Southwest Baptist University first opened its doors in 1878 in Lebanon, MO, as Southwest Baptist College. In 1879 the college was chartered by the state of Missouri and moved to Bolivar. The University has maintained its strong Baptist heritage through its affiliation with the Missouri Baptist Convention, which provides financial support for the University and elects the 25-member board of trustees which governs the institution. The Missouri Baptist Convention approved plans in 1964 for the college to become a senior liberal arts college. The first baccalaureate degrees were awarded in 1967. Another milestone occurred in 1981 when the college name was changed to Southwest Baptist University.
SBU offers undergraduate and graduate degrees, online education opportunities and dual credit courses. Fully online and hybrid degree programs are available in the areas of nursing/health sciences and graduate education.