Tennessee Technological University was established by an act of the General Assembly in 1915 and opened its doors to students the following year. The University began operation on the campus which had belonged to Dixie College, a private institution founded in 1911. The purchase of the Dixie campus property and the erection of two dormitories, East and West Halls, were funded by Putnam County and the city of Cookeville. Since then, the growth of the institution has been closely interwoven with the development of the Upper Cumberland region.
From 1916 to 1924, Tennessee Polytechnic Institute offered work only on a high school and junior college level. By 1929, however, the Tennessee Board of Education had authorized a complete college program, and the first class of four-year graduates received their baccalaureate degrees in June.
In 1938 the instructional program was reorganized into two main divisions: the Arts and Sciences and the Professional and Technical Subjects. These divisions were renamed schools nine years later. In 1949, the administrative structure was expanded into five schools consisting of Arts and Sciences, Agriculture and Home Economics (now Agricultural and Human Sciences), Business Administration, Education, and Engineering. In 1950, the department of Military Science was added and in 1951 commissioned its first class of officers. The Graduate School program was authorized in 1958. The five undergraduate schools were designated as colleges in 1965, when Tennessee Polytechnic Institute gained university status and changed its name to Tennessee Technological University. In 1980, the School of Nursing began classes. In 2001, the School of Interdisciplinary Studies and Extended Education was established. In 2006, it was reorganized and renamed Extended Programs and Regional Development and the School of Interdisciplinary Studies and in 2012 school was changed to college. In 2006, the Schools of Agriculture, Human Ecology, and Nursing were incorporated into the College of Agricultural and Human Sciences. Effective July 2013 the name will change back to the College of Agriculture and Human Ecology and will include the School of Agriculture and Human Ecology. The school of nursing will be named the Whitson-Hester School of Nursing. Since 1972, the University has been governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents.