The history of South Plains College is the unfolding of an idea with two elements: the impulse and capacity of the individual to learn and produce, and the community dependent on the enlightened and productive individual. In some sense, this history begins when the local community begins, for the community has always understood that its nature is, in part, to learn, teach, and provide public education for its children. But by the early 1950s a few prominent citizens of Hockley County realized that the local education should no longer be limited to children, and that Hockley County required a greater role in the educational system of Texas. Consequently, these citizens twice petitioned the State Board of Education, once in 1951 and again in 1956, for permission to establish a junior college in Levelland. Given permission to hold an election, the citizens of Hockley County voted to establish South Plains College on April 2, 1957.

In 1958, the college opened its doors primarily as a two-year academic transfer institution, the first such college in Texas in more than 10 years. South Plains College opened the door to the expansion of community colleges in Texas, arguably the most significant development in Texas higher education of the last half of the twentieth century. Fruitful changes began almost immediately. In 1959, Whiteface Independent School District became a part of the district, which was redesignated the South Plains Junior College District. In the early 1960s, the district developed a clearer notion of community college and rapidly incorporated technical and vocational education, continuing education, and educational counseling and other student support services.

South Plains College has continued to grow and expand, opening the extension at Reese Air Force Base in 1970, and a technical branch in Lubbock in 1973. In 1977, the college acquired and refurbished the West Texas Hospital Building in downtown Lubbock, and in the fall of 1978 established the Lubbock Campus at the new site. With the closing of Reese Air Force Base in 1997, the college acquired through public conveyance six educational buildings at the former air base. These facilities have been developed into an expanded SPC Reese Center program. The same year, SPC established a partnership with the Lubbock Independent School District and other Lubbock community partners to open the Byron Martin Advanced Technology Center. In order to accommodate enrollment and program growth, college officials in 2000 decided to close the Main Street facility and consolidate its Lubbock-based programs at the SPC Reese Center. In 2004, the college acquired a facility in Plainview to expand its educational program in the northern tier of its service area. This building was renovated and opened in September 2005 as the SPC Plainview Center.

Over the years, these expansions have significantly enriched South Plains College, broadening its service area and contributing to its understanding of the larger community. All the while, the larger community has been exceptionally positive in its support of the college, voting bond issues as needed and promoting enthusiastically all facets of the college.

History implies change, and South Plains College is committed to changing with the needs and opportunities of the community. It seeks not merely to be the guardian of tradition, but to be creative as well, ever seeking to uncover and find expression for individual and community potential. Communities, however, do not merely change. The original idea that established the college remains valid, and South Plains College understands its relation to the abiding values of civilization. Thus, the college continues to be the unfolding intellectual history of a community attempting to be a responsible part of the global communities of the world.