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Illinois Community College Board is proudly serving the Illinois Community College System


(Author: Ivan Lach, 1998)

Illinois is prominently identified with the early history of the community and junior college movement in the United States. Joliet Junior College, established in 1901, is the first public junior college in the nation. Illinois adopted its first junior college legislation in 1931, which permitted the Board of Education of Chicago to establish, manage, and provide for the maintenance of one junior college offering two years of college work beyond the high school level as part of the public school system of the city.

The first Junior College Act became law on July 1, 1937, and provided for the development of the junior college system as a part of the public school system. It made no provision for the charging of tuition, nor did it stipulate that educational opportunities available through the junior colleges would be provided without charge to the students. Other provisions of the law allowed establishment of junior colleges by board resolution in districts with a population between 25,000 and 250,000, establishment of junior colleges in smaller districts by referendum, and validation of all operating districts established prior to 1937.

In 1943 legislation was adopted to hold referenda to set separate tax rates for both education and building funds to support junior college operations. State funding for junior colleges, however, was not established until 1955. Seven new public junior colleges were established in Illinois between 1955 and 1962, bringing the total to 18. Rock Island, Moline, and East Moline joined to form Black Hawk College in 1961, the first junior college created separate from a common school district.

In 1951 the Illinois General Assembly enacted legislation setting forth standards and procedures for establishing junior colleges. This action repealed the legislation that allowed establishment of junior colleges in districts with population in excess of 25,000 by action of a resolution of the board of education. In 1959 separate junior college districts were authorized by allowing any compact and contiguous territory to be organized as a junior college district with an elected board of education with authority to maintain and operate the college and levy taxes for its operation. State funding for junior college operations was first appropriated in 1955.

As a result of recommendations of the Commission of Higher Education, legislation was adopted in 1961 creating the Illinois Board of Higher Education. According to the legislation, the Illinois Board of Higher Education had responsibility for conducting comprehensive studies on higher education needs; development of information systems; approval of new units of instruction, research, or public service in all public colleges and universities; budget review of public colleges and universities, with recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly; approval of all capital improvements; surveys and evaluation of higher education; and preparation of "a master plan for the development, expansion, integration, coordination, and efficient utilization of the facilities, curricula, and standards of higher education in the areas of teaching, research, and public service." Although junior colleges were legally under the jurisdiction of the superintendent of public instruction at this time, a section of the enabling legislation for the Illinois Board of Higher Education contained the following statement concerning junior colleges:

In the formulation of a master plan of higher education and in the discharge of its duties under this act, the board shall give consideration to the problems and attitudes of junior they relate to the overall policies and problems of higher education.

In July 1964 the final draft of the higher education master plan was published. As a result, the Junior College Act of 1965, the foundation for today's system of public community colleges in Illinois, was adopted. The act contained the following key provisions:

  • Provided that the junior colleges come under the jurisdiction of the Illinois Board of Higher Education rather than remaining part of the common school system.
  • Provided for establishment of a system of locally initiated and administered comprehensive Class I junior college districts.
  • Mandated that on August 1, 1965, all junior colleges operating in school districts where separate educational and building fund tax levies had been established for the college become separate junior colleges, classified as Class II districts.
  • Provided that school districts operating a junior college without a separate tax could continue to maintain the program as grades 13 and 14.
  • Set forth procedures for converting Class II districts to Class I districts.
  • Created a legal base for the establishment of public comprehensive districts with locally elected boards in a system coordinated and regulated by a State Junior College Board, which in turn related to the Illinois Board of Higher Education, as did the governing boards of the other public colleges and universities.
  • Set forth the powers and duties of the Illinois Board of Higher Education, the Illinois Junior College Board, and the boards of the local junior college districts as individual entities and in relation to each other. Included provisions for local-state sharing of capital funding, acquisition of sites, operational funding, and annexations and disconnections of territory.
  • Made local and state financial support for junior college attendance applicable to all Illinois residents, whether they resided within the boundaries of a junior college or not.

On July 15, 1965, the Junior College Act became effective; and on August 1 the school boards of districts operating junior colleges with separate educational and building rates became the boards of the newly constituted Class II districts. Also in August 1965 Governor Kerner appointed nine members of the first Illinois Junior College Board. In 1973, the term "junior" was changed to "community" in statute.

Currently, there are 40 public community college districts composed of 49 colleges. Thirty-eight of the districts have a single college while two districts are multicollege. Since July 1990, the entire state has been included within community college district boundaries.


The mission of the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB), as the state coordinating board for community colleges, is to administer the Public Community College Act in a manner that maximizes the ability of the community colleges to serve their communities, promotes collaboration within the system, and accommodates those state initiatives that are appropriate for community colleges.

In carrying out its mission, the ICCB affirms its commitment to the "educational development of all persons to the limit of their capacities" as established in the Illinois Constitution. The ICCB further affirms its commitment to providing leadership and direction to the community college system in ways that maximize local autonomy but which assure that each local institution is allowed an equal chance of success.

The ICCB accepts its role as a coordinating agency and believes that, in this role, it is an integral partner with local boards of trustees in providing a framework for successful learning experiences for all Illinois residents. The ICCB commits itself to the following principles in implementing its coordinating responsibilities for the community college system.

  • Society's values can and must be shaped and revised by community colleges, where leadership, integrity, humanity, dignity, pride, and caring are purposefully taught and modeled.
  • The focus of all activities within the system should be quality and excellence.
  • Expressions and manifestations of bigotry, prejudice, and denigration of character are intolerable in the Illinois community college system.
  • Experiences of community college students should be directed at developing each individual into an informed, responsible, and contributing citizen.
  • No individual is inherently more important than another, and each must be provided an equal opportunity to achieve success regardless of heritage or environmental condition.
  • The Illinois community college system has a responsibility to assist communities in identifying and solving those problems that undermine and destroy the fibre of the community.
  • The Illinois community college system has a responsibility to be accountable, both for its activities and its stewardship of public funds.

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