Bismarck State College
Bismarck State College (BSC), formerly known as Bismarck Junior College (BJC), is a public community college operating within the North Dakota University System whose primary campus is located in northwest Bismarck. BSC is the third-largest school within the state university system, serving nearly 4,000 students annually.
BSC mainly offers certificate, diploma, and two-year degree programs. It introduced its first four-year program, a Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) in Energy Management, in 2007 and began offering a BAS in Cybersecurity and Information Technology in 2019. Bismarck State College also partners with other North Dakota universities to offer higher-level degree programs locally on the BSC campus.
Voters authorized a junior college in a special election held on June 5, 1939. Bismarck Junior College held its first classes on September 4th of that year, with classes held on the third floor of the Bismarck High School building. Only a one-year program was initially available, consisting of general education courses. Its initial enrollment included 68* (sources vary – see footnote) students, with 4** part-time teachers.
In 1951, the state legislature approved deeding 15 acres of land adjacent to the State Capitol for a dedicated college campus. Voters overwhelming approved an 8-mill tax levy to operate and maintain the school. Prior to that, the college was financed entirely through tuition. Bismarck Junior College moved into its own facility at 900 Boulevard Avenue four years later, in 1955. By 1959, the college had already outgrown its new campus and the increasingly overcrowded state government sought the building’s space, which prompted the college to again relocate.
Harold Schafer, a prominent local entrepreneur, donated 70 acres of land on Meadowlark Hill overlooking the Missouri River to house the growing college, where the campus remains today. The first building constructed on the site, Schafer Heights (now Schafer Hall) was completed in 1961 for $1 million and named in his honor.
BJC to BSC
In 1984, Bismarck Junior College became part of North Dakota’s system of higher education, making it possible to enable partnerships with other state colleges and universities. Prior to this, the college was administered by Bismarck Public Schools.
For a brief time following its entry into the state university system, the school operated as Bismarck State Community College. The 50th Legislative Assembly formerly adopted Bismarck State College as its identity in 1987.
Prior to adopting Bismarck State College as its moniker, much consideration was given to using the campus as an extension of Grand Forks-based University of North Dakota, where it would have been called University of North Dakota-Bismarck.
The Armory was completed adjacent to the campus in 1962, one year after the opening of Schafer Hall. The college operated the building jointly with the National Guard until full ownership was transferred to BSC in 1989.
Jack Science Center
In 1998, the Jack Science Center was the first building completed on the campus in nearly twenty years. The 74,340-square foot facility expanded the campus footprint by 30%. At the time of completion, it was touted as the most advanced science center in North Dakota. At opening, the Jack Science Center housed courses for math, science, computer and engineering.
National Center of Excellence
Another major building achievement came with the completion of the National Energy Center of Excellence, in 2008. The new 106,200-square foot facility primarily housed energy technology programs, as well as continuing education and training programs.
The $9.4 million BSC Aquatic Center was completed in 2010. BSC operates the facility operates jointly with the Bismarck Park Board, who manages the center.
The Career Academy was also completed in 2010.
In 2015, BSC celebrated the construction of three new buildings, the most prominent of which was the 40,000-square foot Communications and Creative Arts Center. The Center replaced the 1968-built library and also houses a learning commons, campus gallery, the Visual Art program, and English classrooms.
In 2019, the school began offering a Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS)Cybersecurity and Information Technology.
1961 – Schafer Hall
1962 – Armory (Transferred to BSC ownership in 1989)
1965 – Warner Hall
1968 – Library (Demolished in 2015)
1972 – Swensen Hall
1974 – Technical Center
1974 – Student Union
1979 – Mystic Hall
1997 – Bismarck Community Bowl
1998 – Jack Science Center
2001 – Leach Music Center
2007 – Mandan Campus
2008 – National Energy Center of Excellence
2008 – Lidstrom Hall
2010 – BSC Aquatic & Wellness Center, BPS Career Academy
2015 – Communications and Creative Arts Center, Lloyd Ritchie Residence Hall,
2016 – Gate City Bank Residence Hall
*Initial enrollment figures are unconfirmed. One source states initial enrollment was 73 students, Bismarck State College’s website lists the initial enrollment was 104, while a Bismarck Tribune article from September 1939 lists 68.
**Bismarck State College’s 75-anniversary special publication listed 12 initial instructors.