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NORTH HARRIS MONTGOMERY COMMUNITY COLLEGE DISTRICT

NORTH HARRIS MONTGOMERY COMMUNITY COLLEGE DISTRICT. In 1972 voters in the Aldine, Spring, and Humble independent school districts in the north central reaches of Harris County established North Harris County College, the forerunner of the North Harris Montgomery Community College District, a two-year community college system. The college changed its name in 1991, when the district expanded into Montgomery County to the north. The district currently receives tax support from eleven local school districts: Aldine, Spring, Humble, Tomball, New Caney, Conroe, Willis, Splendora, Klein, Cypress-Fairbanks, and Magnolia. State money from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Texas Education Agency,qqv student tuition and fees, and some federal and county funds supplement local school-district funding. Four colleges compose the system: North Harris College near Houston Intercontinental Airport, Kingwood College off Highway 59 near Kingwood, Tomball College on state highway 249 in Tomball, and Montgomery College off Interstate 45 and State Highway 242 north of the Woodlands. A fifth, Cy-Fair College, is scheduled to open in the fall of 2003 on a 200-acre site at Barker-Cypress and West Road. Over 19,000 students enroll in credit courses district-wide, and another 30,000 participate annually in noncredit community education courses and programs. The college's growth has been phenomenal considering its humble beginnings in the early 1970s.

The establishment of the original 254-square-mile college district in October 1972 corresponded with the transformation of north Harris County from a largely rural dairy and vegetable farming area to one of the fastest growing commercial centers and residential suburbs in the country. Concerned about the paucity of higher educational facilities north of Buffalo Bayou, residents of north Harris County, such as Spring school district superintendent John A. Winship, began a grassroots movement in the early 1960s to establish a college there. Feasibility studies, petition drives, and the securing of Texas Coordinating Board approval for the project paved the way for the 1972 election and subsequent setting of a tax rate, passage of an initial $6.5 million in construction bonds, and selection of a seven-member board of trustees to oversee the college's operation. Charter trustee members Lawrence K. Adams, Floyd Hoffman, H. J. Doering, E. M. Wells, Charles W. Philipp, W. E. Crozier, and Hugh E. Dugan appointed William W. Thorne, Aldine school superintendent and an active supporter of the college project from its beginnings, as the institution's first president. The following fall, Thorne and his fifteen-member instructional and administrative staff welcomed 613 students to classes meeting in the evening at Aldine High School. Ten years later, Chancellor Joe A. Airola, selected after Thorne's retirement to preside over the development of a multicampus system, reported a faculty numbering nearly 200 and a student enrollment of more than 10,000 in credit courses and 9,000 in noncredit continuing-education courses. In that same time period, the college tax base had grown at least 500 percent, as urban sprawl brought commercial and residential development as well as a population growth of half a million to the college service area.

As the college district approached its twentieth year of operation, Airola's successor, John A. Pickelman, reported the employment of over 300 full-time faculty members, a similar number of full-time staff members, and a student credit enrollment of nearly 20,000. By then the college service area had expanded to encompass all of northern Harris County and neighboring Montgomery County. In 1997 a university center, developed in partnership with area universities, opened on the Montgomery College campus to facilitate further public access in the area to higher education. In the fall of 1999 Kingwood College had a faculty of 245 and a student enrollment of 3,911; Montgomery College had a faculty of 268 and a student enrollment of 5,170; North Harris College had a faculty of 522 and a student enrollment of 9,380; and Tomball College had a faculty of 250 and a student enrollment of 4,664.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Marilyn D. Rhinehart, "Country to City: North Harris County College and the Changing Scene in Gulf Coast East Texas," Houston Review 4 (Winter 1982). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Marilyn D. Rhinehart

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Marilyn D. Rhinehart, "NORTH HARRIS MONTGOMERY COMMUNITY COLLEGE DISTRICT," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/kcn05), accessed September 19, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.