When R. A. Long (1850-1934), the founder of Longview, donated a high school to his planned city, the plans included a junior college. The worldwide depression of the 1930s affected Cowlitz County, where young people were unemployed and had few skills to obtain jobs. The Kiwanis wrote to groups and individuals in Cowlitz and Wahkiakum Counties announcing a meeting on May 5, 1934, to determine whether there was a need for a junior college. One hundred and fifty people attended the meeting, endorsed the idea, and began planning. Committees established tuition levels and estimated the costs of a college, where it should be located, and the curriculum.
A week later, backers met again and elected a board of regents. The regents' first act was to name the institution Lower Columbia Junior College. The Business and Professional Women visited more than 30 club meetings to drum and strum up support (on their ukuleles with tunes like "Yes, We'll Have a College") and to raise the $5,000 needed to open the institution. The climax was a pep rally and parade, a bonfire, street dancing, and hundreds of marchers.
Although fundraising efforts fell short, registration booths opened in stores throughout the county. The regents rented classrooms at R. A. Long High School for $600 and President Dean Bauer supervised three instructors, Esther Shephard for English; Turfield Schindler for chemistry, zoology, and comparative anatomy; and Fred Wagner for social science.
The second year, 96 students enrolled. With help from the Weyerhaeuser and Long-Bell companies, forestry classes were offered. The companies allowed the school to use their properties to train foresters. In the early 1940s, the demand for classes resulted in use of the Longview Public Library. The first building of the main campus was completed in 1950.