Linn-Benton Community College was established in 1966 as a two-year public college to serve the educational needs of residents in Linn and Benton counties. The college is supported by tuition, local property taxes and state revenue, and is directed by an elected, seven-member board of education.
Though informal discussions about establishing a community college in the Linn County area began in the late 1950s, it wasn't until the Linn County Chamber of Commerce commissioned a feasibility study through the University of Oregon's Bureau of Educational Research in 1964 that the ball really got rolling. The study showed that post-secondary high school educational opportunities in the area were inadequate and that many junior and senior high school students would be interested in attending a local community college.
To provide a wider economic base for the proposed college, Linn County enlisted the support of Benton County leaders and a two-county steering committee was created to promote the founding of a community college in the mid-Willamette Valley. By a referendum on December 6, 1966, Linn and Benton County voters approved formation of the Linn-Benton Community College district by a vote of 3,742 to 1,702. Despite a rainy and windy election day, 15 percent of the voters cast ballots, in contrast to previous averages of three percent for such elections.
Voters also elected the first LBCC Board of Education: Dan L. Ashton representing Sweet Home - Zone I; Russell W. Tripp, Albany - Zone II; Ken J. Purdy, Scio - Zone III; Glen Huston, Lebanon - Zone IV; Robert I. Hadland, Shedd - Zone V; and Herbert Hammond and Loren J. Smith representing Corvallis - Zones VI and VII.
Things progressed swiftly after the vote. The Board of Education selected Dr. Eldon Guy Schafer as LBCC's first president in April 1967. Three months later, college headquarters was established in the former Capital Business College building on the corner of First and Ellsworth streets in Albany. A full-time staff of about 12 raced to prepare the college for its first classes. Beginning in September, evening-only classes were held in 30 leased, begged or borrowed facilities in various locations throughout the district.
The building downtown housed college administration offices, guidance and counseling offices, job placement services, library and learning resources center, and a bookstore on the second floor. There was no elevator, and freight delivers, being union contracted, were not allowed to bring the books upstairs. Bookstore staff had to carry them up. College administrators served as advisors and assisted with registration.
The first daytime classes started September 25,1967 as LBCC began its first year of full-time operation. Classes were held in various locations throughout the district in borrowed or rented facilities. Automotive classes, for example, were held at 2nd and Oak Street in Lebanon in a former car dealership. Transfer courses were held at Albany Union High School. A local restaurant served as the college center.
Students choose from more than 140 classes in the areas of vocational/technical, college transfer and adult enrichment. Six occupational programs were offered, including the sewage waste treatment program, described as the "first of its kind offered in the country." Other vocational/technical majors offered included grain, feed and farm supply; business management; bookkeeping/clerical; secretarial; data processing; nurse's aid; home management; auto mechanics; industrial mechanics; industrial and business supervisory training; certified welding; and occupational law enforcement. The college offered two, two-year degrees: associates of arts transfer degree, and an associate of science degree for occupational training in business management. 19 lower division transfer courses were offered in business, art, economics, writing, speech, psychology, history, sociology, math and science.
Full-time tuition was $5 per credit for Linn and Benton County residents, or $60 per term, $9.20 or Oregon residents living outside the counties, and $17 per credit for out-of-state residents. FTE totaled 283.
The first student to register at LBCC was 23-year-old Mike Howells, a 1962 graduate of Albany Union High School (now West Albany HS). Howells registered for 13 credits in psychology, English, business and history.