Portland Community College began as the adult education program of the Portland Public Schools. On May 15, 1961, the school district established the college as a separately operating entity. Because the college included students from many areas outside the Portland school district, the school board appointed an advisory council in 1965 to supervise the college and to give representation to areas beyond the school district boundaries.
As the advisory council and the school board developed programs and plans for the rapidly growing college, it became evident that the college needed to be a separate governmental unit with its own elected board to represent the Portland and its entire surrounding communities. In 1968, voters of the five-county area approved the formation of a new college district named the “Metropolitan Area Education District.” It included the school districts of Portland, Sauvie Island and Riverdale in Multnomah County; Lake Oswego in Clackamas County; St. Helens, Scappoose and Vernonia school districts in Columbia County; Newberg school district in Yamhill County; and all of Washington County.
At this time the voters also elected the first college board of directors and approved a tax base, providing the college with funds for the local share of operation and building construction. In 1971, the name of the district was changed to “Portland Community College District.”
District residents showed continuing support for the college in 1980, and again in 1986, as they voted to increase the PCC tax base. Enrollment growth of 25 percent since 1986 led voters to approve a $61.4 million bond measure in 1992 to expand facilities at all campuses, and repair and upgrade existing buildings. In 2000, voters approved another bond measure for $144 million. As a result of the bond measure, the college opened new buildings at its three comprehensive campuses (Sylvania, Cascade and Rock Creek) in 2003 and 2004, and unveiled the new Southeast Center on SE 82nd and Division in 2004. PCC joined other community colleges and universities from around the country in signing a national climate initiative that launched the college’s climate action plan to reduce its carbon footprint. In 2008, area voters approved a $374 million bond measure, at that time, the largest ever in the state of Oregon, to improve technology, meet workforce demand needs and address rising enrollment. Willow Creek Center was the first building constructed as a result of this bond planning and work began all across the district in 2010-2011.
The Newberg Center, also funded by the 2008 bond measure, began offering classes in its temporary space in fall 2010. Its permanent site opened in fall 2011, providing Yamhill County with a 12,000 square-foot education and community space. It is recognized as one of the most sustainable educational buildings in the nation, with solar panels, natural cooling and heating systems and natural lighting. During the 2011-2012 school year, PCC celebrated its 50th year of serving local communities with celebrations across the district, recognition of 50 distinguished alumni, and the accomplishment of 50,000 hours of community service work. In 2014, the college championed both the transformation of the Southeast Campus into its fourth comprehensive campus, and the opening of the Swan Island Trades Center, which helps to coordinate continuing education, training, retraining and professional development for Swan Island businesses.