Community colleges, also called junior colleges, had operated in Washington since 1915. Until 1961, state law prohibited a two-year school in a county that already had a four-year school. School districts established community colleges as part of their adult education programs.
The University of Washington played an important role in the bill. President Charles Odegaard (1911-1999) and Dean of the College of Education Frederic Giles helped create support for a state-wide system of community colleges to increase access to higher education.
In 1965, the state commissioned a study of the community college system by the Arthur D. Little Co. Little made recommendations that resulted in the bill that was passed. However, instead of reimbursing the school districts for their expenses of establishing community colleges, the state made partial payments. Seattle received $5.9 million and Bellevue received $1.1 million. Also, the school districts were allowed to retain control of vocation and technical programs if they chose to.