The Appalachian Center at Hickory was originally established in 2003 as HMHEC (Hickory Metro Higher Ed Center), a partnership between Appalachian State University, Catawba Valley Community College, and Lenoir-Rhyne University in collaboration with the City of Hickory and Catawba County. In July of 2009, HMHEC was disbanded and became the Appalachian Center at Hickory. The center is staffed by Catawba Valley Community College to provide customer service to all students and instructors in classes within the facility.
The Appalachian Center at Hickory is located on the East Campus of Catawba Valley Community College. Colleges and universities provide undergraduate degree-completion and graduate degree programs through off-campus programs for students in the Hickory, metro area.