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About Hawai'i CC - History of the College

Hawaiʻi Community College celebrated its 75th anniversary during academic year 2015–2016.

The Territorial Legislature established the college in 1941 as the Hawaiʻi Vocational School, beginning with five trades programs—automotive mechanics, carpentry, apparel trades, machine shop and sheet metal and welding. There were 183 students enrolled the first year.

Currently, there are nearly 3,000 students enrolled in 26 programs, and the college opened a new branch campus in Kona in Fall 2015 called Hawaiʻi Community College–Pālamanui.



Hawaiʻi CC celebrated its 75th anniversary during annual campus events in academic year 2015-2016. One of the main celebratory events was the Hawaiʻi Community College Alumni and Friends Scholarship Fundraiser and 75th Anniversary Celebration on Saturday, November 7, 2015 in Hilo. The event included a silent auction, door prizes and entertainment, including a vintage fashion show by Hana Hou. Proceeds helped Hawaiʻi CC Alumni and Friends establish an endowment to provide student scholarships.



When it was founded, the Hawaiʻi Vocational School offered programs at the campuses of Hilo Union, Hilo Intermediate and Hilo High Schools. It was relocated to a single campus near Reeds Bay in Hilo in 1943. In 1953 and in 1956 seismic wave action heavily damaged many of the shops and classrooms.

The growing needs of the community and the requirement for a safer location prompted the construction of the present campus at Kāwili and Manono streets. Construction began in 1952, and the campus was completed in 1956. It was renamed the Hawaiʻi Technical School the same year, reflecting the expansion into broader fields of technical training.

The changes in the facilities were paralleled by the growth of new programs during the period following World War II that were designed to meet the expanding needs of business and industry.

The beginning of several programs

  • 1947: Diesel mechanics
  • 1951: Architectural drafting
  • 1952: Food service
  • 1955: Electricity
  • 1958: Business education
  • 1966: Auto body repair and painting, electronics and practical nursing
  • 1972: Agriculture
  • 1974: Associate degree nursing

The number of programs has steadily expanded throughout the years, and now Hawaiʻi CC offers 26 degree and certificate programs.

The 1969 State Legislature transferred the administration of the school from the Department of Education to the University of Hawaiʻi. The school became part of the University of Hawaiʻi Community College System, and as of May 1, 1970 was renamed Hawaiʻi Community College.

To meet the needs of West Hawaiʻi, Hawaiʻi Community College began offering programs in West Hawaiʻi in 1982.

In fall 2015, a new branch campus called Hawaiʻi Community College–Pālamanui opened in Kona to serve West Hawaiʻi. The state-of-the-art, sustainably designed campus offers certificates and associate degrees, and also delivers bachelor’s and graduate degrees from campuses across the University of Hawaiʻi system.