On October 2, 1933, Vancouver Junior College opens its doors in a former boarding house with 25 students enrolled in the fifth junior college in Washington. Tuition was $45 a quarter or $110 for the entire year if paid in advance, and slightly more for fine arts and business students. The state is not yet providing financial support to junior colleges, so Vancouver Junior College is the creature of its six faculty members and a local association of civic and business leaders. Money raised by the association augments funds gained through tuition. Six weeks after opening, the fledgling school will change its name to Clark Junior College.
A New Concept
When Clark opened, the state restricted junior colleges to counties that did not have four-year colleges or universities. The other four junior colleges were in Centralia (established in 1925), Mount Vernon (1926), Yakima (1928), and Aberdeen (1930). In 1961, the Washington's policies toward junior colleges changed. They were designated community colleges and given more support and autonomy. Today, the state of Washington has 29 community colleges and five vocational or technical institutes, in addition to its four-year schools.
Clark’s first dean was Robert T. Oliver (1909-2000), who also taught English. After two years, Oliver moved on to author several books on Korea. He became an expert on Korea and a close friend of Syngman Rhee, first president of South Korea. He advised Korea's United Nations delegation.
At Clark, Oliver was replaced in 1935 as top academic officer by Lewis Cannell, (1908-2001), who stayed at the school for 35 years as Clark grew and moved its operation five times before opening its present campus in 1958. Cannell retired in 1970 as dean of instruction.
By its 75th anniversary in 2008, Clark College had a total enrollment of nearly 13,000 students, including full-time, part-time, day, night, and vocational students. Besides its main 101-acre campus in central Vancouver, the school by 2008 had operations at Washington State University’s Vancouver branch and in a former shopping center and was building an east county campus that was to open in 2009.