The roots of Tri-County Community College date back to mid-1964, when political and educational leaders of Cherokee County met with representatives of Asheville-Buncombe Technical Institute. That same year, the North Carolina State Board of Education approved the Tri-County Industrial Education Center to operate as a part of the State Department of Community Colleges.
In July 1965, the Cherokee County Board of Education negotiated a lease agreement with the State of North Carolina for the Center to occupy the abandoned Cherokee County Prison Camp. Newly constructed buildings soon joined the original prison facilities. Most of Tri-County’s present buildings on the Murphy campus were built in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
Holland McSwain, Tri-County’s first president, found support from the Appalachian Regional Commission to construct a new classroom facility and to assist in the purchase of the existing property in Cherokee County. In the 1970s, the Appalachian Regional Commission provided grants to renovate and construct three buildings on the Murphy campus of the College, renamed Tri-County Community College.
The state legislature appropriated the money for the construction of a new multi-purpose building in 1984. The structure, completed in 1989 and named the Enloe Building, joined the three other main facilities - the McSwain, West, and Crisp buildings.
As Tri-County Community College and the surrounding area continued to grow, the need for an off-campus site to serve the people of Graham County became obvious. One of the major goals of Tri-County Community College is to offer convenient, affordable access to educational services for Graham County residents. The construction of the Graham County Center made this goal a reality.
In November 1993, voters passed the Statewide Bond Referendum, providing funds needed to construct the new center in Robbinsville. The Graham County Commissioners and the Graham County Board of Education conveyed land and buildings for the Graham County Center in May 1995. The State Board of Community Colleges approved obtaining the proposed property in June 1995. Construction began with renovating, modernizing, and equipping two buildings and the Center opened in January 1998. As an extension campus of Tri-County Community College, the Graham County Center offers a full variety of curriculum and continuing education courses to meet the educational needs of the county’s residents.
Also in 1998, a new multi-purpose building was dedicated on the Main Campus. The Harper Building is home to college administration offices, student services, community enrichment and, it also houses the bookstore.
Thanks to a cooperative agreement from the Cherokee County Commissioners and Board of Education, the College opened the Andrews Office in 2000. In 2003, TCCC opened its Fire and Rescue Training Center at its Murphy location. A permanent site for the TCCC TeleCenter/Small Business Center was dedicated in 2004 with the opening of the Patterson Building. The same year, the College renovated two existing buildings in Murphy in order to expand classroom and laboratory space to better serve its three counties.
In 2005, Cherokee County purchased a 25,000 square foot building in Marble to be used as the Cherokee
County Center for Applied Technology. Phase One of the building renovation was completed in 2008. The Center is the result of a collaboration between Tri-County Community College, Cherokee County, and several industry partners to develop a facility to be used for classes and short-run manufacturing, plus provide space for manufacturers to develop prototypes for contracted items. The Center provides facilities for community workforce development and also houses the Small Business Center, the Machinist Training Program, and an associate degree program in Computer Integrated Machining. The NC Rural Center and the Economic Development Administration provided grant funds for the renovation of the building.
The Tri-County Early College High School (TCECHS) began classes in 2006 on the main campus in Murphy. Its goal is to provide an opportunity for high school students to earn both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree from the College.
In 2010, Tri-County Community College opened the Emergency Services Training Center classroom which is located on the main campus and adjacent to the four-story Fire and Rescue Center burn facility. The College also was approved and graduated its first-ever Basic Law Enforcement Training class during 2010. The expansion of the TCCC Health and Public Safety program and associated facilities is consistent with the ongoing mission to help student succeed and enrich our communities.