities played in the early years of the college. The booklet advised, “Specialized training and cultural academic work are supported by a well-planned social life, a health program, and an opportunity for growth through the enjoyment of leisure-time activities.” Hover your mouse here to see students socializing during "College Hall."
Just months after offering the first classes, the local community voted to continue the existence of Oceanside-Carlsbad Junior College (O-CJC), with 84 percent of votes cast in support of the college. In April 1935, the California State Board of Education approved its permanent establishment.
1940s - The War Years
World War II dominated the1940s, and this was no different at Oceanside-Carlsbad Junior College. The war affected both the enrollment at the college, as well as the type of programs offered.
During the early 1940s, enrollment remained relatively unchanged, with about 100 students taking classes each semester. This changed as the war progressed. In 1943, enrollment dropped to 55 students, most of whom were women. Enrollment picked up again as veterans took advantage of the GI Bill, which allowed more men than ever before to get a college education. By 1946, 250 students were attending Oceanside-Carlsbad Junior College.
In response to the war, the college added a summer session so that students could finish their studies in a shorter period of time. The college also allowed for specially combined classes of high school and college students. Women began taking courses that were previously unavailable to them, such as welding classes. When word got around in 1941 that women at the Oceanside-Carlsbad Junior College (O-CJC) were taking welding. When word got around in 1941 that women at the Oceanside-Carlsbad Junior College (O-CJC) were taking welding, newspapers took interest. O-CJC graduate Eleanor (King) Hagen’s photograph was featured in the “Los Angeles Times,” the “Boston Herald” and even on the cover of the August 11, 1941, “Newsweek.”
“We really put Oceanside-Carlsbad Junior College on the map,” remembered Hagen.
Besides the changes to course offerings, some student activities also slowed down during the war; for example, the college canceled athletics until the 1946-47 school year, though other activities continued to be encouraged. Despite this, school spirit was still high; in fact, in 1947, O-CJC had a prize-winning float, “Graduation Day,” in the Pasadena Rose Parade. Miss Oceanside, Miss Carlsbad, and Miss Junior College rode the float, which also featured an owl that blinked its eyes and moved its head.
As the decade progressed, the college saw a record number of Marines and sailors (both men and women) who wanted to complete high school and junior college units, and earn high school diplomas and associate degrees. In response, the Oceanside-Carlsbad Union High School District expanded its night school offerings. In September 1944, the Oceanside-Carlsbad Evening College went into full swing, offering courses such as chemistry, English, history, math, wood shop, auto mechanics, weaving and sewing. As a result of the increased offerings, the enrollment for evening college increased more than 50 percent by the second month of the semester.
Meet alumni from the 1940s
1950s - The Fun Times
With the end of the war, the United States experienced both an economic and a population boom. The 1950s at Oceanside-Carlsbad Junior College were also a time of growth—in academic standards, enrollment and physical presence.
In 1953, Robert V. Rogers was hired as the director of the Oceanside-Carlsbad Junior College, a position he held for ten years, though the title changed to president halfway through his term. Rogers was committed to raising the academic standards and improving the overall reputation of the school. He modified the college catalog, worked with an accreditation team on the quality of academic programs and initiated a formal commencement ceremony. In 1956, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges granted the college full accreditation status.
By 1959, Oceanside-Carlsbad Junior College was prepared to accommodate 500 full-time students in classrooms on 30 acres adjacent to Oceanside High School. Although this was a welcome expansion, the increased enrollment put a squeeze on the high school. In 1960, administrators began looking for a new permanent home for the college.
During this decade, most of the student activities revolved around the sports teams, especially the football team, which enjoyed big crowds on game nights. In fact, the 1950 yearbook credited football as the incentive to get back to school after summer. In 1957, under the coaching of John W. “Bill” Corchran, the college’s football team won the South Central Conference championship and the yearbook responded by devoting 13 pages just to football.
Meanwhile, 1959 homecoming queen Irene Horvath turned the nation’s eyes on Oceanside-Carlsbad Junior College. “Life” magazine visited the campus to meet the 72-year-old queen, and newspapers, magazines and even television cameras captured shots of Horvath on the shoulders of a few football players.
Meet alumni from the 1950s
1960s - The Rebirth
The 1960s brought big changes in the country. This was the decade of youth; post-war baby boomers became teenagers and young adults, moving away from the conservatism of the 1950s and toward change that profoundly affected the cultural fabric of the United States. This was also a decade of big changes for the college, which permanently separated itself from the high school and moved to the campus location where it is today.
