Shortly after the close of the Civil War, residents of upper Berks County were able to turn their thoughts from mere survival on the frontier toward building a modern society. One of their first concerns was the preparation of young people to take their places in the developing industrial economy.

Before any of these dreams could be realized, the inadequate number of school teachers had to be bolstered. To that end, on September 15, 1866, the Keystone State Normal School was established on what is now the site of Old Main.

The depth and sophistication of teacher training continued to increase with the complexity of industrialized society, and the needs of a burgeoning industrialization in the region placed more and more demands on teacher preparation. The institution met this challenge and, in 1928, was designated as Kutztown State Teacher's College and authorized to confer the bachelor's degree.

Eventually, the area's need for liberally educated personnel to staff its industries outstripped the need for teachers. In 1960, the commonwealth of Pennsylvania changed the institution's name to Kutztown State College and diversified its goals toward "A center for learning for the best possible education of the youth of Pennsylvania in the arts and sciences and preparation of able and dedicated teachers."

Since 1960 the school has grown significantly, educating a student body of more than 8,000 and employing 467 faculty members.

On July 1, 1983, Kutztown State College became Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, a member of the new State System of Higher Education. Since that time, Kutztown University has continued to grow and diversify in facilities, research and staff.

Kutztown has 130 undergraduate programs in the Colleges of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Visual and Performing Arts, Business, and Education. There are also 31 graduate areas of study, including two doctoral programs. An honors program, study abroad, internships, student/faculty research and experiential learning communities round out the academic experience.

In addition, the university reaches out to the community with credit and non-credit Lifelong Learning courses.

During the 2015-16 academic year, Kutztown University celebrated its Sesquicentennial, marking 150 years of service to the region and community.