The Seattle Colleges serve all of metropolitan Seattle and its surrounding communities, and comprise the largest
community college district in the state, educating more than 50,000 students each year.
The first classes were held in the Edison Vocational Technical Institute on Capitol Hill, when "Seattle Community College" —
now Seattle Central College — opened in 1966 as part of the public school system.
The State Community College Act of 1967 established college districts apart from the public schools, with a mandate to provide
"an open door to education" for all who seek it. A long-range plan called for three campuses in the city, and planning began
immediately for North Seattle College and South Seattle College.
By September 1970, all three colleges opened together for the first time as a multi-campus district. Seattle Vocational Institute,
affiliated with Central, joined the district in 1991 under the state’s Work Force Training and Education Act. The district also
includes four specialized training centers located throughout the city:
Students choose from an array of more than 135 academic and career-technical programs, the largest number in the state.
The curriculum has led the way as the Puget Sound area moved from a manufacturing and resource-based economy to information-based
Like the region, the college population is dynamic. The student body is the most diverse in the Northwest, reflecting nearly 80
different languages spoken in homes throughout the city.
By design, each of the colleges reflects its community. While the colleges are an integral part of their neighborhoods and offer
certain unique educational programs, all are comprehensive and offer programs in college transfer, professional-technical training,
adult basic education, and continuing education.
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Green for the 21st Century in Seattle
Innovations in curriculum and operations have earned the 2009 Green Washington Award for the Seattle Colleges
– Central, North and South. All three colleges are active members of the Seattle Climate Partnership and North was an
early signer of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment. A district-wide Chancellor’s
Sustainability Initiative provides energy, focus and a forum for emerging training and initiatives.
Sustainability is infused into programs ranging from urban agriculture at Central to environmental science,
real estate and building management across the district. Students have funded a sustainability coordinator.
Campus activities include reducing the carbon footprint and promoting recycling and energy conservation, which earned
a “Recycler of the Year” award for South. Last year, the college culinary operations diverted 31 tons of
materials to a regional composting facility – which returned the compost to “green” the college landscape.
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Helping displaced workers to
‘Start Next Quarter’
During the economic downturn, thousands of displaced workers turned to the Seattle Colleges at the same
time regional employers reported a need for skilled workers to fill jobs in the new economy. To help both potential
workers and employers, the Seattle Colleges developed Start Next Quarter (SNQ), a two-part initiative
designed to improve the success of dislocated workers who enroll in technical education programs. SNQ invites
prospective students to assess their eligibility for workforce funding online and connects them to a comprehensive
two-day college success workshop held at each campus. The workshops are based on a model developed at one of the
district campuses. Students who complete the workshop are more likely to complete their training programs and to
obtain jobs using their new skills. The project was developed in part through a grant from the League for Innovation,
funded by the Walmart Foundation Bright Futures project to serve displaced workers.
A Model for the Region
The Opportunity Center for Employment and Education at North Seattle College is a regional resource and
the first integrated service center of its kind in Washington state. Since the OCE&E opened its doors in spring 2011,
more than 40,000 people have come for one-stop help in finding a new job, career retraining or to sign up for public
assistance benefits. Founding partners were the state Departments of Social and Health Services and Employment
Security, the college, and the Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County. The campus and the new LEED
Gold Certified 45,000-square foot facility are in the heart of Seattle’s north end and close to a major transit hub.
House Speaker Frank Chopp and Rep. Phyllis Gutierrez Kenney (sponsor of the legislation and a former Seattle District trustee)
championed the OCE&E in the state legislature. The center aims to provide streamlined services in a positive environment,
helping clients succeed in the next stage of their lives.