In 1939, the residents of the La Junta School District Number 11 voted that bonds be used to partially finance a junior college building to be administered by the Board of Education. On September 15, 1941, “La Junta Junior College” opened its doors to the first class. The college was operated by the school district. By state statute, the college was classified as a continuation school.
In 1949 an election was held on a county-wide basis to consider the proposal that the college become an independent unit supported by the county rather than by the local school district. This proposal was approved by the voters and the college was renamed, “Otero County Junior College.”
The elected board, the Junior College Committee, did not desire to assume control of the college then, and it continued to operate as a continuation school.
On January 1, 1956, the college governing board voted to take over the existing facilities from the La Junta School District, and the college changed its name to “Otero Junior College.” The college became primarily a transfer institution emphasizing the first two years of a four-year degree program.
In 1967, the 46th General Assembly of the State of Colorado passed the Community College Act, a law creating a state system of junior colleges to be governed by the State Board for Community Colleges and Occupational Education (SBCCOE). Existing junior colleges were given the option of joining the system with the approval of qualified voters in their respective junior college district. That same year, the college received accreditation by the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools.
On February 20, 1968, the voters of Otero County Junior College District voted overwhelmingly in favor of Otero Junior College joining the state system. The college officially became a state two-year college on July 1, 1968. With the creation of the state system of community colleges, funds for establishing and expanding occupational programs were increased, and Otero Junior College became a more comprehensive junior college.
In the Fall of 1969, Otero Junior College was designated as an area vocational-technical school, expanding its offerings in vocational education to public schools in the college’s tri-county service area as the Central Arkansas Valley Occupational Center. In the Spring of 1993, the eight area districts discontinued their participation with this vocational-technical program. The college supports vocational and academic transfer programs. Otero also supports certificate programs that ready students to step into the world of work or engage appropriate exams for specific external certifications.
On May 18, 2021, Colorado’s governor signed a law officially changing the college’s name from Otero Junior College to Otero College.