Norco College, part of the Riverside Community College District (RCCD), became the 112th and newest California community college on January 29, 2010, when it received initial accreditation. But its history is really much older than that. Under the auspices of RCCD, college classes were regularly taught at various locations in Norco-Corona as early as the 1970s. Riverside Community College leaders first began to dream about a branch campus in the area at about the same time. On June 4, 1985, that dream was realized when more than 141 acres of U.S. government-owned land—the site of what would become Norco College—were acquired by RCCD for one dollar to build a satellite campus. Formal opening of what was then referred to as the RCC-Norco Campus took place in fall 1991, coinciding with the 75th anniversary of RCC. Just over 3,000 students attended classes that first semester; by 2014, the college’s enrollment had more than tripled. In that same period, the college’s full-time faculty grew sevenfold. Some of the professors who greeted students in August 1991 still teach at the college—and some students from the 90s are now Norco College professors.
Norco College was initially envisioned as an institution that would emphasize programs in technology, a counterpart to its sister campus Moreno Valley’s focus on the health care fields. Among its first structures were the Science and Technology Building, the Applied Technology Building, and the Center for Applied Competitive Technology; more recently, in 2009, the Industrial Technology Building was constructed. The college now offers over 40 career-technical education programs, including Logistic Management, Game Development, and Pre-Engineering, Engineering Technology, supported in part from a series of federal grants including an NSF (National Science Foundation) grant and STEM-related grants totaling nearly 15 million dollars. Nearly 200 students received CTE certificates in 2013-14, representing 25 different programs.
Now an Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI), the college has also developed a strong reputation as a comprehensive community college offering numerous Associate Degree for transfer programs in fields ranging from Spanish and sociology to business administration and computer science. In 2014, 785 students received an A.A. or A.S. degree from Norco College. More than 800 students transferred from the college to a four-year university this past year.
In a recent Community College Survey of Student Engagement, Norco students rated the college more highly than did students at other peer institutions in many areas, like encouraging collaborative learning and promoting contact with students from different economic, social, and racial or ethnic backgrounds. In the same survey, more than 90% of Norco students said they would recommend the college to a friend or family member. Norco College has always been a special place to work, teach, or learn, a place that puts students—and student success—first. The college is large enough to permit almost anyone to find a course or program to fit their needs. But it remains in many ways the same intimate, collegial place it was in 1991, when its doors first opened.