Looking back 100 years.
Moving foward 100 more

SCC History. A quick overview.

When Ray Bracewell presented a proposal to the Burlington School Board in 1919 to establish the state’s second two-year college, he was at the forefront of a major movement in higher education. That simple recommendation opened a door to educational opportunities that would propel area students to attain their goals for decades to come.

And though the world has changed exponentially since Burlington Junior College (BJC) welcomed its first students in 1920, people’s needs remain the same. Serving as BJC’s first president, Bracewell cited three main reasons why one should attend the college in lieu of starting at a 4-year school in its 1925 annual report. These reasons were (1) it is more economical, (2) better instruction is offered, and (3) it provides a smooth transition from high school life to university life.

Over 100 years later, these continue to be the most common reasons why students choose SCC. 

In the beginning, BJC offered basic education courses such as chemistry, math, and English. These core classes served the needs of the college’s students, many of whom sought careers in education. 

As time went on, college leadership recognized the increasing need for career and technical education (CTE) and began to develop programs relevant to local industry so students could learn the crucial skills that would fuel America’s post-war economic boom.

That prosperity would also be a driving force for Keokuk, where visionary leaders established Keokuk Community College (KCC) as part of the city’s public school system in 1953. 

In 1965, the State of Iowa passed Senate File 550 establishing the current community college system. As community colleges consolidated into designated districts the following year, BJC and KCC merged to become Southeastern Community College (SCC).

With a refined mission and dedicated funding from the state, SCC was positioned to provide even more educational opportunities for residents throughout the region, adding 25 career education programs to support local business and industry. This would go on to serve the region as it navigated the economic crises of the ‘70s and ‘80s. 

Today, students can choose from three dozen CTE programs, including those in agriculture, automotive technology, autobody, business, education, health, IT and multimedia fields.

One area of study that continuously changes is the field of industrial technology. 

By the mid-2000s, companies in Lee County struggled to find skilled workers. They turned to SCC for help and worked together to develop a program that would meet their needs.

The result was SCC’s industrial maintenance technology program. Students can take stackable classes as they earn credentials leading to a degree. A capital campaign enabled the construction of the Industrial Technology Training Center on the Keokuk campus in 2015 to house specialized training labs for mechanical and electrical instruction where students get hands-on training.

SCC expanded its technology offerings with the addition of the only two-year animation program in Iowa, and retooled its graphic communication program to keep up to date with the business side of social media and digital communication. 

As the college continues to expand its programs, it also explores innovative ways to deliver classes. SCC helped develop the Iowa Community College Online Consortium (ICCOC). The Consortium was founded in 1999 to offer online courses and resources for seven participating Iowa community colleges.

What began with about 200 students now serves thousands of students across Iowa, averaging a third of all SCC enrollments every semester. 

In 100 years, about 100,000 students have walked through the doors of SCC with determination to make their dreams a reality. For 100 years, the college has continuously reinvented itself as part of its commitment to serve the region.

Institutional Profile

Southeastern Community College is a public institution of higher education which encompasses all of Des Moines, Henry, and Lee counties and part of Louisa county in southeast Iowa, which has a total population of approximately 100,000. SCC’s service area is bordered by the Mississippi River and Illinois on the east and Missouri on the south, and is governed by a five-member Board of Trustees elected from and by the citizens of five separate director districts.

SCC is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and is a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

In 2019, the college ranked 11th in total enrollment in the state with 3,797 students, 9th in the number of joint enrollment students and 10th in the percentage of students taking part in distance learning. SCC was 6th in the number of credit awards, 10th in student graduation rate, 9th in student transfer rate resulting in a success rate of 12th in the state.  The college was 15th in noncredit enrollment (11th in noncredit contact hours), while the region led the state in adult literacy.