Then and Now

Then and Now

For 50 years, WCC has remained true to the vision of its founding fathers. Hundreds of thousands of students have attended credit classes on campus or online. Thousands more have received skill training through partnerships with area employers or enrolled in a growing catalog of noncredit community enrichment and workforce development courses.

1960s and 1970s

WCC’s degree and certificate programs have always reflected the employment needs of the community it serves. In the 1960s and ‘70s, students prepared for careers in manufacturing, construction, automotive service, health, culinary arts, childcare, business and a robust skilled trades apprenticeship program.

The college was one of the first academic institutions nationwide to recognize the need for onsite childcare for students, faculty and staff. The original WCC Children’s Center opened in September 1968 in a Quonset hut on the Willow Run campus. Since September 1980 it has resided in a building designed specifically for the care and education of pre-school children.

As the war in Indochina and Vietnam came to a dramatic end in 1974, refugees sought a new life in Washtenaw County, making it the third largest refugee settlement in Michigan. WCC created programs and services to help these relocating families acclimate to their new home. Today students from 121 countries around the world attend classes on campus.

1980s and 1990s

Soaring interest and oil rates in the 1980s fueled a recession that led to an influx of WCC students. By the end of the decade the college would serve more than 10,000 credit students annually.

Greater access to college was achieved through WCC extension centers in Brighton, Chelsea, Saline and Ypsilanti in the ‘80s. Today students can attend without leaving home through a growing list of online class, degree and certificate options.

The WCC Foundation was established in December 1984 to address the financial barriers that often keep a WCC student from attaining his or her educational goal. Today, almost 800 students receive more than $467,800 in scholarship support each year.

Auto industry downsizing in the 1980s and ‘90s and its associated demand for alternative career retraining led to new degrees and certificates in computer science, pharmacy tech, robotics, corrections and visual arts. But not before 5,500 hourly and salaried workers at the General Motors Buick, Oldsmobile and Cadillac assembly plant in Willow Run, MI converged on campus for training in 1985.

And long before legislators passed the American With Disabilities Act in 1990, WCC was renovating campus to provide greater accessibility to people with disabilities. The Student Support Services office continues that work today with special emphasis on individualized support and adaptive technology in the classroom.

In 1990 WCC became home to the largest skilled trades training program in North America. For one week in August, roughly 1,100 members of The United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States, Canada (UA) learn about the latest technology in their industry and how to teach it to other members at their home locals.

In 2003 the UA established a permanent presence on campus with the opening of the Great Lakes Regional Training Center. The Great Lakes Center also serves as the hub of the UA’s distance learning operation and features interactive capabilities in all of its classrooms, including a 48-seat lecture hall.

The college’s highly regarded charter high school, the Washtenaw Technical Middle College, has won praise from state government since it opened its doors on campus in 1997. Students achieve in the top 1 percent of all high school students in Michigan, which reflects the middle college’s distinctive Reward School status.


As science and technology ushered in the new millennium, WCC infused its degrees and certificates with the necessary skills to support them, and adapted curriculum to serve the entrepreneurial nature of the new business model.

Programs in physical therapy, exercise physiology, environmental science, 3D animation, digital film and education were added to the list of career options. WCC serves more than 20,000 credit students annually who can choose from 139 degree and certificate programs.

WCC training partnerships have gone global. With specialized programs through UA University, the college provides online, credit courses to United Association member across the country, Canada, Australia and Ireland.

WCC noncredit offerings also have expanded to include a youth program at Ypsilanti’s Parkridge Community Center and summer youth camps through the Community Enrichment department.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *