Iowa Lakes Community College was officially recognized by the Iowa Department of Education on October 28 of 1966. The college was organized in January of 1967 when the first board of directors met to begin planning for the organization and development of the college. Legislation passed by the Iowa legislature established Merged Area III as a part of a statewide plan. This area included all or parts of the counties of Clay, Dickinson, Emmet, Kossuth and Palo Alto and encompassed at the time 26 community school districts and two parochial school systems.
In 1968 the board approved the merger of the Estherville Junior College and its facilities into the new district. The college had been operated by the Estherville public schools since its founding in 1924.
The Emmetsburg Junior College was merged in 1970, which gave Iowa Lakes two major campuses in the area. The Emmetsburg college had been operated since 1930 by the Emmetsburg public schools.
The two major campuses are now located at Emmetsburg and Estherville. Additional campuses are located in Algona, Spencer and Spirit Lake.
The Emmetsburg Campus is in the northwest part of Emmetsburg at 3200 College Drive. Vocational-technical, career option, and liberal arts programs are offered at the Emmetsburg Campus.
The Estherville Campus is located in the eastern part of Estherville at 300 South 18th Street. Facilities constructed since 1972 serve liberal arts, career option and Vocational-technical programs.
The Spencer Campus began operating in the mid 1970s. It is located at Gateway North 1900 Grand Avenue and includes facilities for day, evening, and weekend college liberal arts courses, allied health and office programs, a computer lab, community education services, a learning resource center, the main offices of the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program and the area Small Business Development Center.
The Spirit Lake Campus of Iowa Lakes Community College opened in 1984. In 1995 the campus moved into new facilities and an addition was added in 2001 at 800 21st St. The campus houses day, evening, and weekend college. The Spirit Lake Campus provides liberal arts courses, a computer lab, leadership management courses, community and continuing education services and a student Success Center. The Spirit Lake Campus has an ICN room as well as two TV classrooms in which courses may be received at Spirit Lake or originated from the campus.
A facility in Algona was purchased in late 1986 and has been developed into a college campus with facilities for day and evening liberal arts courses, community and education services and a learning resource center. The Algona Campus is located just north of the city at 2111 U.S. Highway 169.
An instructional television system began offering courses to the area in 1983. Beginning with two channels, six sites and four courses, the system now has four channels, televises 35 to 40 live college courses per semester to a potential 12 receiving sites. All courses necessary for a two-year Associate in Arts degree are offered on the system as well as numerous "one shot" programs and live teleconferences. This brings programming within a short drive of any potential student in the counties served by Iowa Lakes.
The college is also a participant in the Iowa Communications Network which allows sharing classes with other colleges in the state via a state-of-the-art fiber optic system. A classroom at each campus and center is equipped for two-way television and audio.
The Continuing Education offices, with headquarters at the Estherville campus, uses classroom facilities at college owned sites and in Area III school districts to deliver instruction and services to local residents.