It seems that every year the cost of attending college gets more and more expensive. As we are knee deep in the 2020 presidential debates, it has become extra clear that postsecondary debt is a major issue for so many Americans. There are many reasons students go the route of community college instead of or prior to matriculating into a four year institution of higher learning. Some students choose this path in order to forgo some of the costs related to universities, as community college is clearly a more economical option. Some high school graduates are not where they want to be with their academic achievements and want to grab an associates degree that they can then transfer to a bachelors, or some students simply want an associates to launch them into a career that is achievable with this credential.
So yes, there is not one reason alone that people turn to a community college education. Let’s now take a look at how to navigate the myriad of community colleges, to choose from, scattered throughout the country.
What Are the Best Community Colleges?
There is not one answer to this question, which is why we decided to do this ranking. If you are looking for the best community colleges in the United States, you have come to the right place. There are many factors, however, that make a school the best community college to meet your unique needs. Many people choose based on location. It’s one thing if you are seeking an online community college, but if you want to be in a traditional program, it will probably be easier to pick something that is near where you live or work. Another primary consideration is if they have the complete degree program that meets your academic and professional goals. Maybe start by looking at what is near you on this list and take it from there, and also consider checking out online community college programs while you’re at it. Best of luck!
How We Ranked the Best Community Colleges
The College Consensus Top 50 Community Colleges ranking focuses strictly on regionally accredited, reputable institutions. We ranked programs by three evenly weighted points:
- Cost (current IPEDS data)
- Reputation (Niche data)
- Success (Payscale data)
With these three factors, College Consensus ranks colleges according to their success in providing a return on investment. These are the Community Colleges that show the best combination of market reputation, educational quality, and rewarding income.
If you are looking at studying in one of the best community colleges in California, Ohlone College will surely pique your interest. They are invested in engaging all learning styles and ensuring that they are an inclusive and diverse community. This community college was named after the Ohlone tribe, an indigenous group that is native to the San Jose region. Not only can you study at their Fremont, California campus, but they also have an eco-friendly campus in Newark, and an e-campus for students who want to accomplish coursework online. The Newark location is called the Newark Center for Sciences and Technology, and is the first green community college campus in the country. They offer nearly 200 certificates and degree programs, and each year almost 550 of their students transfer to California State Universities. Their student body represents over 40 countries in the US. They also offer excellent financial aid opportunities.
Location: Fremont, CA
De Anza College
Another one of the best community colleges in California is De Anza College, situated in the heart of the Silicon Valley. One thing De Anza is known for is being the top as far as transfers go. Each year they transfer a huge number of graduates to four year institutions in a variety of fields. Many of their students transfer into University of California schools as well as California State Universities. Their offerings include over 70 associate’s degree programs, 95 certificates, and over 1,600 unique classes. Their programming is as diverse as the student body. You can study in fields such as accounting or women’ studies. Their facilities are state-of-the-art, which includes technology and equipment. They are the home to the world renowned De Anza Planetarium, as well as the Euphrat Museum of Art and the Visual and Performing Arts Center. Their student life opportunities are boundless, especially for a community college. They have over 70 student clubs and organizations.
Location: Cupertino, CA
Among the best community colleges in California is Cypress College. They pride themselves on their small class sizes and student to faculty ratio. They have over 73 unique degree offerings, which includes transfer specific degree programs that make it easy to seamlessly matriculate to a four year university after graduation. In addition Cypress College offers over 116 career oriented certificate programs. They offer what is called a Program Mapping Tool to help students navigate the majors and programs that are offered. Some of the associate’s degree programs they offer are in accounting, history, geography, ethnic studies, and court reporting, among many more. They have one bachelors of science program in the field of funeral service. There are many opportunities for students to access financial aid in all of their programs. They also have a lot of student life opportunities including activities and clubs. Their campus is also rich in athletic teams and sporting events.
Location: Cypress, CA
Lee College has been offering associate’s degree programs since 1934. Their variety of associates degree programs are currently larger than ever and include four associates of arts in teaching options. They have granted over 11,000 degrees and certificates over the course of the last five years. Some of the associates in arts degree programs include american studies, creative arts, speech communications, among many others. There are an even larger array of associates in science offerings and associates in applied science. They have a comprehensive library called Lee College Education Center-South Liberty County. They offer a popular option called Weekend College. This is designed for the no-nonsense student who has to participate in academic programming on the weekends due to other life commitments. This program is considered web enhanced, as it engages hybrid and web based learning. Over 8,200 students are enrolled in the coursework at Lee College.
