Who are we?

History of the College 

Nearly 60 years ago, Coachella Valley leaders determined the desert was still missing something as its population continued to grow: an institution of higher learning. So they reached out to voters, who in April 1958 overwhelmingly decided to create a community college district.

Where once stood a vineyard and date palm grove sprouted several of the mid-century modern buildings that still stand in the middle of the Palm Desert Campus today. In the fall of 1962, College of the Desert welcomed more than 500 students. Less than two years later, on June 7, 1964, COD proudly handed out 19 diplomas at its first graduation ceremony.

As the Coachella Valley’s population has continued to grow, so has College of the Desert in order to accommodate that growth and to provide students greater accessibility.

In February 2009, the college launched its Mecca/Thermal Campus, which now supports several hundred students annually. A new observatory will be the site’s next shining star.

The Indio Campus then opened in February 2014 and now serves about 4,000 students a year. Plans are in the works to double the site’s footprint to welcome another 4,000 students.

And in Fall 2016, the college expanded yet again, adding a western Coachella Valley campus in Desert Hot Springs at the Edward L. Wenzlaff Education Center. Classes are also offered at Cathedral City, Desert Hot Springs, Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage high schools.

In November 2016, Coachella Valley voters overwhelmingly supported the college’s request for a $577.8 million construction bond to further grow. The funding will continue building a new Palm Springs Campus that will feature a film institute and hospitality academy; add classrooms in Desert Hot Springs, Indio and Mecca/Thermal; create a Jobs Center to connect students with employers; and upgrade career training facilities for engineering, healthcare, science and technology.

In January 2017, Dr. Joel L. Kinnamon, Superintendent/President of COD, announced the new plEDGE program that will provide one year of free tuition starting in Fall 2017 to local high school students who graduate in Spring 2017.

Today, more than 15,000 students attend College of the Desert, the second-fastest growing community college in California.


College of the Desert provides excellent educational programs in basic skills, career and technical education, certificate, transfer preparation, associate degrees, noncredit, and distance education, which are continuously evaluated and improved. Our programs and services contribute to the success, learning and achievement of our diverse students and the vitality of the Desert Community College District, surrounding areas, and beyond.


College of the Desert will be a center of collaborations and innovations for educational enrichment, economic development, and quality of life in the Coachella Valley and surrounding communities.


College of the Desert is a learning-centered institution that values:

Student Success: Student learning and growth are central to all we do.

Diversity & Inclusion: We embrace the diversity of our community and uphold the dignity and worth of the individual.

Integrity: We are open, honest, and reliable.

Respect: We value the thoughts, words, and actions of our students, colleagues, and community.

Dedication: Our faculty, staff, and administrators are responsible leaders who effectively implement programs in support of student learning and efficient college operations.

Professionalism: We are current in our areas of expertise and embody high standards of conduct.

Communication: We communicate with authenticity in pursuit of broad understanding, effective dialog, and inclusive decision-making.

Lifelong Learning: Learning is essential to living, for our students, faculty, and staff.

Institutional Outcomes 

Critical Thinking and Communication

  1. Apply principles of logic to problem solve and reason with a fair and open mind.  
  2. Compose and present structured texts in a variety of oral and written forms according to purpose, audience, and occasion with implementation of thesis, supporting details, and idea development.
  3. Apply standard conventions in grammar, mechanics, usage, and punctuation.
  4. Appreciate diversity as it is expressed in multiple disciplines and across various cultures through reading, speaking, and writing.
  5. Conduct research, gather and evaluate appropriate information, organize evidence into oral and written presentation, using proper MLA, APA, and other discipline-specific formats to cite sources.
  6. Summarize, analyze, and interpret oral and written texts, with the ability to identify assumptions and differentiate fact from opinion.
  7. Utilizing various communication modalities, display creative expression, original thinking, and symbolic discourse.

Scientific Inquiry

  1. Identify components of the scientific method.
  2. Collect and analyze data. Skills of data collection include an understanding of the notion of hypothesis testing and specific methods of inquiry such as experimentation and systematic observation.
  3. Predict outcomes utilizing scientific inquiry: using evidence and assertions determine which conclusions logically follow from a body of quantitative and qualitative data.
  4. Analyze quantitative and qualitative information to make decisions, judgments, and pose questions.
  5. Recognize the utility of the scientific method and its application to real life situations and natural phenomena.

Global Citizenship

Scientific & Technological Literacy

  1. Synthesize, interpret, and infer, utilizing information, data, and experience to solve problems, innovate, and explore solutions.
  2. Utilize quantitative expression in a variety of contexts. These would include units of measurement, visual representations, and scales and distributions.
  3. Produce oral and written information in various modes and media, using technology such as computers, the Internet, and library databases.

Ethical Behavior

  1. Integrate universally accepted values such as honesty, responsibility, respect, fairness, courage, and compassion into judgments and decision-making.
  2. Apply ethical reasoning to contemporary issues and moral dilemmas.
  3. Appreciate the complexity of global relationships between self and others, as well as self and the environment.
  4. Exhibit respect for self and others.


  1. Apply and relate theories of aesthetics to everyday life.
  2. Utilize the creative process to explain universal values such as beauty and truth.
  3. Apply imagination to artistic expression.
  4. Value appearance in terms of how pleasing it is in movement, form, and function.

