Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) was established in 1964 as Northern Virginia Technical College to serve the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William, and the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas, and Manassas Park.
The College opened for classes in the fall of 1965 in a single building in Bailey's Crossroads. Enrollment was 761 students who were served by a faculty and staff of 46. Robert L. McKee was the first president. Dr. Richard J. Ernst became the second president of the College in September 1968 and served for thirty years. Dr. Belle S. Wheelan became the third president of the College in July 1998 and served for three years. Dr. Robert G. Templin, Jr., became the fourth president of the College in August 2002.
The College was renamed Northern Virginia Community College in 1966 when the Statewide General Assembly changed the name of the technical college system to the Virginia Community College System (VCCS). College transfer curricula were added to the existing career/technical curricula for a more comprehensive program.
In 1966, the College bought 78 acres in Annandale, which became the first of six permanent campus sites. The first building was constructed there and opened in 1967. That same year, 100-acre sites were purchased for campuses in Sterling, Manassas, and Woodbridge. In 1969, a campus site was purchased for Alexandria. The campus site for the Medical Education Campus was purchased in 2000.
Classes were first offered in Loudoun, Manassas, and Woodbridge in the fall of 1972. Classes moved from Bailey’s Crossroads to the Alexandria Campus in 1973. The Extended Learning Institute (ELI) began offering home study courses in January 1975 and has developed into a leader in online education. In the fall of 2003, the Medical Education Campus opened in Springfield, Virginia, to meet both student and employer demand for health professions education. The College opened two new educational centers in 2006 in Arlington and Reston, and a third location, Innovation Park, became a center in 2011.
The College's enrollment and programs grew rapidly. By 1970, enrollment exceeded 10,000 students. By 1973, NOVA became the largest institution of higher education in Virginia with 17,260 students. During the 2013–2014 academic year, the College served more than 77,390 students in credit courses and another 22,400 in noncredit courses. More than 300,000 people came to NOVA campuses throughout the year for various cultural and enrichment activities.