The College, which began as Mason City Junior College (MCJC) in 1918, has the distinction of being the very first public two-year college in Iowa and one of the first such institutions in the country.
The idea for a junior college formulated at a high school PTA meeting in the spring of 1916. The following year, the Mason City School Board passed a resolution establishing a junior college, and on September 9, 1918, Mason City Junior College classes began on the top floor of the high school building. There were 28 students, six instructors, and five fields of study under Principal James Rae. Tuition was free to Mason City residents and $10 otherwise.
Enrollment climbed to nearly 300 before declining during World War II. By 1945, veterans taking advantage of the G.I. Bill accounted for more than 25 percent of the total enrollment.
In the mid 1950s, the College moved from the high school building to the remodeled Memorial University Building on the Roosevelt campus. The College remained there for 12 years, growing in enrollment from 280 to 1390.
By 1960, vocational/technical education became a part of the college with the Electronics program leading the way.
In 1965, Iowa’s 61st General Assembly enacted legislation creating a statewide system of two-year postsecondary educational institutions, identified as Merged Area Schools. The following year, with a strong foundation built on nearly 50 years of existence as Mason City Junior College, North Iowa Area Community College (Merged Area II) opened its doors in the old Mason City High School building in downtown Mason City. Enrollment exceeded 1700 full-time students.
In 1970, NIACC moved to its new home – a 300-acre site on the east edge of Mason City – and the first two permanent buildings, McAllister Hall and the Careers Building, were occupied. Within one year, all NIACC classes moved to temporary buildings on the new campus, pulling together an operation scattered over 14 locations in Mason City.
In 1972, dormitories were built to house over 450 students, and by 1979 the Beem Center and 1167-seat North Iowa Community Auditorium were completed.
Today, the 500-acre countryside campus consists of contemporary, state-of-the-art facilities including the Student Activity Center, Recreation Center, Muse-Norris Conference Center, and Murphy Manufacturing Technology Center, as well as lakeside student apartments.
The College also operates Community Education Centers in Charles City, Garner, Hampton, Lake Mills and Osage.
With a staff of approximately 300, the College currently offers more than 50 one-year and two-year career programs, the first two years toward a bachelor’s degree in most fields, and an array of continuing education opportunities for professional and personal growth.
On average, the College serves over 3,700 degree students each year and thousands more through non-credit programs.