PHOTO: Parkland Archives

The spirit of the early 1960’s, both at the state and national level, gave way to the community college movement—a desire to provide wider access to higher education for more Americans. That desire was realized directly as a result of two key pieces of legislation. The first was the Higher Education Facilities Act of 1963 that provided federal funds to academic institutions for building campuses and student loans. The second was the Illinois Public Junior College Act of 1965 which put in place a funding system combining state funds, local taxes, and student tuition to establish community college districts throughout Illinois. These were the seeds that created Parkland College.

In July of 1965 the East Central Illinois Steering Committee, comprised of local educational leaders, worked to establish a community college in the area. Like many community colleges, Parkland developed from a belief in the American Dream and the belief that educational attainment was the key to “making it”, “getting a piece of the pie”, and securing a share of American prosperity. It is no accident that the concern for the civil rights of minorities and the plight of less educated poor Americans developed alongside the exponential growth of comprehensive community colleges. Community colleges embraced the open admissions policy specifically to help students reach their full potential.


Parkland College began offering classes in the Fall of 1967. 1,338 students were enrolled. At first, Parkland was located in downtown Champaign. The Student Center was located at 134 West Church Street where Nitaya Thai Restaurant is now. Classrooms and offices were spread out over several buildings in the downtown area. Some classes were held at First Presbyterian Church and First Methodist Church across from West Side Park on Church Street. English composition classes were 4 credit hours offered through the Communications division, and the College used a quarter system creating a 4-course load for faculty.


SIDE NOTE: By 1970, five years after the Junior College Act of 1965 was passed, the state had 18 junior-community colleges that reorganized under the act and 17 more that were newly established for a total 35 community colleges.


Wallace, Sally Foster. (2004) Parkland Works : A 1966-2001 History [Champaign, lL.] : Parkland College Board of Trustees.

Hardin, T (1975). A History of the Community Junior College in Illinois: 1901-1972. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Krebs, P., Katsinas, S. G., & Johnson, J. L. (1999). Illinois Community Colleges: Their History and Systems. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 23 (1), 19-41.