Northern New Mexico College and its mission have always played an integral role in the State of New Mexico’s goal to provide educational opportunities for its residents.
In the early 1900’s the New Mexico Territorial Legislature determined that a facility was needed as a “normal school” with a primary function of training teachers for the State’s Spanish-speaking population. The Spanish American Normal School at El Rito opened its doors in September 1909, and celebrated its centennial as Northern New Mexico College.
When the New Mexico Territory applied for statehood in 1912, the State Constitution, Article 12, Section 11, identified the Spanish American Normal School as one of ten educational institutions which would be supported by the state. The Spanish American School provided both secondary and post-secondary educational programs.
In 1953, the State Legislature changed the name of the institution to Northern New Mexico State School and, mandating that the institution provide training not available in public schools, implemented a secondary school curriculum. Six years later, the Board of Regents renamed the school Northern New Mexico College. NNMC continued to teach grades 7-12 along with the new college curriculum.
By 1961, the College was offering two-year programs in business education, general studies, and selected vocational programs. Technical-vocational programs proved popular and enrollment increased due to a school-operated transportation system which allowed the population from the surrounding rural villages to attend the school.
In 1969 the high school curriculum was transferred to a newly created public school district and the curriculum at the College was limited to technical-vocational course offerings. One year later, the Board of Regents again renamed the school the New Mexico Technical-Vocational School to indicate the change in course offerings.
Operating under its new name, the Technical-Vocational School expanded its curriculum and faculty, and developed a campus in Espanola, approximately 30 miles from El Rito. The school assumed the Practical Nurse program from St. Vincent’s Hospital in Santa Fe. As educational needs in northern New Mexico evolved, educators and legislators identified a need for a more comprehensive delivery of educational services. In 1976 a task force was created whose membership included representatives from the New Mexico Technical-Vocational School, the University of New Mexico, and local school boards and citizens to assess the feasibility of establishing a community college. The task force recommended that the University of New Mexico-Northern Branch (at Santa Cruz) be dissolved and their academic course offerings be combined with those of the New Mexico Technical-Vocational School. The Legislature accepted this recommendation and provided for the expansion of the institution’s mission.
The Board of Regents soon accepted the new mission of the institution, renamed the institution Northern New Mexico Community College, and began combining existing programs, philosophies, and procedures in order to establish a comprehensive community college.
The new institution was headed by a president appointed by the Board of Regents. The programs to be offered by the new institution included associate degrees in various academic and occupational disciplines, certificate-granting programs in occupational studies, special interest courses granting continuing education units (CEU’s), and other courses offered for no credit.
In 2004, legislative approval and accreditation was extended to Northern, permitting it to be the first community college in the state of New Mexico to offer a four year degree, a BA in Elementary Education.
In 2005, legislation was enacted which permitted the college to offer four-year degrees in any programs deemed necessary and appropriate. Northern New Mexico Community College was renamed Northern New Mexico College.