If there is one institution that epitomizes the past and present of the Santa Clarita Valley, College of the Canyons is that institution. In the late 1960s, residents of this valley, which was then a sleepy location hardly recognizable from the fast-paced metropolis it is today, voted for the creation of a junior college. The voting took place in 1967, the very same year in which the master-planned community of Valencia was beginning to take shape.
The college was initially known as the Santa Clarita Valley Junior College District and it opened its doors to the first batch of students in September 1969. The first campus was located inside Hart High School and, while this allowed the college to commence activities immediately, it also limited the college’s ability to offer its desired full-range of academic services since classes could only be conducted late in the afternoon as high school students would be using the college rooms the rest of the time.
Real construction began in 1972 with funds raised through a bond issue. Some of the buildings envisaged in the college’s original master-plan were not erected immediately but important buildings such as the laboratory center, the instruction resource center and the physical education center, among others, were built. Expansion followed through the years and culminated in the construction of the Physical Education Complex in 1976. While the college admitted only 735 students in its first year, enrollments have continued to grow over the years and by 1974, it was admitting more than 2500 students.
The two words that describe the academic programs are ambitious and comprehensive. Ambitious because the school started without a physical structure it could call its own, yet comprehensive because it started with more than 150 diverse classes. Some of the courses that were offered at the college’s inception included art, anthropology, music, engineering, health education, political science, chemistry, astronomy and business. These courses and a host of new additions are available today.
The modern student seeking quality and relevant education is well served by the courses offered at the college. Several degree and certificate programs in marketable courses such as computer science and engineering are offered. The computer science department offers certificate and degree programs in courses such as computer electronics and computer network certification.
Students beginning their degree course have over the years successfully transferred to four-year colleges and universities. The three main institutions that the college’s graduates transfer to are the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), the University of California San Diego (UCSD) and the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB).
A partnership with Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook University Center the enables students to enroll in graduate level and upper division academic programs while still at the college.
Some of the partnering institutions include the American College, Brandman University, California State University, Northridge, California State University, Los Angeles and California State University, Bakersfield (CSUB). Partnership with various institutions also means that the variety of courses that a student has access to is also extremely varied.
Most Popular Fields of Study
Admissions are open and non-competitive. New students are required to take the college’s Computerized Placement Tests (CPTs). These tests have been designed to test the skills of the applicant in writing, reading and mathematics and are used to determine the writing, reading and mathematics courses that are ideal for the student. Students who have attended the college in the past and wish to resume studies at the college are required to re-apply afresh if more than a full semester has elapsed since they left.
Students have many sources of financial aid. A student could apply for federal grants (such as Pell Grants and the Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants). The supplemental grants are meant to relieve the financial obligations of low-income students whose financial needs are considered exceptional. The California Student Aid Commission also offers grants to needy students – the Cal Grants.
Apart from grants (which do not have to be repaid), there are low-interest student loans which are supported by the federal government and whose repayment terms are flexible. Students can also apply for work study programs which enable the student to pursue studies while working part-time. Other forms of financial aid available to students include scholarships and the Board of Governors Enrollment Fee Waiver (a program that gives the board of governors the power to waive enrollment fees for qualified students).
To obtain financial aid, a student is required to apply through the U.S. Department of Education’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). To continue benefiting from financial aid, a student is required to re-apply each year. In each application, the student has to demonstrate that he or she has financial needs that would hamper their ability to effectively pay through college.
Financial aid is tied to satisfactory academic progress and students who fail to meet the academic progress threshold fail to obtain such aid. To qualify, a student has to maintain a cumulative grade point average of 2.0 and to complete a minimum of 67% of all units attempted. Moreover, the student is required to finish his or her educational objective within 150% of the maximum allowable units.
There are many scholarships available for students such as the Val Verde Community Scholarship (donated by the Val Verde Community Foundation). Beneficiaries of this scholarship obtain up to $4,000 in aid but they are required to be residents of the Val Verde community whose grade point average is 2.5. Others include the Abbott & Fenner Essay Scholarship ($1,000), the Latino College Dollars for Latino students and the Hispanic College Fund.
The variety of financial aid sources means that a needy student will most likely obtain desired aid. To improve the chances of obtaining aid, it is always advisable to make an early application as the number of applicants usually exceeds the amounts available for disbursement.
Students have a say in the way the college is run through the Associated Student Government, a body that exists to promote student welfare. Among its many objectives, this student body is expected to guarantee equality of opportunity among students and to present student views to the college administration.
The activities of student clubs and organizations are governed by the Students Development Office and, while there are in excess of 30 clubs and organizations that a student could join, the college encourages students to develop new clubs, organizations and special interest groups.
Students with various physical challenges are taken care of by the Disabled Student Programs and Services (DSP&S). For the visually impaired, this department ensures that alternate media is available such as Braille, electronic text, books on tape or providing material in large print.
Student Enrollment Demographics
Physical activity is an integral part of student activity and the college is home to many state-of-the art sporting facilities. Some of these include the Cougar Cage, a 3,000-seat gymnasium that is used by the basketball and volleyball teams.
Cougar Stadium, which was built in 1969 (but has benefited from many face lifts over the years) has a seating capacity of 7,500 and is home to the college’s football team. It is also used by the college’s men’s and women’s soccer teams as well as the field and track teams. The college’s swimming pool has a seating capacity if 250 and is home to the swimming and diving teams. Other facilities include the Cougar Field (used by the baseball team) and the Soccer Field (used mainly for games played during the day).
Athletic students have a total of 16 teams to choose from. One such team is the women’s basketball team which by 2010 had won five consecutive Western Conference Championships. The college’s baseball team has also been one of the teams to beat in the Western State Conference.
Additional School Information
To serve the Santa Clarita community, the college runs the Small Business Development Center whose mandate is to offer free assistance and guidance to emerging businesses. Similar services are offered by the college’s Advanced Technology Business Incubator which serves start-ups with the intention of turning them into profitable enterprises.
Local businesses are also assisted by the college’s Employee Training Institute which offers custom-made training to improve the competitiveness of these businesses. To address the needs of California’s manufacturing industry, the school runs the Center for Applied Competitive Technologies (CACT) whose prime aim is to make these industries competitive in a globalized economy.
Elisabeth Bailey is a freelance writer and editor with particular interests in academics, food,and sustainability . She is also the author of A Taste of the Maritimes: Local, Seasonal Recipes the Whole Year Round and writes regularly for Canadian Farmers’ Almanac and the National Wildlife Federation. Elisabeth and her family live and enjoy great local food in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.