Hibbing has Minnesota’s second oldest Junior College

Many people have forgotten, but when Hibbing Junior College was located in the Hibbing High School building, it had its own library. This very well-stocked library was completely separate from the high school's library. The Junior College occupied the west wing of the building. In the northwest corner of the second floor of the west wing was the Junior College's office and the Junior College's library. The 1949 Junior College yearbook, "The Junior Collegian," is dedicated to, among others, "The Librarians...who could find all the material our little hearts desired." There were three full-time librarians employed by the college in 1949. This undated photo shows that college library.

When Joe and I lead tours of Hibbing High School, some of the information we share with those on the tour is that the building was built to house kindergarten through two years of college. Unless the people on the tour have some prior connection to Hibbing, they are usually quite astonished to learn this fact. I will even take from my tour folder obituaries that I have saved which, when recounting the person’s life, mention he or she “attended 15 year of schooling (kindergarten through 2 years at Hibbing Junior College) in the same building.”

The Hibbing Junior College (now called Hibbing Community College) is very dear to my heart since my Dad being hired here is what brought my parents back to the Iron Range. At that time, 1947, the Junior College was a part of Hibbing’s Independent School District. In the 1960s, the State of Minnesota took over all the junior colleges and began forming the system that exists today. In 1968, the new campus of what by then was called Hibbing State Junior College, opened on the east side of Hibbing alongside Highway 169.

Many brilliant students began their college careers at Hibbing Junior College. They were educated by outstanding teachers and I don’t mind saying that my Dad was one of those teachers! I knew many of his students in the 1960s and early 1970s. Because the Junior College, located primarily in the west wing of the high school building was so crowded, there were often Saturday classes. My Dad had Biology labs on Saturday mornings, and I would cross 9th Avenue East from our house and make my way through the building to his lab on the first floor of the west wing. When the time came to move to the new campus, I helped to carry boxes. I even greeted community members along with his students when the new campus held Open House tours, although I was only in 6th grade. His students were like big brothers and sisters to me.

Although students and instructors were pleased to move into the new buildings and “spread their wings,” there were many fond memories of life in the high school building. When I visit with alumni who attended junior college there, some fun stories are always shared!

The following is a blend of two articles written about the history of Hibbing Junior College. One appeared in the Hibbing Daily Tribune on August 10, 1968 and the other on July 22, 1993.

~ Mary Palcich Keyes

Classes were first held on September 1, 1916, at Hibbing Junior College, Minnesota’s second oldest junior college. Classes were held within the large Lincoln High School in North Hibbing.

The original junior college class was made up of five men and six women. These first eleven students had limited choices for their courses as teachers split time between the high school and the college.

In 1916, students could enroll in engineering, mathematics, language, physical education, natural science and social science.

For the first few years, the students were required to take an entrance examination if they wished to transfer to a senior college after their junior college time. A major breakthrough came in 1921, when Hibbing Junior College was admitted to the North Central Association of Colleges. With this accreditation, the school became recognized as meeting the standards expected of a place of higher learning. Students were now able to transfer with full credit for their work done at the junior college.

Throughout the years of its existence, Hibbing Junior College has grown and continued to gain acceptance in the educational community. With the advent of new courses and programs, the high standards set by each department have brought more and more students from across the Range, state and nation.

In 1930, 352 students were enrolled in the junior college. The very next year, the number increased to 588. During World War II, 1941-1945, the number of students decreased. Immediately after the war, however, the numbers once again began to climb. In 1968, with the Baby Boomer generation well into the college years, projections for the first school year on the new campus are between 700 and 800 students.

When plans were made back in 1920 to build Hibbing High School as part of the town’s move from north to south, the Hibbing Board of Education planned the entire west wing for the use of the Junior College. “The Big Red Schoolhouse,” as the new Hibbing High School was known, served the Junior College for 46 years.

In 1964, the Minnesota Junior College Board assumed the administrative responsibility of all of Minnesota’s junior colleges, in order to make the junior college system more uniform. In those years the number of students enrolled at Hibbing Junior College had been growing again. The need for more classroom space meant that besides holding classes on Saturdays, the college also rented space in the nearby Our Savior’s Lutheran Church during the week. Clearly the college had more than outgrown its location in the high school building.

From North Hibbing, to the west wing of the high school building, and finally in 1968 to a brand-new campus, Hibbing’s college has moved with the times. With the merging of the college and the Hibbing Area Technical Institute, came a new name: Hibbing Community College. The great strength of the school lies in its academic quality in both technical and transfer programs. Residents in Hibbing and surrounding areas have turned to the college for new direction, additional training, and learning to meet the demands of a changing world.

Additional buildings have been added to the campus. Locations of offices and classes have changed. Programs have come and gone. Although recent high school grads are still a large part of the college’s student body, adults of all ages take courses and polish their skills in greater numbers than before. The community of Hibbing can be proud of this source of advanced learning that helps people to prepare to keep up with the ever-changing facets of life in America.

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Looking Back

The following items are taken from the Hibbing Daily Tribune or the Mesabi Ore, which are on microfilm at the Hibbing Public Library and/or Iron Range Resource Center at the Minnesota Discovery Center in Chisholm.


June 27, 1919

Hibbing gains a desirable citizen in the appointment of D.L. McIntosh of Orr as chief forest ranger for this district. Mr. McIntosh succeeds Hugo Nelson who removed to California some time ago. This district reaches east to include Virginia and Eveleth, north to beyond Sturgeon Lake, and south to include Floodwood. Patrolmen are located at Floodwood, Swan River, and Sturgeon Lake.


Sept. 16, 1949

A teen-age dance is scheduled tonight, following the Hibbing=Grand Rapids football game. It will be held in the Memorial Building arena with Bumps Stark’s orchestra in attendance. The Teen-Age Council is in need of chaperones for this and future dances. They ask that parents co-operate in this matter.


July 16, 1968

Employment in Hibbing increased to 5,630 persons during the period ending in mid-June, an increase of 126 workers or 2.3 percent, the Hibbing office of the Minnesota State Employment Service reports. All industries recorded employment gains except transportation and services. Mining employment in the Hibbing Administrative area was 3,072, and increase of more than 200 from May.


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