The Higher Education Consortium of Central California (HECCC) was established in 1981 as a distance-learning consortium to cooperatively provide educational services for a widely dispersed student population. The HECCC founding institutions are: California State University Stanislaus, Merced College, San Joaquin Delta College, and the Yosemite Community College District, which is comprised of Columbia College and Modesto Junior College. The new HECCC partnership led to the creation of the Regional Learning Network, which began to broadcast interactive upper division courses via microwave from the CSU Stanislaus campus in Turlock to sites in Stockton and Sonora. In addition, the increasing cooperation between CSU Stanislaus and San Joaquin Delta College led to the relocation of the CSU Stanislaus Stockton Center onto the Delta College campus. This move provided students at the Stockton Center with convenience, flexibility and stability to upper division course work and degree programs.
The success of the Regional Learning Network allowed HECCC the opportunity to expand beyond distance learning in pursuit of other collaborative efforts, including articulation agreements, curriculum issues, joint degree programs, staff/faculty development, and student recruitment/retention. The 1980s also saw the creation of the CSU Stanislaus Applied Studies program, one of the first baccalaureate programs to be formed as the result of a joint effort between two-year and four-year institutions of higher learning.
In the 1990s HECCC expanded its focus to address issues such as precollegiate skills, library technology, electronic transcript transmittal, and marketing. The first annual HECCC Classified Staff Retreat was held in 1993 at Columbia College, with approximately 55 participants from the HECCC member institutions. In 1995 the California State University Board of Trustees and the California Community Colleges Board of Governors recognized the long-standing partnership between CSU Stanislaus and San Joaquin Delta College with the presentation of the first Campus-to-Campus Partnership Award.
Due to the large shared student transfer population and the common goal to serve the local educational needs, CSU Stanislaus and Modesto Junior College initiated the Dual Admissions Program in 1998. The agreement, inclusive of all HECCC members, provided a HECCC community college and CSU Stanislaus to admit entering college freshmen to both institutions simultaneously.
HECCC membership expanded in 1998 when the newly formed University of California at Merced officially joined the partnership, making HECCC the first formally chartered consortium of regional community colleges to include a California State University and a University of California. In 1999 CSU Stanislaus, UC Merced, and Merced College joined together forming a progressive intersegmental collaboration, and proudly opened the Merced Tri-College Center. In 2000 the members moved to increase their resource allocations to the Consortium, appointed a full-time Executive Director, and began strategic planning to intensify and maximize the expansion.