Central Lakes College combines the best of both Brainerd Community College and Brainerd Staples Technical Colleges, with roots deep in liberal arts and career education for Central Minnesota.
BCC and BSTC combined to create CLC on July 1, 1995. The colleges share a long history.In 1938, a community college known as Brainerd State Junior College opened its door on the third floor of Washington High School in Brainerd with 12 students. Two years later 19 graduating students, the Class of 1940, celebrated the earning of college diplomas.
The Brainerd School Board approved the inception of a junior college for the community. That board continued to oversee the college’s operation until 1964, when the Minnesota State Junior College System of 10 mission-sharing schools statewide formed.
From 1938 to 1957, the college continued to operate on the third floor of Washington High school. In 1957, the basement and first floor of Lincoln elementary school were utilized with laboratory facilities of the high school.
1963 was a year of separation as liberal arts and career education defined their individual focus. Now there were Brainerd Junior College and Brainerd Technical Institute (later Brainerd Technical College).
Thirty-five years of enrollment growth produced building projects in 1969 (gym), 1971 (art studios), 1974 (student center), 1989, and 1991. By 1992 the campus had grown to an enrollment of 1800 students and was known (since 1973) as Brainerd Community College (BCC).
Brainerd Technical Institute and its sister institution, Staples Technical Institute (in the historic railroad town of Staples), developed programs designed to meet the changing needs of business and industry.
In 1991, the State Technical College Board combined the administration of both schools to create Brainerd Staples Technical College (BSTC). With exceptional technological programs such as the Staples program in robotics, the classic secretarial and business programs at Brainerd, and the unique heavy equipment program, this technical college became known for innovation, creativity, and solid instructional expertise.
BCC and BSTC continued to attract more students, and the legislature began encouraging community and technical colleges to cooperate, the first discussions of consolidation were held. The advantages to students were clear. Both colleges volunteered to become one of the first merged colleges in the state, and Central Lakes College was created in 1995.
The Staples campus of CLC remains the center for training in Diesel and Heavy Equipment, Machine Tool Technology, Videography, Communication Art and Design, and Photographic Technology, Robotics, Nursing, and Medical Assisting. Started in 1950, the campus outgrew the original building, and in 1971 a complete new campus was built — then expanded in 1985.
In Brainerd, a $24 million two-story addition opened in 1996 as part of the newly combined college: Central Lakes. It features “smart classrooms” with multi-media capabilities and interactive communication to deliver education anywhere in the world, tailored to student needs. That same year, the CLC women’s basketball team helped put the new name on the map by winning the Division III national championship.
Campus improvements in Brainerd over the past decade include the addition of a music rehearsal hall and remodeled practice space, a black box theatre named for the program’s creator (Bob Dryden), a remodeled Chalberg Theatre, new science lab, new math lab, the Skone Family Conservatory housing the Humphrey Center for American Indian Studies, and the Veterans Resource Center.
Staples campus improvements include a science lab, nursing lab, videography classroom, lab, and studio, medical assistant classroom-lab, photographic imaging wing, and fitness center. Several energy-related initiatives using bio-fuels and alternative resources for heat have been implemented at Staples, where the Agriculture and Energy Center continues an applied research mission in partnership with university and private enterprise.
Now offering over 70 programs – including an Associate of Arts Honors degree – the college has expanded partnerships with area school districts and the business community to work toward a sustainable economy with a workforce that earns living wages. College-in-the-Schools has built on educational partnerships across the region to enable qualified high school instructors to deliver CLC courses from home school districts to eligible students, all in collaboration with CLC instructors.