McCook Community College, founded in 1926 as McCook Junior College, was the first two-year institution in Nebraska. The college was organized as part of the McCook Public School system. The Superintendent of the McCook Public Schools, J.A. True, served as the college president, and there were eight faculty members. The position of the Dean of the College was created at that time for a liaison office between the College and the Superintendent's Office. Registration was held on September 6, 1926, with classes meeting on the second floor of the YMCA building. The first graduating class, in 1928, consisted of 25 students.

During the early years of the junior college movement in Nebraska, it was found that the State of Nebraska had not provided the necessary permissive legislation for the establishment of such colleges. McCook Junior College kept its doors open during this time of legal question, and during these years, both the State Department of Education and the University of Nebraska gave full accreditation to the college. In 1931, the Nebraska Junior College Bill incorporated junior colleges into the state education system.

In September 1935, McCook Junior College moved from the YMCA building to Cecil McMillen Memorial Hall. The present athletic field was completed in time for the fall football campaign in 1935. Its original name was Kelley Bowl, after Mr. John G. Kelley, but it was later changed to Weiland Field in honor of Frank M. Weiland. In September 1939, McCook Junior College opened another new facility, an auditorium-gymnasium-classroom complex, later named True Hall after J.A. True.

During World War II, McCook Junior College met the demands of the period by allowing students to meet the two-year graduation requirement by attending one full year and two summer sessions. The speed-up program was designed to serve the needs of the young men facing induction into the armed forces.

Brooks Residence Hall, named after R.G. Brooks, was originally completed in the spring of 1960. In the spring of 1990, Brooks Residence was doubled in size with the addition of a new wing that increased the housing capacity to 140 students. The student center, known as the Wigwam, was opened in the fall of 1966. Tipton Hall, named in honor of Gladys Tipton, was opened in 1969 and provided music and maintenance facilities.

The von Riesen Library named after Ralph von Riesen, and Barnett Hall, named in honor of the Barnett family, were opened in the spring of 1972. The Wrightstone Fine Arts Building, named after Pearl Wrightstone, was opened for classes in the spring of 1976. Walsh-Brady Hall, named in honor of Mary Walsh Brady and her uncle, Patrick Walsh, was opened for classes in the fall of 1987.

In 1967, McCook Public School Board District No. 17 approved independent administration for McCook Junior College and appointed A.W. Kuper as president. In the spring of 1971, McCook Junior College was separated from the McCook Public Schools and became a political subdivision, thus acquiring its own school board and the authority to tax.