Established in 1998, the Higher Education Center at National City (HEC, NC) opened with more than 600 students registered for one or more of the 39 classes offered at the Center. Today, the Center enjoys an enrollment of over 3,000 students per semester. The Centers' 200-plus courses offer a full array of classes for students who wish to pursue an associate degree, complete general education and major preparation requirements for transfer, and/or develop occupational skills for employment in fields such as Dental Hygiene, Medical Laboratory Technology, Medical Office Professions, and Optical Technician (non-credit). Most recently, the Center began a Weekend College – offering general education courses, career education programs, and a variety of fitness and enrichment classes on Saturdays and Sundays in various modalities, such as in-person or hybrid/online.

To help students achieve success in their courses and future careers, the Center also provides the necessary student support services on-site.  Students have access to admissions and records services, counseling, tutoring, financial aid, and disability support services. Furthermore, the state-of-the-art facility houses a dental hygiene clinic open to the public for no-cost care, a library, a health services center, a student center, a food pantry (JAG Kitchenette), and science, medical, and computer labs.

The scope of the Higher Education Center at National City also includes the Restorative Justice and the Southwest Regional Apprenticeship Programs.

The Restorative Justice (RJ) Program includes degree and transfer pathways for incarcerated students in the local prison, jails, and youth detention facilities as well as providing on-campus reentry support services to system-impacted and formerly incarcerated students entering Southwestern College.

The Southwest Regional Apprenticeship Program (SWRAP) is a collaboration with the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and the Naval Air Station, North Island in Coronado.  Coursework leads to an Associate Degree in Business Management and a Certificate of Achievement in Project Management in addition to journey-level trade instruction supporting the repair and maintenance of the US Navy fleet.

The administration of the Higher Education Center is comprised of Christine Perri, Dean, Gay Teel, Director of Dental Hygiene, Deanna Reinacher, Director of Medical Laboratory Technician & Medical Office Professionals Program, Antonio Martin, Center Operations Supervisor, Fernando Poveda, Director of Crown Cove Aquatic Center, and Raquel Funches, Director of Restorative Justice and Off-Campus Programs.

The Higher Education Center at National City is home to the Center for Business Advancement (CBA).  This hub brings together four business service organizations to provide support to small businesses and help them achieve growth and expansion ultimately stimulating the local and regional economy.  The Center for Business Advancement encompasses the services offered by the San Diego, Imperial, and Orange County Apex Accelerator, the San Diego and Imperial Small Business Development Center Network, the South San Diego Small Business Development Center (SBDC), and the San Diego Women's Business Center (WBC). The administration of the Center for Business Advancement is comprised of Daniel Fitzgerald, Executive Director, Briana Weisinger, Director of CBA, Brandon Napoli, Director of SBDC, Mike Sabellico, Regional Director of Apex Accelerator, and Katty Ibarra, Director of WBC.