In 1960, electors of the district voted to establish a separate junior college district. In 1961, voters approved a bond that provided the money needed for a new campus. After years of searching for the perfect property, the college moved to its present 121 acre hilltop location in 1964 (featured above circa 1963). The property, purchased for $575,000, was part of a parcel owned by renowned ice skater Sonja Henie.
On September 21, 1964, 590 day-students enrolled in classes on the new campus, and another 1,200 registered for evening classes. That same year, John MacDonald, a 1941 O-CJC graduate, was named superintendent president of the college, a position he would hold for 18 years, until his retirement in 1982.
After the college completed its first semester at the new campus, students and staff began circulating ideas for a new name for the college. A special committee was formed to study the name change. Gloria Carranza, then student body president and now a MiraCosta Board of Trustees member, suggested “MiraCosta,” Spanish for “behold the coast.” However, the name, which refers to the panoramic ocean and coastal mountain views from the campus, stuck and further cemented the college’s separation from the high school district. However, the name change was not universally embraced; in fact, it stirred a lot of controversy in the community, especially among people who wanted the name to retain mention of the locations the district served. In the end, "MiraCosta" won out and the name was adopted by the board. The final act of separation came when the college district elected its own board separate from the high school district.
Through the leadership of Oceanside community activist, Elmer Glaser, MiraCosta College created a foundation in 1966. The foundation announced five goals: student financial assistance, support for construction of buildings and improved plant equipment, improvement of buildings and grounds beautification, support for new equipment and materials, and support of special programs. The foundation, with the assistance of the newly-formed advisory council and Vice President of Student Services Bill Foran, also created the annual Medal of Honor award, which recognized academic excellence and is still given to outstanding students each year.
Meet alumni from the 1960s
1970s - The Growth Years
The changes sparked in the 1960s, including war and social changes, continued in the 1970s, with many of the "radical" ideas of the 1960s creating changes in mainstream American life and culture. Amid the social challenges of the decade, MiraCosta College flourished, as the college experienced more growth than in the four previous decades combined. Not only did the student population increase from 2,000 students in the early 1970s to nearly 9,000 a decade later, the number of buildings and course offerings at MiraCosta grew as well.
By 1970, a women’s locker room had been built, an exercise room was added to the gymnasium, an agricultural area and horticulture greenhouse had been developed and a theatre stagecraft building was erected. In 1972, the college built the music and art buildings as several other minor buildings. Also in 1972, at the request of the Oceanside and Carlsbad Unified School District Boards of education, MiraCosta College agreed to take over the adult education programs, including adult high school education, Engish as a second language, citizenship and a variety of enrichment courses. Later in the decade, MiraCosta College added an auto body repair and paint shop, a children’s center and tennis courts. In 1973, MiraCosta welcomed what has now become a college landmark—the Blayney Tower. The tower was given to the collge by Dana Caroll and Eleanor Monroe Blayney in memory of thier son, Robert Monroe Blayney, who was killed in action December 11, 1944, while serving our country in France..
The geographic area served by MiraCosta College also expanded. In 1976 , the area served by the San Dieguito High School District was added to the college district, thus creating the MiraCosta Community College District. WIthin a few months, MiraCosta began offering classes in a Solana Beach office building. it wasn't long before the college needed larger facilities so it leased a vacant elementary school from the Del Mar Union School District to use as a southern center. it was dubbled the Del Mar Shores Center.
With all this expansion, the diversity of the student body began to grow; MiraCosta College was attracting a more diverse population in terms of age, ethnicity and previous educational background. Women also were able to participate in athletics for the first time in MiraCosta College history.
Meet alumni from the 1970s
1980s - A Time of Transition
The United States in the 1980s was marked by hostile takeovers, leveraged buyouts and mega-mergers. While the economy exploded and Americans shopped ‘til they dropped, MiraCosta College was also experienced its own growth and transition.
In 1980, MiraCosta purchased a 47-acre site near the San Elijo Lagoon, on Manchester Avenue in Cardiff, which would one day serve the southern portion of the district. Until construction was completed, classes continued to be held at the Del Mar Shores Center. In 1988, after much negotiation with the Coastal Commission, the San Elijo Campus opened its doors; the California Costal Commison first semester, nearly 2,500 credit students enjoyed classes at the beautiful campus—1,000 more than were expected.
On the Oceanside Campus, a new state-of-the-art theatre opened in May of 1981, and the construction didn’t stop there. In 1987, students launched a legislative campaign to pass a senate bill to authorize a local-option building-use fee to raise funds for a student center on the Oceanside Campus. With the successful passage of the bill, and the help of the MiraCosta College Foundation, the spacious 25,000-square-foot center, complete with a magnificent ocean view, opened in time for the start of fall classes in 1990.
