California State University, San Marcos, the 20th campus of the California State University, was founded on September 1, 1989. The University had evolved from the North County Center of San Diego State University, which was located in leased premises on Los Vallecitos Boulevard in San Marcos. During 1989/90, twelve founding faculty joined President Bill W. Stacy to define the university mission, academic plan and institutional plan.
To promote favorable city/campus relationships on planning and zoning issues, the City of San Marcos formed a Technical Advisory Committee between city and CSU officials aimed at formulating harmonious land use and circulation proposals for the 1,800 acres of privately owned property immediately surrounding the campus site. This cooperative effort culminated with the city adopting the “Heart of the City” General Plan Amendment and related zoning ordinance amendments to carry forward the committee’s work into public policy.
Groundbreaking for the permanent campus, located on the former Prohoroff Ranch in the City of San Marcos, occurred on February 23, 1990. The initial construction of the 304-acre site provided six buildings and appropriate roads, streets, utilities, and landscaping.
In Fall 1990, 600 “first” students arrived to become engaged in the university’s teaching and learning processes, and 18 additional faculty were recruited to meet the academic responsibilities of the growing campus. The University conducted its first commencement on May 23, 1992, with the graduation of 107 baccalaureate candidates and recognition of 75 students having completed the postbaccalaureate Teacher Credential Program. In spring 1993, the campus received full accreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
A major infrastructure project completed in 1996 supported additional buildings planned to accommodate expected growth. University Hall, a classroom/office building, was completed in 1998. Two additional buildings, Science Hall II and the Arts Building, were opened in 2002.
The Clarke Field House/University Student Union and University Village Apartments were both opened in Fall 2003. The 200,000 square foot Kellogg Library opened in January 2004 with space for 840,000 volumes and seating for more than 1,600 students. The 80,000 square foot Markstein Hall (Business Building) opened in January 2006.
In August 2007 the Center for Children and Families opened its doors to the children of students, faculty, staff, and community members. This facility provides not only childcare services but also educational opportunities for the College of Education and Psychology programs.
The McMahan House, built in 2009, became the campus’ first conferencing center which consists of four structures: the Main Structure that includes a great room for meeting and dining, a commercial kitchen, foyer and support areas, and three other conference rooms. In addition it has a large covered patio for outdoor events.
The Social and Behavioral Sciences Building, completed in Summer 2011 officially opened its doors to students for the Fall 2011 semester. This academic building added lecture and lab space with an addition of 125 faculty offices to the campus. Additionally the Public Safety Building completed in Spring 2011 provided space for the University Police and Parking and Commuter Services departments on the edge of campus near the Sprinter station.
The University Student Union, the heartbeat of the campus and a hub of student activity, opened it's doors on January 21, 2014. The USU added a 9,000 square foot ball room, the largest venue on campus, a space for four food concepts, activity room, coffee shop, convenience store and student service department offices.
The Student Health and Counseling Services Building, relocated Student Health and Counseling Services back to campus after being located off-campus for more than 15 years. The project built a two story building that included examination rooms, medical offices, counseling spaces and a wellness and health program space.
The Sports Center, home to CSUSM men’s and women’s basketball and women’s volleyball, celebrated its grand opening on Sept. 1, 2016. The 25,000-square-foot building includes seating for 1,400 for games.
Construction began in spring 2018 on the new Extended Learning building. Part of a public-private partnership, the first of its kind in the state's history, the project includes a 135,000-square-foot, six-story building, an accompanying 709-space parking garage and a pedestrian bridge over Barham Drive. The project was completed on time for the fall 2019 semester. It is now home to Extended Learning, CSUSM Corporation, and various other student oriented centers, along with lecture and laboratory classrooms.