The Texas Legislature authorized the foundation of the precursor to Texas State University in 1899. That university, Southwest Texas State Normal School, officially opened in 1903.
Since its founding, the Texas Legislature has continuously expanded the scope of the institution. As that scope has expanded, so too has the institution's name. Prior to the Legislature renaming the institution Texas State University in 2003, the institution was known as Southwest Texas State Teachers College, Southwest Texas State College and Southwest Texas State University.
Since the founding of Southwest Texas State in 1903, the city of San Marcos has been the location of the institution's main campus. In 1903, Southwest Texas State educated 303 students. As of 2014, more than 36,000 students attend Texas State University across multiple campuses.