MiraCosta College also saw a change in leadership. After nearly 20 years of serving as MiraCosta’s superintendent/president, John MacDonald retired in 1982 and H. Deon Holt became the college’s new leader.
By the end of the decade, MiraCosta College had nearly 11,000 credit and noncredit students taking classes.
Meet alumni from the 1980s
1990s - Technology Takes Over
The 1990s were truly the electronic age—the World Wide Web changed the way people communicated and by 1998, 100 million people were plugged into the Internet. MiraCosta College kept up with this technological boom by adding new high-tech buildings and programs, which offered students a state-of-the-art educational experience.
In the early 1990s, construction began on a 33,600 square-foot, $8 million building on the Oceanside Campus that would house a science complex; computer labs for math, English and foreign languages; engineering technology and open student use; as well as a high-tech teaching/learning center. During this time, the district began to build the fiber-based network that would create the infrastructure to connect MiraCosta College to the information super-highway and guide the way to MiraCosta becoming a leading force in academic and administrative information technology.
MiraCosta College's Adult Learning Center opened in 1992 at a newly remodeled site on Horne Street in downtown Oceanside. The center offered several noncredit programs, notably English as a Second Language, Adult High School Diploma and GAIN (Greater Avenues to Independence).
During the 1990s, students and community members also enjoyed new programs and services. MiraCosta College created the Student Ambassador Program, in which selected students represent the college in student outreach and community relations efforts. MiraCosta College was also invited to be one of only eight colleges in the state to participate in Project Puente, a program aimed at increasing the transfer rate of Mexican-American students from community colleges to the University of California. In addition, the college created the College-Bound and the Summer Bridge programs. Students also enjoyed a revitalized Honors Program. In 1995, the LIFE group (Learning, Inspiration, Fellowship and Enrichment, now known as Learning is For Everyone) began offering discussion groups, classes and lectures each Friday to community members.
In 1996, MiraCosta College snagged a $150,000 grant to help create a biotechnology center for Southern California. The college developed new curriculum, accepted donations from industry on behalf of the region, performed outreach to local high schools, and coordinated with local and state-wide initiatives in respect to biotechnology workforce development.
Long gone were the days of waiting in line to register; in 1997, MiraCosta College began offering a new service: a touch-tone telephone registration system dubbed “REGI,” eliminating the need for students to stand in line to register. For the first time, students were also able to take classes online. MiraCosta College also welcomed a new superintendent/president; in 1994, Deon Holt retired and Tim Dong (pictured on left) took leadership of the college, a position he would hold until 2004.
Meet alumni from the 1990s
2000s - Marked By Change
In the 2000s, MiraCosta College's three campuses continued to change and grow. Enrollment reached a new high as the college has completed several large construction projects that put it on the map for its technological and arts offerings.
In 2000, the Adult Learning Center relocated to its current permanent location on Mission Avenue in Oceanside and was renamed the Community Learning Center. Over the years, the center has expanded its adult education offerings to include parenting classes, workshops for older adults, and programs for those who are physically and mentally challenged. The Cisco Academy, which offers training in computer networking, is also housed at the center. The college's North San Diego Small Business Development Center is right next door.
In 2002, MiraCosta opened the doors to its beautiful new Child Development Center on the Oceanside Campus, which provides both academic instruction to students and childcare services to student, staff and community families.
Also on the Oceanside Campus, years of planning and work culminated with the opening of the $13million, 48,000-square-foot library and information hub in 2003. The two-story library is nearly three times the size of the building it replaced and is home to an extensive collection of journals, CDs and videos; more than 400 computers with wireless access; Tutoring Center; Math Learning Cente; Writing Cente; Teaching Innovation Center; and other high-tech academic facilities.
In November 2005, MiraCosta College, in partnership with Genentech and other local biotech firms opened the biotech facility, an impressive 3,500-square-foot, state-of-the-art building designated as a Center of Excellence in bioprocessing by the US Department of Labor. Across the street from the biotechnology facility, a remodeled Horticulture Complex was dedicated in Augus, 2007. This state-of-the-art, 15,250 square-foot building houses a greenhouse, laboratories and classrooms specifically designed to give students a “hands-on” learning experience in the art and science of cultivating plants.
During this decade, MiraCosta College also invested in the arts and now boasts a beautifully remodeled theatre and a new creative arts complex. In the beginning of 2007, MiraCosta College’s newly remodeled theatre hosted its first show. The theatre, a contemporary space designed specifically for college actors by San Diego's Old Globe architect Gene Weston, seats 243 and features a more accessible and welcoming entrance, new seats and paint, a new curtain, an expanded lobby and box office, and remodeled restrooms.
