Everything we do at Central Lakes College is about workforce development, preparing students for great careers in so many ways — whether it be through a four-year transfer degree or a technical education.

In this mini-series, I want to share the answer to a question we’re often asked: “What does it really mean to be both a community and a technical college?” This month, we’ll share a bit about the community part. Next month, we’ll explore the technical side of things.

Related: CLC Connection: Being part of something again

Part of the confusion comes from the fact that everything, literally everything, we do at CLC is about community. We’re proud of that. So it’s confusing to people when “community” is called out as only part of our mission. This is the result of the development of the two-year college movement in the United States. Historically, the term “community college” has come to refer to our unique ability to provide the first two years of a four-year degree in an affordable and accessible way.

For this reason, the “community” part of our name is a nod to the transfer component of our mission. At CLC, this is reflected in our commitment to the liberal arts and sciences. Students can start here and earn their Associate of Arts (AA) Degree, and transfer to nearly any four-year university. Many students have quietly asked, “If I start at CLC, will my degree look somehow different when I graduate from my four-year college?” It’s a great question, but the answer is a resounding no! We’re proud to provide an outstanding education that prepares our students extremely well for success at the university level. For this reason, the baccalaureate degree that you eventually earn is identical to that which is awarded to a student who started at the university.

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Related: CLC Connection: Celebrating the class of 2021

We’re also proud to have many outstanding university partners. Together, we continue to work to enhance students’ experiences and break down barriers. One example is our Transfer Pathways program, which is designed to help students complete an Associate Degree in a specific major at Central Lakes College and seamlessly transfer to any Minnesota State university to earn a bachelor’s degree — without losing credits, time or having to take extra courses. Today, CLC has over 12 transfer pathways in great fields ranging from psychology to exercise science.

Just as students are looking for different majors, we know they’re ready to start the college journey at many different times. Some join us right after high school graduation, others come to learn new skills after being in the workforce. Many students opt to begin their college journey while still in high school, and many graduate with both their AA Degree and their high school diploma in the same spring. In May 2020, 137 area high school students graduated with both degrees. Our goal is to provide students with a great college experience while saving time and money through Post-Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) and College in the Schools (CIS). Visit www.clcmn.edu/college-in-the-schools-cis/ to learn more.

Related: CLC Connection: Your experience awaits at Central Lakes College

As we continue exploring ways to break barriers to higher education, we’ve also focused on reducing textbook costs while ensuring that students have high quality materials to support learning. To this end, our faculty have worked hard to create many no-textbook cost courses, and with our Z-Degree, a student can earn an AA Degree without ever buying a textbook. In fact, CLC was the first public school in the state to offer the Z-Degree!

When you think of community colleges, you don’t always think about honors programs and research. However, our Honors Program is one of the largest in the state and emphasizes inquiry, discourse, application and leadership. Throughout the program, students explore, aspire and lead, and learn how to leverage their knowledge to make positive changes in the world around them. They even conduct research about how to improve our college for future students. Visit www.clcmn.edu/honors to learn more.

Related: CLC Connection: Better than ever! New programs, opportunities and experiences at CLC this fall

Students come to college for both the learning and the experience. I’m proud to say that the CLC experience is a special one. We strive to provide a robust experience full of inspired learning, hands-on applications, fun engagement and connections with great people and community. With vibrant student life, Raider athletics, performing and visual arts and many activities, this is a place where everyone belongs, whether in-person, online, or a little of both.

The best part about being a community college is just that: we are the community’s college. I encourage you to stop on in to one of our campuses. Explore the hallways, chat with our friendly staff and get connected. I’ll see you on campus!

Related: CLC Connection: Celebrating career and technical education