Classroom, Community, Competition, and a Culture of Excellence

Dec 22, 2023 | 9:56 AM
To ensure we continue to meet (and exceed) industry standards and the “best in class” expectations we set for ourselves, the college collects and reviews several metrics each year: retention rates by program, licensure exam pass rates, related job placement rates (98%), and graduation rates. In Minnesota’s two-year colleges, Alexandria Technical & Community College is in the top three in each of these areas.

My friend Dr. Gary Holquist helped lead athletics at a Minnesota university for over 35 years, promoting excellence as a cornerstone of success. He coined the “3 C’s” to inspire excellence in student-athletes: classroom, community and competition. It may be hard earned, but when achieved, excellence is a quality that people naturally rally behind.

Alexandria Technical and Community College’s Strategic Framework 2020-2024 is titled “Our Continued Journey Toward Excellence.” We set out three and one-half years ago to build on our long tradition of academic excellence (classroom), challenging ourselves to reinvigorate our community connections (community) and instill pride in our students through our collective pursuit of excellence (competition).


ATCC’s culture of excellence propelled Legends Athletics to notoriety in short order. The Legends Men’s Golf team ended their third season ranked #8 nationally. In only their second season, Legends Volleyball finished #3 nationally. And Legends Baseball closed out their inaugural season ranked #10 nationally.

Our athletes aren’t the only ones striving for excellence. In 2023, more than 30 students competed nationally through SkillsUSA, Collegiate DECA, and BPA, bringing home dozens of awards, and four members of PTK honor society were named to the All-Minnesota Academic Team.


Due largely to close-knit relationships with industry professionals and community leaders, ATCC boasts exceptionally strong graduate employment outcomes and starting salaries. As of October 2023, median earnings for recent ATCC graduates is more than $8,000 over the national midpoint as reported by the U.S. Department of Education.

ATCC programs regularly incorporate opportunities for students to contribute to the greater good of their community. For example, in 2023 ATCC students and volunteers, through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) service, prepared more than 250 tax returns for low-income individuals, totaling $527,000 in refunds. Fifty-three carpentry students helped to build homes in partnership with Habitat for Humanity, and police training students provided security at community events. These collaborations provide students with real-world experiences and enhance learning, while giving back to the community.


The end of November was an anxious time, with site visits by both the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), which accredits the college as a whole, and the National League for Nursing Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation (NLN CNEA), which accredits our Practical Nursing and Associate Degree in Nursing programs and allows our graduates to pursue licensure as LPNs and RNs.

Institutional accreditation is a qualitative and quantitative measure of an institution’s overall level of quality, from academics and planning to student perceptions and community involvement. It is critical to ATCC’s viability because it permits credit transfer to other institutions and allows students to receive federal financial aid—which affects 73% of our students.

The HLC reported that the college has met all criterion, reaffirming ATCC’s accreditation status for the next ten years. The HLC peer review team wrote in their report:

“The Team was overwhelmingly impressed by the student support, leadership, planning, facilities, community engagement, creative marketing, strong Foundation support, and other key operational units during its on-site visit to ATCC. The college has much for which to be proud. The investment in student support resources is commendable, and the planning process and pervasiveness of the planning mentality is a positive for the college. In conclusion, ATCC is a quality institution with exceptional community support. It is poised to continue good work to remain a strong provider of career and transfer education.”

The nursing accreditation team was similarly impressed at the level of support for the nursing program from the college departments and community members with whom they interacted.

While the college spent several months actively preparing for these accreditation reviews, our continued journey toward excellence and focus on classroom, community and competition undoubtedly served us well in validating our success.

The institution has undergone significant change since 2020, and we aren’t slowing down. We have big plans for 2024. With student success at the forefront of all that we do, and with the support of our community, we are excited to be doubling our on-campus student housing, planning a new transportation center and student union project, adding competitive USA Archery, and continuing to provide the community with a skilled workforce.

We wish you all a happy holiday season and a Legendary new year.

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