In 1884, the parish and city of Natchitoches acquired the property of a former plantation, and that same year the state legislature chartered the Louisiana State Normal School. It offered two-year degrees for the training of teachers until 1918, when a baccalaureate program was instituted. In 1921, the name changed to the Louisiana State Normal College. To recognize the college's excellent service in meeting the academic requirements of Louisiana's expanding population and to recognize the college's expanding role and curricula, the name officially changed to Northwestern State College in 1944.

Continuing its long tradition of public service and academic excellence, in 1954 NSU became the first college under the jurisdiction of the State Board of Education to offer the Master of Education degree (M.Ed.). A Specialist in Education degree (Ed.S.) followed in 1966. Four years later, in 1970, the legislature changed the institution's name to Northwestern State University, an act bringing the former Normal School its greatest distinction.

In fall 2010, as part of university reorganization, the College of Education became the College of Education and Human Development with three departments: Educational Leadership and Technology, Health and Human Performance, and Teaching and Learning.

What sparked the founding of the Normal School--teaching and learning--continues today. Widely respected for its well-trained teachers and educational professionals, leadership services, and effective models of teaching and learning, the College envisions itself as a state leader in developing and implementing sound educational practices and innovations.