In the late 1950s, interested community members formed a committee, sponsored by the American Association of University Women, to explore the idea of establishing a community college in Douglas County. After visiting other campuses, the group wrote a report, and in 1960 the Chamber of Commerce formed an Education Committee with Wayne Crooch as its chair. In February 1960, the Roseburg School Board was asked to approve a program of lower-division college courses. The request was approved and an agreement was established with Southern Oregon College (now Southern Oregon University) and the Oregon University System. Harry Jacoby, assistant Superintendent of the Roseburg School District, was named coordinator of the project.
The first college courses were offered in 1961. Classes were first held in rented facilities in Roseburg. The cost was $5 per term and $11 per credit.
After meeting the legal requirements for forming a college district, the Oregon State Board of Higher Education ordered establishment of the proposed district on December 11, 1962. Voters supported formation of the district by voting 3,190 "yes" and 825 "no" on March 30, 1964. The same election also established the first seven-member board of directors. At the first board meeting on April 2, 1964, Ralph Snyder was appointed registrar and Harry Jacoby was hired as the first president of the college.
The land for the campus, 98.5 acres (39.9 ha) of pasture land along a bend in the North Umpqua River, was donated by Elton and Ruth Jackson. The Board accepted the site in February 1965. College construction was funded by a serial levy passed in May 1965 and a bond issue passed in 1968. Additional financing came from interest earnings, state funding, and federal grants. Classes were first held on "Phase I" of the new campus in Fall 1967.