College History

Connecting People with the Power of Education since 1966

Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) legacy of dramatically widening access to education for Central Iowans started almost immediately after the College began on March 18, 1966, as a vocational and technical learning center in metro Des Moines.

Humble Beginnings

A few months after DMACC was founded, the board named Paul Lowery as its first superintendent. Lowery and his small staff launched the first vocational training programs. They also did the critical work of building relationships with various constituencies—community organizations, businesses, high schools and student populations, to name a few—that even today help DMACC keep pace with evolving educational needs.

Rapid Expansion

DMACC spent the 1960s and 1970s establishing its main campus in Ankeny (1968) and starting to expand. Its second campus was founded in Boone in 1969 when DMACC purchased the former Boone Junior College. Urban Campus was added in 1973 followed by Carroll in 1979, Newton in 1993 and West in 2001.  Along the way, DMACC created hundreds of jobs working for the College, invested  millions of dollars in construction and renovation, and grew its catalog of courses, each driven by a need in the community.

The Rise of Affordability

Starting in the late 1980s, the escalating price of a four-year college education caused students to seek more affordable alternatives. DMACC responded by offering a set of core classes in the arts and sciences that virtually every four-year college degree requires. Students saved thousands in tuition costs by taking those core courses at DMACC during their freshman and sophomore years before transferring  to four-year colleges to take advanced, major-specific courses during their junior and senior years.

Ahead of the Blue-Collar Renaissance

Even as DMACC changed to meet the demands of liberal arts transfer students through benefits such as increased on-campus amenities—housing, recreation centers, student clubs and the like—the College was also responding to a 21st century renaissance of interest in career and technical degrees.

By keeping DMACC's career and technical offerings strong, the College was well positioned to serve students seeking to enter the workforce and earn good salaries with low student debt after just two years (or less) of study.

Largest, Most Diverse

Today DMACC is Iowa's largest and most diverse community college, serving a district that encompasses 6,560 square miles—11 percent of the land area of the state—and is home to 20 percent of Iowa's population. 

Since DMACC's founding in 1966, the courses, locations, technologies and facilities have all changed, yet DMACC has remained true to its founding purpose: maintaining relationships that continue to help connect students of all ages, backgrounds, interests and abilities with the life-improving power of education.

College Timeline
Click a decade below to see DMACC's history during that time period.
1960s | 1970s | 1980s | 1990s | 2000s | 2010s