Location: Baytown, TX
GateWay Community College
GateWay Community College is known for being the first technical college in Arizona. They have three campuses and two extension sites that all offer classes and a variety of academic and student life resources. They have over 150 programs that include degree granting and certificate programs, also technical, trade and workforce options. The online learning portal CANVAS is used to manage many classes, both traditional and online. They are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. They have several resources to support students including a comprehensive career center, a children’s learning center, a library, salon & spa services center for entrepreneurial innovation, and the healthcare united at GateWay clinic, among many others. They even have a butcher shop and deli on campus. Also on campus are a variety of community based agencies that operate for the community including Arizona Career Pathways. They have six different campuses where students can participate in programming.
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Coconino County Community College
Coconino County Community College is known for being affordable and offering a variety of degree programs, certificates, and career/ technical programs. They have three campuses including: Lone Tree Campus, Fourth Street Campus, and Page Instructional Site. They also have unique transfer program options that enable students to easily matriculate into three local state universities. Their website is very navigable, and offers easy access to each campus department. Because it is such an intimate environment, they ensure all full time staff and faculty can be reached by phone. They outreach to local rural communities including people on Navajo, Supai, and Hopi tribal lands. In fact, 20 percent of their student population are Native American. They also offer classes online and interactive television classes as well as traditional campus programming. Coconino has played a big role in training the local skilled workforce in Flagstaff, and plays a big role in supporting the community.
Location: Flagstaff, Arizona
Cochise College is situated in a beautiful setting in Sierra Vista, Arizona. They offer a wide array of associates degree programs, with a variety of transfer options as well. Students who are interested in achieving an associates degree and then transferring to a four year bachelors program have lots of great options at Cochise. Their specific associates in arts programs for university transfer include: administration of justice, computer science, early childhood care and education, economics, exercise science, fine arts, general requirements, liberal studies, music, social and behavioral science, and theater arts. They have several others under associates of science transfer programs as well as a variety of other offerings. Their goal is to give students the tools to learn the underpinnings of their field combined with real world skills and also excel in general education coursework. Students who attend Cochise have access to a variety of resources from tutoring opportunities to state of the art libraries and facilities.
Location: Sierra Vista, AZ
Foothill College was established in 1957, and is located in the gorgeous setting of the Los Altos Hills in California’s Bay Area. They are definitely considered one of the best community colleges in California. They even offer 23 bachelors degree programs on top of their 544 associates degree options, 529 of which are designed for transfer. They have a high success rate of students transferring to a four year university upon graduation of one of their transfer associate’s degree programs. They pride themselves on offering small class sizes, the average being 27 students. Among their offerings are a large array of campus resources including comprehensive libraries, STEM Center, IDEA lab, Japanese Cultural Center, and even a football stadium. They also have a renowned intercollegiate athletics program. Their architecture has been placed on the map as a result of the awards they have won for design. They are a fully accredited academic institution of higher learning.
Location: Los Altos Hills, CA
Napa Valley College
Napa Valley College certainly makes the list as one of the best community colleges in California, not to mention one of the most beautiful. They are a fully accredited open access institution in the heart of California’s wine country. They offer a variety of transfer courses. Such classes allow students to achieve an associate’s degree to then easily transfer to a four year institution of higher learning in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree. They have a distinct set of values that tie into their approach to education including global awareness and civic responsibility, communication and collaboration, and personal responsibility. They offer a variety of complex resources for their students including counseling services, comprehensive libraries, and even a Child Development Center. They believe in fostering a campus community that is diverse and inclusive of all students, which includes offering extensive disability resources and even distance learning online options.
Location: Napa, CA
South Mountain Community College
South Mountain Community College is an excellent resource for residents in Phoenix, Arizona. They have many opportunities for community members to engage in their programming, and of course offer comprehensive degree paths and certificate programs for their students. Prospective students can apply in person or online using GED scores, SAT, and high school transcripts. They have a variety of advising options, where students can work with an advisor to get support picking the best degree program for them, as well as finding appropriate electives and planning an academic path that relates to their academic and professional goals. New student orientations are promoted as a way for students to understand all of the access opportunities on campus. They offer a variety of scholarship and financial aid opportunities for their student body. The CANVAS learning system is the platform used for all online aspects of classroom management and distance learning.
