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The original NNTC campus opened in 1971 with the Maclay Administration Building, the Building Construction Building and the Complex “B” Building that included Diesel and Auto Body shops. This facility was later renamed the Weller Building. A dormitory and the library were constructed a year later. At the time of its inception, Northeast's campus also consisted of several older buildings located in downtown Norfolk. The College served approximately 800 credit on-campus students and offered a total of 39 programs of study in 1973.

Other buildings erected on campus during the 1970s included Electronics and Utility Line (1974); Science (1978); and the Activities Center (1980).

NNTCC opened under the presidency of Dr. Robert P. Cox and a governing board whose members consisted of Gerhardt Albers, Beemer; Ronald Aschoff, Osmond; Allen Burkhardt, Norfolk; Phil Knerl, Ponca; H.C. Larson, Decatur; Donald Pfeil, Wausa; Cleon Roselius, Norfolk; Raymond Schreiner, Wayne; Benson Thornton, Norfolk; John Watson, O’Neill; and Arlo Wirth, Hartington.

In cooperation with representatives of the Native American tribes of Nebraska, NNTCC established satellite community college programs on the three Indian Reservations of northeast Nebraska. Native American language, culture and special community interest and development courses, along with regular college curricula, were offered on the Omaha, Santee Sioux and Winnebago Indian Reservations.