Utah History Encyclopedia


By John S. McCormick
Salt Lake Community College is a multi-campus, two-year community college. Its 103-acre main campus (Redwood) is located ten miles south and slightly west of downtown Salt Lake City. The state legislature established it in 1947 as a state-supported vocational school under the management and control of the Utah State Board for Vocational Education. Classes began in the fall of 1948. In 1978 it became part of the Utah System of Higher Education under the jurisdiction of the Utah State Board of Regents.

Originally known as the Salt Lake Area Vocational School, it was intended primarily, but not exclusively, to serve returning World War II veterans. Its name has changed several times since then: in 1959 to Salt Lake Trade Technical Institute; in 1967 to Utah Technical College; and in 1987 to Salt Lake Community College. It was originally located near downtown Salt Lake City, at Fourth South and Sixth East, in buildings at first leased. In 1959 seventy-two acres of land near 4700 South and Redwood Road were purchased for a new campus, and over the next twelve years thirty-one additional acres were acquired. Building construction began in the early 1960s, and classes were first offered at the new campus in 1967. In addition to the main campus, the college also maintains facilities and offers classes at seven other locations in the Salt Lake Valley and one in Tooele City.

In the beginning, classes were offered in sixteen vocational and technical areas, from auto mechanics to welding. Over time, more and more vocational courses were added, as were also general education classes; however, by law at least 75 percent of the courses taught were required to be vocational, and the school conferred certificates and associate degrees in vocational subjects only. In the late 1950s debate began about whether the school should remain vocational or become a community college with both vocational and general education components. Rapid growth preceded and followed the change, and more is forecast for the decade of the 1990s.

By the early 1990s the college had more than 11,000 full- and part-time students on its campuses, and about 500 full-time and 600 part-time employees. It offered classes in more than 100 subjects, and it awarded certificates, diplomas, and associate of arts and science degrees. The average age of its students was twenty-seven. Nearly 90 percent were from the Salt Lake Valley. Most of the remaining 10 percent were from other parts of the state; two percent were from outside of Utah. There were an almost equal number of male and female students. The college also offered a wide range of special programs, including Alcohol and Drug Education and Prevention; an Early Childhood Lab School; a Single Parent/Displaced Homemaker Project; a Cooperative Education Program that integrated course work with paid, study-related work experience; men's and women's intercollegiate basketball; Handicapped Student Services; and a Skills Center, designed to provide vocational training for unemployed and disadvantaged students. Since its founding, the college has had five presidents: Howard B. Gunderson (1948-49); Jay L. Nelson (1949-78); Dale S. Cowgill (1979-81); Orville D. Carnahan (1981-92); and Frank W. Budd (1992 to the present).