On January 15, 1981, through P.D. 1778, the Don Mariano Marcos Memorial State University (DMMMSU) was created to cater to the aspirations of the people. The University has three (3) major campuses located in different towns of the province of La Union. namely: the North La Union Campus in Bacnotan as the Main Campus and the seat of the Central Administration; the Open University System  and  the  Mid La Union Campus in San Fernando, and South La Union Campus in Agoo with the Institute of Agriculture in Rosario and Institute of Fisheries in Sto. Tomas.

The University has 78 academic programs broken down into seven(7) Post Graduate courses in Philosophy and Doctor of Education,; 24 Graduate Courses in Masters Degrees; 36 Undergraduate Courses, nine(9) post secondary non-degree programs, two(2) laboratory programs and the Open University System offers two(2) Masters degrees and four(4) Certificate courses .

Don Mariano Mariano Marcos Memorial State University has three academic programs that have been re-accredited to Level III status by the Accrediting Agency of Chartered Colleges and Universities of the Philippines. These are Graduate College, Teacher Education, and Agriculture. For the past several years, DMMMSU had produced topnotchers in national board examinations in the fields of Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Agriculture, Agricultural Engineering, Veterinary Medicine, Forestry, Midwifery, Master Electrician and Education.

The University was ranked among the top ten higher education institutions in the Philippines, as surveyed by the Commission on Higher Education in 2001. It was ranked number seven among the more than a thousand private and public colleges and universities. Areas evaluated were faculty, student admission, library and research.

The College of Education was awarded Center of Excellence since 2010 while the College of Information Technology was re-accredited by the Commission on Higher Education as Center of Development .

The research program of the University is one of the biggest programs in Northern Luzon in terms of the number of ongoing researches undertaken and budget allocation. Its research commodities include fiber crops, fruit crops, beef and chevon, pork, orchids, bamboo, agroforestry, poultry, agricultural engineering, farming system, applied rural sociology, marcoeconomics, ube, bananas, sericulture, and apiculture.

Extension programs of the University are anchored on commodity-based services that create an impact on the life of the clientele in terms of productivity and profitability and services for the enhancement of local governments and non-government organizations. The DMMMSU Techno Pinoy, also known as Farmer’s Information and Technology Services, had been evaluated by the Philippine Council  for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development to be one of the country’s more active and functional centers.

Acknowledged for its distinct competence, expertise and resources, DMMMSU is home to a number of special projects. These include the Sericulture Research and Development Institute (SRDI), National Apiculture Research, Training and Development Institute (NARTDI), DMMMSU Pig Extension and Research Farm, Philippine Carabao Center, and Affiliated Non-Conventional Energy Center.