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Western Wyoming Community College
Western Wyoming Community College is considered one of the best community colleges in the United States. They are specifically known as the most affordable school in the state of Wyoming, making it accessible to a variety of communities. Their student to faculty ratio is 13 to 1, ensuring that each student has the personal attention that they need to be successful. Their offerings include over 63 degree programs as well as 42 certificate options. Every associates degree program comes with what they call a two year sequence that outlines the required classes and a path towards completion. Every student is given an electronic plan that helps them constantly determine where they stand and allows them to plan their education around their other life commitments and responsibilities. WWCC prides themselves on offering almost the entire campus beneath one roof. This includes the Hay Library, a full exercise room, and an olympic sized pool.
Location: Rock Springs, WY
Grayson College is located in Denison, Texas with two additional campuses including Van Alstyn, Texas. They also offer online classes and programming for their student body. They have tried to make their system as navigable as possible, and therefore they organized their programs into six different career pathways including arts and humanities, industrial technologies, business and entrepreneurship, public services, science & technology, and health sciences. This makes it easy for students to find degree programs within their umbrella of interest. Students also have many opportunities to meet with an academic advisor to determine the best path of study that will meet their unique needs. They have a variety of library resources that can be utilized at their in person state of the art sites (on two of their campuses), or online. Greyson takes mental health seriously and offers free counseling to all employees and makes it accessible to the student body as well.
Location: Denison, TX
Cuesta College is one of the best community colleges in California. Their main campus is located in beautiful San Luis Obispo, and they also have a North County Campus and a South County Campus as well. Racial and economic equity and justice run through their mission statement and they work hard to infuse those values into their courses as well as their campus clubs and activities. Each new student will have the opportunity to learn more about their vision and mission when they participate in their online orientation that is mandatory prior to beginning classes. They offer online learning opportunities as well as traditional. They have a large variety of degree and certificate programs, many of which are designed for easy transfer to four year bachelor’s degree programs. Their offerings cover a wide variety of disciplines including accounting, agriculture, hospitality management, human development and human services, art, international studies, legal studies, and liberal arts, among many other disciplines.
Location: San Luis Obispo, CA
City College of San Francisco
City College of San Francisco is an excellent institution to hang your hat for two years if you are looking to achieve an associates degree in order to transfer to a four year degree program. They have a transfer admission guarantee program that enables successful students to seamlessly transfer immediately to one of six University of California Campuses and a variety of California State Universities that participate. They also have a myriad of certificate programs that are taught by full time faculty members and not teaching assistants. They were established in 1935 and were immediately considered one of the best community colleges in California. Their student activities office is a hotbed for programming and opportunity. They have over 80 student clubs and even eight associated student councils. They have satellite campuses scattered throughout San Francisco, including in the Northbeach/ChinaTown Neighborhood and the hipster Mission neighborhood.
Location: San Francisco, CA
Saddleback College is in a beautiful setting in Mission Viejo, California. It is considered one of the best community colleges in California. They have created what are called learning pathways that bring programs together that relate to specific industry and career areas. This is a nationwide model that has shown success in engaging programming to be tailored to each students unique needs. The topics included in these pathways at Saddleback include Applied and Advanced Technologies, Science Engineering and Pre-Med, Health and Wellness, Social Sciences and Education, Literature and Languages, Art Design and Entertainment, and Business and Economics. All of these pathways give students the opportunity to work with an advisor one-on-one in order to pick the best degree program to fit their specific goals. They also offer an excellent program called the Center for Teaching Pathways that engages all prospective teachers and offers resources that support this career path.
Location: Mission Viejo, CA
Scottsdale Community College
Scottsdale Community College is situated in Scottsdale, Arizona and is one of ten colleges that make up the Maricopa Community College system. They have a myriad of degree offerings for students who are either interested in going straight into a career path upon graduation or transferring into a four year degree program. Their pathways to degrees include the topics: Applied Technology, Behavioral Science and Human Services, Business Entrepreneurism and Management, Computer and Information Technology, Culture and Society, Education, Health Sciences, STEM, Visual and Performing Arts. They offer a variety of financial aid opportunities including a number of tuition payment options. They have a partnership with the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community, as they are the only two year academic institution that is located on Native American land. They pride themselves on being student centered which includes a level of accessibility that they provide for each student.
