Columbia College, established in 1968, is in the city of Sonora. The college is in the Yosemite Community College District, one of the largest in the state in terms of square miles. The district transects more than 100 miles of the San Joaquin Valley from the coastal range in the west to the Sierra Nevada to the east. The boundaries include nearly 4,000 square miles, encompassing all of Tuolumne and Stanislaus Counties and parts of San Joaquin, Merced, Calaveras and Santa Clara counties.
Because of the recent increase in student enrollment, the need for greater educational opportunities in the mountain counties, and the great distance involved in travel for students to attend Modesto Junior College, the Yosemite Community College District Board of Trustees authorized the formation of Columbia Junior College and scheduled its opening for September 1968. The word 'junior' was dropped from the name in 1978. Starting on the quarter system, Columbia College changed to the semester system on July 1, 1984.