Personal and Professional Development

  1. Self-evaluate knowledge, skills, and abilities.
  2. Develop realistic goals.
  3. Display habits of intellectual exploration, personal responsibility, and physical well being.
  4. Demonstrate an understanding of ethical issues to make sound judgments and decisions.
  5. Value diverse cultures and populations.   
  6. Value the feedback of others.

Student Learning Outcomes & Assessment

In concert with the nationwide effort among colleges and universities to create an evidence-based process that documents the effectiveness of teaching and learning, as well as improvements to that process, College of the Desert is positioned to enrich the lives of our students by stating and assessing learning outcomes. Faculty at the College believe in integrative general education that encompasses not only knowledge and abilities, but values, attitudes, and habits that create success within and outside of the academic arena.

Learning is a complex process. Assessing learning should reflect the adequacy and intricacy of its subject. Effective assessment includes diverse methods of measurement designed to give educators an understanding of how students learn and perform over time. Therefore, assessment is ongoing, revealing change, growth, and increasing degrees of integration. As our picture of learning comes into clear view, we provide ourselves with a solid foundation for improving our students’ educational experience.

As we embark upon understanding students’ educational experience in the 21st century, faculty at College of the Desert recognize that student learning is a campus-wide responsibility and assessment is a way of executing that responsibility. While faculty are the main drivers of this movement, we appreciate that we will also rely upon participation from student services, librarians, administrators, and students. Assessment may also involve community members such as alumni/ae, trustees, and employers. It is our shared understanding of assessment as a continual learning cycle that includes measurement, feedback, reflection, and change that will foster teaching excellence as we challenge and support our students’ active engagement in the learning process.

General Education Philosophy

At College of the Desert, we provide students with the opportunity to engage in meaningful learning experiences that challenge and encourage them to become lifelong learners. The promise of general education is that it provides an integrative and comprehensive program that is broad and deep, introducing students to skills, knowledge, and patterns of learning that foster better understanding of themselves and the world around them.

The need for skills, the quest for knowledge, and the curiosity of the human spirit is interdisciplinary in nature, as reflected by the areas of study that comprise general education at College of the Desert. Natural Sciences lay the foundation for understanding living and non-living systems, introducing students to the power of systematic questioning. Social and Behavioral Sciences heighten students’ awareness of social, political, and economic institutions and human behavior in contemporary, historical and geographical contexts. Arts, Humanities, and Culture allow students to appreciate and develop philosophical, cultural, and literary perspective, encouraging independence and aesthetic sensibility. Language and Rationality emphasize active participation in clear communication, logical thought, and quantitative reasoning. Ultimately, as students are exposed to Personal Growth and Development, they are asked to adapt, respond, and grow in the diverse, global, and rapidly changing environment of the 21st century as well-rounded global citizens.

General education at College of the Desert prepares students to live productive lives with self-understanding, respect for others, and skills critical to lifelong learning.

Supporting Organizations

Alumni Association

College of the Desert Alumni Association, a nonprofit organization chartered in 1983, was established to enhance the success of COD students and enrich the campus environment. The Association provides financial assistance in the form of scholarships, increased transportation access, and program support, in addition to connecting with over 120,000 existing College of the Desert Alumni to increase participation and engagement. 

The popular Street Fair held on the College of the Desert - Palm Desert Campus is operated by the Alumni Association. Funds generated from the Street Fair are dedicated to supporting the College.

Membership is open to all students, staff, alumni, and the community. For more information, please contact the Alumni Association at (760) 636-7957.

College of the Desert Foundation 

College of the Desert Foundation is a nonprofit organization whose primary purpose, for the last 30 years, is to provide financial support from the private and public sectors to help underwrite those programs and facilities at the College which cannot be funded through other means. The Foundation Board and committees are composed of community leaders who volunteer to work with college staff to support the College’s specific needs, present and future.

Donations to the COD Foundation can be of any size and may be designated to a particular department or project. Estate planning information is available for wills, bequests, and charitable trusts. For more information, call (760) 773-2561 or go the Foundation website.

Academic Angels

This organization is made up of over 100 members whose purpose is to serve as Goodwill Ambassadors for College of the Desert and to assist the Foundation in pursuing its goals. The organization hosts luncheons, events, and guest speakers throughout the year to raise funds for scholarships and other College programs and services. Membership dues are $250 per year. For more information, call (760) 773-2561 or go to the Foundation website.

President's Circle 

The President’s Circle was created by the Foundation in 1983. It is comprised of an exceptional group of individuals and business leaders who are committed to the Mission of COD and its Foundation. The President’s Circle is the largest and most important resource of unrestricted gifts to the College, helping provide critical resources to meet educational needs, as well as help the Foundation to support mission-critical programs and services for the College. Members enjoy a variety of benefits and annual dues range from $1,000 to $5,000. For more information on any of the Annual Giving opportunities at the Foundation, contact the Foundation at (760) 773-2561 or email Peter Sturgeon, Interim Executive Director.

Friends of the COD Library

The Friends of the COD Library is a non-profit organization whose mission is to support the College of the Desert Library through book sales and other fundraising activities. Friends of the COD Library welcomes anyone who would like to join the organization. For more information on becoming a member or to make a donation, please call (760) 568-3138.