McNeese State University was established by the Louisiana Legislature in 1939. The institution was first named the Lake Charles Junior College, and was a division of Louisiana State University with the opening session beginning on September 11, 1939. The following fall, the school changed its name to John McNeese Junior College to honor John McNeese, a renowned Southwest Louisiana educator and the first superintendent of schools in Imperial Calcasieu Parish. In 1950, McNeese became a four-year college in its own right and came under the authority of the Louisiana Board of Education. Finally, in 1970, McNeese State University became the official name of the school.
McNeese achieved Commission on Colleges/Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accreditation in 1954 and maintains its regional accreditation status as a Level IV institution authorized to award associate, bachelor, master, and specialist degrees. The University also provides opportunities for continuing education in support of its mission to value lifelong learning.