On April 6, 2020, Collin College celebrated its 35th anniversary of the election to establish the college. This year’s celebration looked much different than those in the past. Dr. Neil Matkin, Collin College District President states, “We had barbeque luncheons planned for all faculty, staff and students on April 6, our Founder’s Day. Unfortunately, we had to postpone our celebrations. We also had to postpone our major graduation ceremonies and many pinnings and celebrations. We have some ideas about how to celebrate as our circumstances improve, but I’m not quite ready to let the cat out of the bag!”
Founded in 1985, Collin College offered its first classes at local high schools, with just 1,326 students enrolled. “We had to get a petition of voters in Collin County. We organized a committee of 100 citizens who then went throughout the county getting signatures. We had a lot of support already built for it. Then we got approval from the Legislature and we put the college, all of the candidates for the Board, and a bond package on the ballot. Everything passed and we elected nine members of the Board,” states Dr. J. Robert Collins, Founding Trustee and Collin College Board Chairman. At the time, “approximately 1,300 students were enrolled in five area high schools for evening courses only. Books were sold on sight – sometimes out of the trunk of a staff member’s car. Registration was held in high school cafeterias using “green bar” computer printouts. and all faculty were part-time. There was a tremendous esprit de corps among the faculty and staff,” reflects Dr. Toni P. Jenkins, Senior Vice President for Campus Operations. The palpable feeling of pride and fellowship among the faculty and students continued into their new building.
In the spring of 1986, the college moved into its first building at the McKinney Campus. Since then, the college has increased to assist more than 59,000 credit and continuing education students annually. Collin College offers more than 155 degrees and certifications. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) recently approved the college’s level change application from a Level I Institution, granting two-year degrees, to a Level II Institution, granting four-year degrees and certifications. “Collin College also partners with five universities at the Collin Higher Education Center in McKinney. Those universities offer 14 baccalaureate, 10 master’s and two doctoral degrees with the convenience of being right here in the center of Collin County,” states Dr. Matkin. Earlier this year, Collin College offered its first two baccalaureate degrees: A Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a Bachelor of Applied Technology in Cybersecurity. Dr. Neil Matkin also stated plans for a third baccalaureate program at Collin College are in development. “What the college is doing in terms of workforce education is truly creating brighter futures for students and their families. We are identifying clear pathways to career fields in areas with high need and earning potential. The need for careers in collision technology, biomedical equipment technology, welding, automotive technology and veterinary technology offer multiple employment opportunities in the local community for many years to come,” states Dr. Jenkins.
The vision of Collin College is to deliver a brighter future for their students and community. Dr. Matkin expands on the vision stating, “There are a lot of positive statistics that speak to the benefits of higher education and having a robust college-going community, like higher lifetime earnings, more civic engagement, lower crime rates and greater opportunities for advancement, to name just a few. Collin College is proud of its 35-year history of serving this region and we are most proud of the partnerships we have formed during this time. We work to deliver a seamless experience focused on helping each student reach his or her goals. Our partnerships with area universities and four-year institutions far from our region are designed to accommodate seamless transfers. A student can come to Collin College and transfer to any number of universities, all while enjoying the lowest tuition in the state, coupled with the highest quality instruction ensured by outstanding faculty. Our view of a brighter future includes less student debt as we work hard to keep our tuition and fees low. We also partner with all of our K-12 schools to provide college credit opportunities for students still in high school. This is another great way to reduce the costs of a college education. Lastly, we partner with area hospitals, businesses and industries to provide training for those students and professionals who desire to earn certificates or associate degrees and go into the workforce sooner.”
Currently Collin College has three campuses and five centers: Allen Center, McKinney Campus, Collin Higher Education Center, Courtyard Center, Frisco Campus, Plano Campus, Public Safety Training Center, and the Rockwall Center. Opening this fall is the new Wylie Campus, located at 391 Country Club Road in Wylie, as well as the Technical Campus, located at 2550 Bending Brach Way in Allen, where the Allen Dual Credit Center, in partnership with Allen ISD, will be relocated. The Technical Campus will offer several new programs, including Automotive Technology, Collision Technology, Industrial Automation and Biomedical Equipment Technology. In 2021 the college is planning to open campuses in Celina and Farmersville, as well as an IT Center located at the Frisco Campus.
Currently Collin College has more than 2,500 faculty and administrators. The faculty includes four U.S. Professors of the Year, four Texas Professors of the Year and seven Minnie Stevens Piper Professors.
Dr. Matkin reflects on the evolution of the college by saying, “When you think of the phenomenal growth of the college – and the entire service region for that matter – it is easy to see that Collin College is committed to providing convenient access for our students, regardless of location. With new programming, the extension of services at new locations, and vibrant partnerships, Collin College is poised to help students reach their academic and career goals while also providing knowledgeable and skilled talent within our local economy.”
Dr. J. Robert Collins recalls, “One thing we’ve always been blessed with is a good vision in our Board and in our college. How do we excel in this environment? How do we become the very best? I’ll never forget, we told Dr. John Anthony, the first president of Collin College, when he first came in (and we’ve told this to every president), ‘John, we’re not interested in becoming the best college in Texas. We want to be the best college in the United States.’ And that is still our objective.” Dr. Jenkins continued with similar sentiments, stating Collin College’s growth trajectory has been amazing for 35 years and he expects this to continue for many years to come.
Lauren Greci is a former award-winning teacher and local freelance writer with a zeal for God, family, food and friends.