Cochise College opened its doors in 1964 as one of the first community colleges in Arizona. It is located in an area rich in history and cultural diversity and has come a long way from its humble beginnings, when the administration offices were housed in the Gadsden Hotel in Douglas.
From the first semester, the college has been committed to serving citizens throughout the county. In October 2003, the college extended its service area to neighboring Santa Cruz County through an agreement with the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors. Cochise College is Arizona’s largest rural community college, serving approximately 15,000 students annually.
The establishment of the college can be attributed to the efforts of the dedicated citizens of Cochise County, who voted in 1961 to create a community college district. A 1962 bond election resulted in the construction of the Douglas Campus, a 540-acre facility featuring unique architecture and panoramic views of the Mule and Chiricahua Mountains, as well as neighboring Sonora, Mexico.
The growth of population at Fort Huachuca and Sierra Vista and the increased interest in higher education created a need for a second campus in the western part of the county. The campus in Sierra Vista evolved from a handful of temporary buildings at Buena High School in the early 1970s to the full-fledged separate campus that opened its doors to classes in 1978 at its present location on North Colombo Avenue. In partnership with Fort Huachuca, Cochise College also occupies a facility on post, providing classes and support services to active military and community-based residents.
A new Willcox Center, opened in 2010 on Willcox Unified School District property and located in a historic ranching and farming area in northeastern Cochise County, offers classes to residents of the area under the supervision of Extended Learning and Workforce Development. The center provides a variety of programs and services throughout the region.
The Benson Center, which opened in the fall of 2000, is located in the northwestern part of Cochise County. The center serves the learning needs of this growing and vital area.
The development of community-directed college programs and services has included the Center for Lifelong Learning, the Small Business Development Center, the Online Campus, the Correctional Education Division, Adult Education, and the Center for Economic Research.
As the college rapidly approaches a half-century of service to area residents, it has experienced growth and development in many ways. As Cochise College expanded its partnership with the region’s largest employer, Fort Huachuca, it has experienced significant growth in the number of students enrolled and credit hours taken by students. The college has increased its offering of programs while also expanding partnerships with local K-12, university and industry partners, such as local health care providers. Cochise College provides a rich array of opportunities for students of all ages to visit its campuses and centers for education, training, or enjoyment or to find similar opportunities online.
In recent years, the college has put significant resources toward facility renewal projects across the district, including construction of a new Willcox Center. On both its Douglas and Sierra Vista campuses, new construction coupled with major renovations reflects space more appropriate to meeting the needs of the 21st-century learner and teacher. In addition, the college has made major technology investment in its classrooms, faculty and support areas.
Cochise College is on the move as it continues its journey as a learning community. This direction focuses on teaching and learning, access and diversity, and the use of technology and innovative instruction, including online classes, interactive television/distance learning course delivery, collaborative learning classes, interactive webcast, and blended learning delivery.