The article below originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal and is being reprinted with permission.

It began as a trickle; then, over time, it became a flood. That’s the basic story of enrollment at what was known as San Mateo Junior College.

When the two-year school was founded in 1922, only 35 students were enrolled. Nearly 100 years later, the San Mateo County Community College District educates about 40,000 adults at the College of San Mateo, Cañada College in Redwood and Skyline College in Redwood City.

The original campus in downtown San Mateo on Baldwin Avenue was actually the home of San Mateo High School. The J.C. shared those facilities for much of the 1920s, until a new high school campus was opened on North Delaware Street.

Through the decades, as the county grew, San Mateo J.C. (its named was changed in 1954) needed three sites (Coyote Point, Peninsula Avenue and downtown). Finally, a sparkling new complex was build in the western hills; it opened in 1963.

That was followed by Cañada in 1968 and Skyline in 1969. The three colleges are located on a grand total of 395 prime hillside acres. Plans to celebrate CSM’s centennial in 2022 are underway.

The story of the community college movement, begun in 1910 in Fresno, is far bigger than that of our own impressive system. Since 1910, the California two-year setup has expanded its reach dramatically.

According to community college officials, there are now 116 campuses the length and breadth of the state. They educate just over 2 million students. This is the largest system of higher education in the United States.

Tuition was free until 1984 when a $5 per unit charge was imposed. Now, it’s $46. A discussion of what is now CSM will be conducted Sept. 11 at 1 p.m. at the county’s History Museum in downtown Redwood City.