On March 5, 1976, KRCU signed on the air with a power of 10 watts at 90.9 FM. The studios were located in the Grauel Language Arts Building on the campus of Southeast Missouri State University and the station's tower was located atop Academic Hall -- along with a secondary broadcast studio. At that time the KRCU signal carried only as far as Capaha Park. Herb Taylor was the station’s first General Manager. Student announcers filled the airwaves during the station’s limited daily broadcast schedule.
In September 1981, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) authorized KRCU to increase its power to 100 watts. This allowed the signal of the station to be heard in a 5-mile radius. KRCU was received clearly in most parts of Cape Girardeau. Reception reports, however, verified listeners as far away as Appleton, Gordonville, and Scott City.
Susan Westfall was hired as the station’s General Manager in 1988. That year also marked the beginning of KRCU’s transition from an alternative music station, to a regional public radio outlet and member of National Public Radio. The station became an NPR member station in November 1990. Between 1988 and 1994, the station underwent several changes including increasing the hours of operation. KRCU moved to a newly renovated building on North Henderson Avenue in 1991 and new studio equipment was installed with the help of a grant from the federal government.
Susan Westfall left KRCU in September of 1993, after laying the groundwork for another major improvement. An application was filed in 1992 to increase KRCU’s power from 100 to 6,000 watts. In early 1994 the station increased power as authorized by the new FCC construction permit. This signal expansion meant over 72,000 people in portions of southeast Missouri and southern Illinois were able to enjoy public radio for the first time. This upgrade allowed KRCU's signal to reach into Sikeston and Perryville, MO. The expansion project was funded by a commitment from Southeast Missouri State University and a matching federal grant.
In September 2006, KSEF 88.9 FM, signed on in Missouri's Parkland. The 9,500 watt station rebroadcasts the signal of KRCU 90.9 FM and provides public radio service to Farmington, Bonne Terre, Fredericktown, Potosi, Festus and South County St. Louis.
In May 2010, KRCU successfully upgraded the Farmington station to 20,000 watts (more than doubling total power out) and moved the city of license to Ste. Genevieve. All the equipment is still in Park Hills but now Ste. Genevieve receives a much improved signal at 88.9 FM. Plus, KRCU now provides signal into South County and Southern Metropolitan St. Louis.
The addition of KSEF was part of a strategic plan of KRCU to provide public radio programming to the traditional service area of Southeast Missouri State University. Listeners in parts of the Parkland and especially south of Farmington, were able to receive public radio programming for the first time.
In April 2008, KRCU relocated from its facilities at the corner of Broadway and Henderson in Cape Girardeau to the Serena Building on the Southeast campus. The newly remodeled space includes facilities for master control, satellite recording, production control, a live performance studio and office space. The broadcast center allows students to gain experience using state-of-the-art equipment, while providing a much needed service to the southeast Missouri and southern Illinois regions.
KRCU has developed into a full service public radio station providing in-depth news and quality cultural programming to the Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois regions.
KRCU broadcasts 24 hours every day. Most of the announcers are students at Southeast Missouri State University. While many come from the Department of Mass Media and the Department of Music, all students are eligible to work at the station. In addition to the student staff, KRCU has professional staff members including a General Manager, Operations Director, Broadcast Engineer, Development Director and Office Manager.