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OJC Press Release ID: 3087

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Senator Cleave Simpson Proposes Otero Junior College Name Change


Otero Junior College, as well as two other junior colleges in Colorado, will be going back to the Colorado legislature in April to propose that the word ‘Junior’ be dropped in each of the schools’ names.

The Colorado Community College System has proposed legislation to change the names of the three remaining junior colleges in Colorado; Trinidad State Junior College (TSJC) in Trinidad and Alamosa, Northeastern Junior College (NJC) in Sterling, and Otero Junior College (OJC), here in La Junta. This proposed legislation would not change the mission of the colleges, nor would it nullify or diminish the ongoing traditions and history of Otero and the other schools. The legislation simply allows the colleges to drop the word “Junior” from their current name. Senator Cleave Simpson originally presented Senate Bill 21-008 in the Senate meeting on Feb. 24; however, it has since been rescheduled for discussion in April.

In 1941, the college was originally named La Junta Junior College. It was revised to Otero County Junior College in 1949, and finally Otero Junior College in 1956.

Timothy Alvarez, OJC President said, “Decisions of this magnitude are never easy but many institutions of higher education have changed names over the years. For instance, both Adams State University and Colorado State University Pueblo, (which was originally a “junior college”) have had five name changes. Others have had at least four, Colorado Mesa University, University of Northern Colorado, and Western Colorado University.”

The original junior colleges were created as extensions of secondary schools to allow local students to complete a 13th and 14th year in their hometown before going off to a far flung university. Typically these six-year high schools (junior colleges) were in small towns and affiliated with specific universities to help create a smooth transition. It was the Truman Commission report in 1947, after the war, that expanded the scope and recommended “community colleges” serve a broader role in our nation. After that, many junior colleges began changing their names to community colleges, and of course many new community colleges were established. That was more than 70 years ago.

Otero is a much different institution than it was in 1941. It now offers Career and Technical Education, Concurrent Enrollment, terminal programs, athletics, etc. Further, it offers bachelors programs through the University of Colorado-Denver. In the next couple of years, they hope to offer a bachelors in nursing. This campus is ever evolving, however, its name has been the same since 1956.

When searching for the definition of “junior” as an adjective, you will find that it refers to younger people, however, you would also discover that the second definition is “lower in rank or status.” OJC is a phenomenal institution and has accomplished so much since opening in 1941. There are several thriving programs and discipline areas. Their hope is that the “junior” in the name does not lead others to assume it is something “less than” any other institution. There is nothing “lower in rank or status” about Otero. The name should not indicate otherwise. This legislation will help to grow institutions, foster enrollment, build partnerships, and increase their overall competitiveness to the benefit of the students and communities they serve.

Alvarez followed up by saying, “Please understand that I only want the best for OJC and I believe this re-brand to Otero College could be the stimulus that takes us to the next level. I want us to be the best rural community college in Colorado. We need to be attractive to our college-aged students and remain relevant in order to thrive and be sustainable. I am a traditionalist and contend there is value to customs but I also believe there comes a time in every organization, when you have to decide who you want to be and what the future looks like. I believe our future will be enhanced by the transition to be called Otero College.”

Press Release Photo
The Colorado Community College System has proposed legislation to change the names of the three remaining junior colleges in Colorado including Otero Junior College. The new name would be Otero College.