Location: Scottsdale, AZ
West Valley College
West Valley College is one of the best community colleges in California. In fact, seventy four percent of their graduates that applied for entrance at a University of California school got accepted. They have 27 associate’s degree transfer programs and many more learning opportunities from associates to certificates. They pride themselves on small class sizes, the average number of students per class is 20. They have an active student life on campus, which includes access to countless student clubs and organizations, theater, resources for veterans, athletics, and even the beautiful Versona Creek. They also are known for their speaker series that is open to the public as well as their lecture series, which brings different experts to campus. The schools that exist on campus are: Art and Design, Health and Human Development, Language Arts, Professional Studies, Science and Math, and Social Sciences. They also offer distance learning opportunities.
Location: Saratoga, CA
Northcentral Technical College
Northcentral Technical College is located in Wausau Wisconsin. They have many degree programs to choose from and even more transfer agreements with over 50 University of Wisconsin Private College partners. They have close to 200 program options which include 2 year associate’s degree offerings that synthesize general education, hands on and technical skills. In terms of community colleges online programming goes, they have a variety of offerings that can be completed entirely online without students ever having to step foot on campus. They also have hybrid options, and of course the majority of their classes are in the traditional face-to-face format. Northcentral is over 100 years old, however, you would not know it by looking at their modern state of the art facilities. Ninety five percent of their graduates entering the workforce are employed within a year of graduating. They award a high number of scholarships each year, making it an economical education.
Location: Wausau, WI
Moorpark College is considered one of the best community colleges in California and offers a mountainesque setting with views from every angle. The campus is 150 acres in size. They have a student body of over 15,000 students who range in age from 11(!) to 70 years old. Because they believe in offering an accessible place to study, Moorpark is affordable and has many financial aid opportunities for their students. They have a variety of resources including a Health Center that is designed to support physical and emotional wellness for all of their students faculty and staff. They also have an excellent disability resource center that aims to make all classes and facilities accessible to students with disabilities. Their learning center offers tutoring opportunities and academic support services. They also have counseling facilitated by skilled faculty members to support students to choose the right programs to meet their unique goals.
Location: Moorpark, CA
Santa Barbara City College
Santa Barbara City College is located in Santa Barbara California, which might be considered another name for paradise. Their classes boast ocean views and palm tree lined walkways. They have many associates degree offerings that include associates in arts, associates in arts transfer, associates in science, and associates in science transfer programs. They also have a wide array of certificate programs and technical degrees. Unlike most two year colleges they have many opportunities for their student body to enter study abroad programs. If you are looking to take a community college course online, this institution fits the bill. They have a variety of online learning opportunities for their students, that extend throughout their academic offerings. This includes classes that are fully online and also hybrid options that give students some face-to-face time as well. Their campus is full of resources including state of the art libraries, a career center and many dining options. They also have many academic counselors who are there to assist students to find the right program to meet their unique needs.
Location: Santa Barbara, CA
Pasadena City College
Like many schools on our list, Pasadena City College is one of the best community colleges in California. They serve over 30,250 students each semester! They have a variety of degree programs including associates degrees for transfer, associates in arts degrees, associates in science degrees, certificates in achievement, and occupational skills certificates. Earning a transfer degree guarantees students access to one of the participating four year institutions. Pasadena also offers transfer degree completion programs. They offer a variety of resources for their student body including a physical state of the art library as well as many online library resources. Student life is an active part of Pasadena City College. Students have the opportunity to join a large array of campus groups and clubs. They also have intercollegiate sports programs. They also have counseling services accessible to the entire student body as well as a health clinic.
Location: Pasadena, CA
Diablo Valley College
Diablo Valley College offers a comprehensive campus in Pleasant Hill, California. They have a number of associates degree granting programs that include transfer opportunities to four year institutions. They have so many offerings that ensure there will be something for everybody. Diablo Valley utilizes the CANVAS learning portal for classroom management and for all of their online programming. They have a variety of campus resources including a well stocked library and library resources that can be accessed online. They have a student office that is the hub for student government, clubs and organizations. There are many excellent ways to gather at Diablo Valley, including the college success series as well as a brown bag lunch discussion series that covers topics pertinent to their diverse student body. Additional resources include the Disability Resource Center, the Multicultural Center and even a food pantry. Another popular resource that they offer is called the Student Transition and Academic Transition Team which is geared towards foster care youth and academic inclusion.
