The end of World War II found the greater East Los Angeles area the center of a rapidly growing population creating immense educational needs. The Board of Education of the Los Angeles City Schools (now LAUSD) officially established the East Los Angeles Junior College. Opening day, September 4th, 1945, found 117 students enrolled on Campus, which was comprised of one building of the James A. Garfield High School plant on East Sixth Street, and another 267 nursing students enrolled to take classes at the General Hospital. The college had 12 faculty in place and was organized around six major occupational and cultural fields (Business; Industry; Civics, Health, and Welfare; Homemaking and Fine Arts; the Cultural Heritage; and Agriculture). As enrollments increased, the size of the college has grown to 82 acres. Four movable bungalows were erected, and in February of 1948, East Los Angeles Junior College (now ELAC) became firmly established on its present site in the City of Monterey Park. The first Director was Dr. Rosco C. Ingalls.

Social activism has been a constant at ELAC with participation in the Chicano Moratorium on August 29, 1970, led by activists, members of Brown Berets and groups of high schools that had organized the walkouts in 1968, that brought recognition for social justice and educational rights. In the late 1980’s, ELAC has solidified its commitment to its communities by evolving into the quality educational hub that it is today. By instituting campus wide governance and participation that included faculty, staff and students, the college underwent a transformation that led to its current academic recognition in state and national rankings. In 2019, The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education ranked ELAC Number One in California and Number 6 in the nation for awarding degrees and certificates to Latino students. The college continues distinguishing itself as a dynamic institution that welcomes students and invests in their success through numerous student support, academic and workforce education programs.