It was founded in 1952 by the Dominican Sisters of Blauvelt as a three-year liberal arts college in the Catholic tradition, offering a teacher preparation program for religious women. In 1957 the College was opened to lay students, the first four of whom began classes in September.
The rapid expansion of the College and a desire to contribute to the educational and cultural growth of Rockland County encouraged the Board of Trustees to petition the Regents in 1959 for authorization to offer a four-year program leading to the Bachelor of Arts and the Bachelor of Science in Education. In that year also, programs in English and History were added to the curriculum.
An absolute charter was granted to the College by the Regents in 1966. In the same year Dominican entered the field of special education with the introduction of a program preparing students for New York State certification as teachers of the visually impaired. The following year French and Spanish were added to the curriculum, and the day session became coeducational, joining the evening and summer sessions which had always been so.
New programs were developed as the needs of a growing student body were identified. The Human Services program (1970), cooperatively sponsored with Rockland Community College, prepared students for careers in the field of social welfare and led to a Bachelor of Professional Studies degree. In that year also the College added a Psychology major and a secondary education certification program to the curriculum.
The Business Administration program was inaugurated in 1971, as was a second area in special education to prepare teachers of students with disabilities. In 1974 a major in Social Sciences and the baccalaureate degree Nursing program were added. The upper-level Nursing program provides the opportunity for registered nurses to earn the Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing. The program in Social Work (1976), leading to a Bachelor of Science degree, prepares students to qualify as general practitioners of social work and also provides the foundation for advancement in graduate work. In 1979 the College introduced a program to prepare rehabilitation teachers of the blind and a certificate program for community residence personnel.
In response to changing work needs and shifts in enrollment patterns, the College discontinued its degree programs in French and Human Services as of the 1978-79 academic year.
In 1981 the Board of Regents granted authorization for Dominican to offer the four-year baccalaureate degree program in Nursing in addition to its upper-level program. This enabled students with no prior background in nursing to be admitted to the program as freshmen.
Dominican's program in Computer Information Systems was added to the Business Administration curriculum in 1982, and in 1984 the College introduced new degree programs in Occupational Therapy and in Humanities. The College expanded in 1987 to include a Bachelor's degree in Mathematics, followed in 1995 by a Bachelor of Arts program in Biology, in 1997 by a Bachelor of Science program in Athletic Training, and in 1996/98 by dual-certification programs in Teacher Education.
In 1980, to enhance its service to a growing population of adult learners, the College had begun offering a number of its programs in a Weekend College format as well as in the regular day and evening sessions. The steadily increasing popularity of these offerings resulted in a series of expansions, including the 1988 addition of a new Weekend program in Health Services Administration. It also led to the introduction of three other learning formats for adults: an Accelerated Evening Program (ACCEL) in 1990 and, for Nursing students, an Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing option (A.B.S.N.) in 1992 and an accelerated R.N. Program (A.R.N.) in 1996.
In 1994 the College's charter was amended by the Board of Regents to provide for an offering at the graduate level, a Weekend program in special education leading to the master's degree for Teachers of Students with Multiple Needs. In 1996, a Bachelor of Science/Master of Science in Occupational Therapy was added. These graduate-level offerings were soon followed by an array of other Master's degree programs: Physical Therapy, in 1998; Nursing (Family Nurse Practitioner), in 1999; and Teachers of the Visually Impaired in 2000. In 2002, the original Multiple Needs program was replaced by a more inclusive M.S.Ed. program for Teachers of Students with Disabilities. In 2004, the College's charter was further amended to authorize the offering of a Physical Therapy program at the doctoral level. In 2007, graduate programs in Childhood Education and Business Administration were introduced, as was an undergraduate program in Criminal Justice.
The College is authorized to offer the following degrees: Doctor of Physical Therapy, Master of Business Administration, Master of Science, Master of Science in Education, Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Science in Education, Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Bachelor of Social Work, and the Associate in Arts.
The Palisades Institute was created in October, 1990, as part of Dominican College of Blauvelt, to serve for-profit, not-for-profit, and governmental organizations in metropolitan New York, especially those located in Rockland and Orange Counties in New York, and Bergen and Passaic Counties in New Jersey. It also participates in activities for Dominican College students.