Classes of the Mayville Normal School began in 1890, with funds for a building ("Old Main") provided by the Second Legislative Assembly in early 1891, where classes were initially held in 1893. Since then, Mayville State has steadily grown and progressed. In 1925, the State Board of Higher Education (SBHE) authorized Mayville State to grant a Bachelor of Arts in Education. The Mayville Normal School thus became a "teacher's college," providing general education and offering a four-year degree. Successive additions strengthened the curriculum; and as enrollment grew, new buildings appeared.
Mayville State University is one of North Dakota's original colleges, since its establishment was provided in the state constitution of 1889. Teachers Colleges (then called "Normal Schools") had grown rapidly since their introduction into the field of American higher education soon after the Civil War. Three times the legislature of the Dakota Territory had moved toward the establishment of colleges for teacher education, but none of these efforts bore fruit for the people of the area, which became North Dakota.
The North Dakota Constitutional Convention of 1889 located sites for the nine original state institutions and funded them by a 30,000 acre land grant, leaving organization to the First Legislative Assembly.
In 1948, the B.A. in Education became a B.S. in Education and the first non-teaching Bachelor of Arts was offered in 1961. In 1973 and 1982, the college established programs in business administration and computer studies respectively. In the early 1980's, the Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of General Studies became available. The present name, Mayville State University, was approved by the legislature in 1987.