Southwestern Community College began operation as a part of Iowa's community college system on July 1, 1966. In assuming its role as a new institution, Southwestern inherited the facilities and instructional programs of Creston Community College which had been operated by the Creston Community School District since 1926.

A 406-acre campus site was purchased in 1966, and the first new building on the site was occupied in the summer of 1970. The campus expanded with the addition of the student center, administration center, and technical center. In 1995, an area arts and wellness center was completed on the Southwestern campus.  This facility houses SWCC's adult and continuing education department and performing arts auditorium, as well as the Southern Prairie YMCA, complete with gymnasium, Olympic sized pool, and other recreation and fitness facilities. The SWCC campus includes outdoor facilities for tennis, baseball, and softball as well as other outdoor recreational facilities. Both men's and women's dormitories are also located on campus.

Facilities built since the year 2000 include an allied health center, technical center II, and the Spartan Suites apartment-style dormitories.

In addition to the strong arts and sciences program at Southwestern, an array of career and technical education programs are offered, and a comprehensive program of adult and continuing education has been conducted throughout the college's eight-county district.

The Red Oak Center was opened in 1985 to fill a growing need to serve the Montgomery County area of the Southwestern Community College district. The center moved to a permanent location at 2300 North 4th Street near highway 34 in 1991. Each semester the college offers accounting, computer, business, nursing, and arts and sciences classes. The center provides customized training for local businesses and industries, adult and continuing education classes, and general equivalency diploma classes and testing.

In 1992, a center was opened in Osceola as a joint project between Southwestern Community College and JTPA. Osceola's center is located at 2520 College Drive (West of Interstate 35).  The building was expanded by 8,000 square feet in 1999.