Named in honor of Salvadoran priest, lawyer, politician and national hero José Matías Delgado, La Matías was conceived as a nonprofit institution by Salvadoran intellectuals, academics and businessmen, being its main objective forming professionals with the capability of improving and directing the business and judicial institutions of the time. Its intent from its foundation on 1977 has been to defend and develop free market principles.
By 1978 the University began its academic activities with three faculties: the "Dr. Isidro Menéndez" Faculty of Jurisprudence and Social Sciences; the "Dr. Santiago I. Barberena" Faculty of Economics and the "Francisco Gavidia" Faculty of General Culture and Fine Arts. Following the events of the Salvadoran Civil War, the University continued its activities despite the circumstances of the conflict, ingreasing the demand of higher education at the time where new faculties and careers developed. It was geographically decentralized during its early years in San Salvador, but was brought together on a single location (the current campus, in the municipality of Antiguo Cuscatlán) in 1986; in 1992 the faculties of Agriculture and Engineering were created and then in 1993 with the faculty of Health Sciences. Between 2004 and 2005 a second campus was opened, relocating the Economics and Jurisprudence faculties; in 2008 another campus was established in the municipality of Soyapango by an agreement with the Padre Arrupe Foundation, becoming a specialized nursing school.
Today, La Matías has a reputation for offering a high quality education without neglecting the principles of professional ethics, as expressed in its motto Omnia Cum Honore (Everything with Honor). It offers 27 undergraduate degrees, 11 postgraduate degrees and a large variety of diplomas and courses for continuing education, consisting of a faculty of more than 600 professors. Since its foundation until 2018, the University was administrated by well-known Salvadoran writer, dramatist and jurist, David Escobar Galindo.