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AHC History

The History of Allan Hancock College

Captain G. Allan Hancock
Click photo above to read the biography of college namesake G. Allan Hancock.

Allan Hancock College was founded in 1920 when the Santa Maria High School District established Santa Maria Junior College.  Classes were held in high school rooms until 1937, when a bond issue passed and a college wing was built on the northwest corner of the high school campus. 

In 1954, because of expanding enrollment, the college moved from the high school to Hancock Field, which for a number of years had housed the original Santa Maria Airport, Hancock College of Aeronautics and, later, the University of Southern California’s School of Aeronautics.

In July 1954, the name of the college was changed to Allan Hancock College to honor Captain G. Allan Hancock, a prominent state and local community leader who owned the land and facilities of the airfield.

In September 1954, the community voted to establish the Santa Maria Joint Junior College District.  In 1963, the Lompoc Unified School District and Santa Ynez Union High School District were annexed to the community college district, and the district was renamed the Allan Hancock Joint Community College District. 

Today the district includes all of northern Santa Barbara County and small parts of San Luis Obispo and Ventura counties, including the cities of Santa Maria, Lompoc, Cuyama, Guadalupe, Solvang, and Buellton and Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Academics and Career Training

The college's curriculum has grown to meet the community's needs, from 12 courses in 1920 paralleling the University of California's lower division requirements, to more than 1,000 credit courses today.  Programs have kept pace with changing needs since the very beginning, with such courses as airplane mechanics and radio code in the 1930s and ‘40s to entrepreneurship and viticulture and enology today. 

To take advantage of rapidly-changing educational technology, the college began offering instruction on television in 1972, and classes via video in 1989.  In 1998, online classes were incorporated into the curriculum, with more than 150 now offered each semester.  The college also carries a 40-year tradition of offering extensive evening classes.

The Community Education program, active since 1973, offers hundreds of noncredit and fee-based classes.  Program areas include English as a second language, basic skills, citizenship, short-term vocational and other curriculum areas.

Student Success and Community Commitment

Starting in the late 1950s, the college began to offer remedial instruction, especially in mathematics and English.  Since 1974, the Tutorial Center has helped students on an individual and group basis.  The resulting search for more effective teaching methods led to the opening of the Writing Center in 1975.  The Math Center was established in 1996.  The Small Business Entrepreneurship Center opened in spring 2012.

Students' financial needs outside the classroom have been met over the years by a growing number of support programs.  Each year, approximately $350,000 in scholarships is awarded through the Allan Hancock College Foundation.  In 1974, the college opened its Financial Aid and Job Placement offices.  In addition, the Extended Opportunity Programs and Services (EOPS) office has helped students with “over and above” support services since the 1970s.  College Achievement Now (CAN), a TRIO program, was launched in 2010.

Theater has formed a strong part of the college's relationship with the community.  From its beginning in 1964, the Pacific Conservatory Theatre (PCPA) has offered more than 500 plays and musicals, maintained a resident company of artists, and trained more than 10,000 actors and technicians.  PCPA has also presented plays in Solvang since 1971, leading to the building of the Solvang Festival Theater in 1974.  The 2013-14 season marked PCPA’s 50th anniversary.

Alumni success runs the gamut from Academy Award winners to superior court judges and thousands of successful community leaders and citizens.


Since the first classes taught in 1952 at the Camp Cooke Army barracks (now Vandenberg Air Force Base), the college has offered extensive courses in the community and remains committed to serving the Lompoc and Santa Ynez valleys.  The college opened its Vandenberg Air Force Base Center in 1957.  Classes have been taught in the Santa Ynez Valley since 1971 and in Lompoc since 1974.  The college completed construction of a permanent Lompoc Valley Center in spring 1999 and opened the Solvang Center in August 2000.  In 2006, district voters passed a $180 million bond Measure I to upgrade facilities and technology.  See the timeline for results.

Facilities Timeline 


  • Voters approved a  bond issue to purchase the airfield site and finance a building program.


  • Opened four new buildings   - Student Center, Library, Science   building and north wing of the gymnasium - to form the nucleus of a campus designed for 2,000 students.
  • Continued classes in   buildings built for the original aeronautics college.


  • Opened Business Education building


  • Opened Fine Arts building


  • Completed the Gymnasium and Industrial Technology   buildings


  • Opened Administration and Student Services buildings


  • Opened Performing Arts Center, including Marian Theatre


  • Completed the Bookstore


  • Purchased nine acres of property and buildings from Southern   California Gas Company (“South Campus”)


  • Opened Learning Resources Center with 16,000   square-foot library addition and remodel of existing structure


  • Opened Learning Assistance building for physically   disabled students and those with learning disabilities


  • Completed the Humanities complex


  • Built Family & Consumer Sciences facility


  • Completed the Severson Theatre, an addition to the Performing   Arts Center
  • Improved entry and roadways


  • Opened the Lompoc Valley Center


  • Opened the remodeled and expanded Student Center to   include the Bookstore, café, coffee bar, and more (partial funding from   Measure I)


  • Voters passed Measure I, a $180 million general   obligation bond focused on facility and technology improvements over a   10-year period. 


  • Expanded the library building to include the Academic   Resource Center (ARC), and remodeled the library (partial funding from Measure   I)
  • Opened the Community   Education and Science buildings (Measure I)


  • Opened the new Early   Childhood Studies building, including the Children’s Center Lab School
  • Completed new athletic   facilities for baseball, track and field, football, and soccer
  • Renovated the Performing   Arts Center, building D
  • Opened the new   Student Services and Administration buildings (Measure I)

Since 2006, technology improvements have included a complete overhaul of the college’s mainframe, resulting in the installation of an integrated campus system that includes student and employee databases, registration, financial aid, purchasing, payroll, and more.

Remaining Measure I facilities projects include a new fine arts facility and continuing technology enhancements.

Allan Hancock College has established itself as a premier educational institution serving residents from the Central Coast of California and beyond.  It also contributes significantly to the local economy as the one of the largest employers in northern Santa Barbara County, with approximately 1,300 employees. 

The history of Allan Hancock College is rich with accomplishment.  Although the board of trustees, administration, faculty and staff value the college's past, they also have a vision for the future, as do our nearly 17,000 students each semester, who choose Allan Hancock College with the goal to “Start here. Go anywhere.”