Southwestern Oklahoma State University at Sayre was founded as Sayre Junior College in 1938 under legislative authorization which permitted public high schools to add a 13th and 14th year of study to their curricula. In 1940, the college name was changed to Oklahoma Western Junior College; however, the original name was soon adopted again, and in May 1940 the first degrees were conferred.
America's entry into World War II decimated the ranks of both faculty and students. Consequently, the college closed during the war years, but reopened in 1946. In 1956, Sayre Junior College moved from facilities occupied jointly with Sayre High School into separate facilities, a gymnasium and a classroom building, in the northeast corner of Sayre. In 1960 two additional classroom buildings were added, and in 1968 the Mackey Hall dormitory was opened. Changes in the physical plant have continued with expansion of the main classroom building; the addition of new classrooms, conference room, and student services facilities; and the conversion of Mackey Hall to classroom space and library facilities.
In July 1987 by act of the Oklahoma legislature, Sayre Junior College was merged with Southwestern Oklahoma State University. The campus serves western Oklahoma and the Texas panhandle within a 60 mile radius of Sayre. It offers open admission to high school graduates as well as to students who do not hold a high school diploma. Fully accredited, SWOSU at Sayre offers Associate of Science and Associate of Applied Science degrees in both general and specialized areas of study.