The new Oceanside Campus creative arts complex, measures 21,600-square-feet and boasts an outdoor studio overlooking a spectacular view of Oceanside, all the way to the ocean. This state-of-the-art complex replaces the music building and one art building constructed in the 60s and houses the college’s art and music programs with classroom studios for painting, drawing, and printmaking and recording studios, piano labs, and rehearsal space. In 2010, the college opened the 400-seat, 12,000-square-foot Concert Hall, which not only provides students first-hand experience in a professional performance setting, but also provides the community with a beautiful venue to enjoy MiraCosta College’s top-notch music performances.
On the San Elijo Campus, students are enjoying the new student center, which opened during the 2008 spring semester. The new center houses the college bookstore, a cafeteria with indoor/outdoor and rooftop dining, health services, student activities, and meeting and multi-use conference rooms.
MiraCosta College also saw some changes in leadership during this time. In 2004, Tim Dong retired after serving ten years and Victoria Muñoz Richart took over as superintendent/president. Dr. Richart served just under three years, and after her departure in June 2007, MiraCosta College had two interim superintendent/presidents, John Hendrickson and Susan Cota.
In March, 2009, MiraCosta welcomed new Superintendent/President Francisco Rodriguez (pictured on left).
As the campus grew during the 2000s, so did student enrollment. Student enrollment reached an all-time high in spring semester 2010, with more than 14,000 credit students enrolled and another 8,000 noncredit and fee-based students.
Meet alumni from the 2000s
2010s - A Time of Innovation and Outreach
In 2014, MiraCosta College celebrates 80 years of educational excellence.
Over the years, the college’s enrollment has ballooned to nearly 15,000 credit students and an additional 5,000 noncredit and fee-based students. As our student population has grown, so have our campuses. On the Oceanside Campus, in 2013, the college added a new high-tech science laboratory. The building is the first of its kind at a California community college—it can run completely on photovoltaic power generated from the sun. And plans are under way to add a new science facility at the college’s San Elijo Campus in Cardiff.
The increase in student enrollment also means the college has increased the availability of courses. Students are taking more online classes than ever before, and our on-campus offerings have expanded to include more core classes offered on Fridays and Saturdays, allowing students to get into the classes they need most.
There has been a lot of growth at the college during the early part of the decade, but perhaps none as dramatic as the growth in students who are currently serving in the military or who are military veterans. Since 2008, the college student-veteran population has increased by 93 percent. Today, MiraCosta College enrolls 1,900 student-veterans and an additional one thousand of their family members. In response to this, the college has made it a priority to meet the needs of these students, and has been named a Military Friendly Institution by Victory Media, a distinction given to the top 15 percent of colleges and universities doing the most to ensure the success of military service members, veterans and spouses.
The college’s partnerships with local elementary, middle and high schools continues to be strong. In 2011, MiraCosta College received a seven-year, $7 million federal GEAR UP grant, which provides multiple services to ensure middle school students and their families are prepared for college and career choices. In fall 2013, the first cohort of GEAR UP students moved from middle schools to either Oceanside or El Camino high school as freshmen students. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, including the MiraCosta College Foundation and its board members, prestigious foundations, college faculty and staff, and community members, $100,000 in scholarships will be available for these students if they enroll at MiraCosta College following high school graduation.
To further encourage high school students to start their college career early, and to better serve the community of Carlsbad, the college has partnered with the Carlsbad Unified School District to share several classrooms at the new Sage Creek High School. Beginning in spring 2014, high school students, the public and other currently enrolled high school students from any school district can take MiraCosta College courses on the high school campus. MiraCosta College has gone a step further by waiving the enrollment fees for any high school student who takes a college-level course offered by MiraCosta College.
The move removes a substantial financial barrier for local high school students while giving them a chance to earn college credit, get a taste of college life and inspire them to continue their education.
MiraCosta College continues to play a strong role in preparing local adult students for high-tech jobs. In fall 2013, the Department of Labor awarded MiraCosta College a $2.75 million federal grant to start a Technology Career Institute (TCI) aimed at filling a growing demand for qualified machinists and industrial technicians in North County.
The federal grant will help the college develop a comprehensive training facility that will prepare participants – including returning military veterans and the unemployed – for high-skilled, high-paying employment in the manufacturing and technology industries.
As the decade rolls by, MiraCosta College is preparing to continue to expand and grow, attract new populations of students, and adapt our facilities and programs to meet the changing needs of students and the community.
Curious about the history of the cities in MiraCosta’s District? Click for links to local historical societies.