Location: Pleasant Hill, CA
Irvine Valley College
Even though Irvine Valley College is located on 60 acres of facilities that are modern and state of the art, they have a small college community feel. They believe in catering to all learners with a diversity of experiences and needs, and therefore, they offer a lot of flexible learning options. This includes weekend and evening classes for students who want to achieve a degree while working full time. They have a variety of online options as well. Along with their wide array of associates degree granting programs, they have many transfer programs that make it easy for students to matriculate into a four year institution of higher learning upon graduation. They are known for being one of the best community colleges in California. Additional offerings include arts engagement for their campus community, including a constant influx of travelling performances, public arts, and museum exhibitions.
Location: Irvine, CA
Orange Coast College
Orange Coast College is also one of the best community colleges in California. They first opened their doors in 1947 and have served their local, regional and national community since their beginnings. Their offerings are comprehensive in terms of student resources. Students can call their Answer Center to speak to someone regarding any questions that come up regarding class availability or anything else campus related. They have an assessment center where students can go to test out of a variety of classes. Orange Coast College has several associates degree programs to choose from as well as certificate programs. Upon application students’ high school GPA and academic coursework are examined to determine the best course of action for the particular student’s circumstance. There is a great deal of personal attention given to each learner who attends classes at Orange Coast. They also have offerings for English as a Second Language (ESL) students.
Location: Costa Mesa, CA
Hutchinson Community College
Hutchinson Community College is a fully accredited public two year community college. They offer four types of degrees including: associates of arts, associates of science, associates of general studies, and associates in applied science. They have an open door policy, meaning all students are granted admission. They serve 5500 students per semester in their 75 distinct areas of study. Their average student age is 25. They pride themselves on their low 18 to 1 students to faculty ratio. Each year they graduate nearly 1,000 students. They have over 100 full time instructors. If you are looking to attend community college online, they offer over 250 classes that apply. Additional resources that Hutchinson provides include a childcare center, accessibility services, student health services, counseling, and tutoring options that are available to all students. Their library is packed with resources as well, many of which can be accessed online. Students also benefit from their Rimmer Learning Resource Center.
Location: Hutchinson, Kansas
Coastline Community College
Coastline Community Community College is one of the best community colleges in California. Though they are situated in Fountain Valley California, they make a point of letting prospective students know that their programming can be accomplished from anywhere if one chooses to go the route of distance education. Their offerings are extensive, as they have over 100 degree and certificate programs, so surely there is something for everyone. Their department list includes accounting, biological sciences, business, career and technical education, digital graphics and animation economics, emergency management, among many others. All of their programs are facilitated by faculty who are considered experts in their fields. The faculty members work with industry and businesses to adjust curricula to current trends in industry. They utilize the online learning platform CANVAS for classroom management. There are many resources that they offer their students including counseling and advising, comprehensive disability services including adaptive fitness, and a career center.
Location: Fountain Valley, CA
Chandler-Gilbert Community College
Chandler-Gilbert Community College (CGCC) has been nationally recognized by the Aspen Institute as the Top 150 community colleges in the United States and is known for experiential and service-learning, career and technical programs, innovative technology program offerings, civic engagement and innovative approaches to education. CGCC supports students as a resource for career readiness, university transfer education, workforce development, and lifelong learning. Host to more than 14,000 students annually, CGCC offers degree and certificate programs at its four campus locations: Pecos, Williams, Sun Lakes, and Queen Creek. Award-winning, dedicated faculty are deeply invested in student success, providing the education, experiential learning opportunities, and career training to empower CGCC students to compete in the local and global economies. Located in the growing East Valley, CGCC proudly supports students from communities in Chandler, Gilbert, Santan, and Sun Lakes. CGCC is one of the 10 colleges in the Maricopa County Community College District.
Location: Chandler, AZ
Walla Walla Community College
Walla Walla Community College is located in the beautiful town of Walla Walla, Washington. They have a wide variety of degree program offerings including many academic transfer programs that allow graduates to seamlessly matriculate into four year bachelor’s programs. Though the majority of their degree paths are associates, they do offer a bachelor’s degree in applied science. Many classes are offered in the e-learning format which makes it easy for students to have flexibility while studying from home. Walla Walla offers students regular access to academic advisors, ensuring they have the resources to make good choices that are in line with their ultimate career goals. Students can also meet with advisors online. They also offer therapeutic counseling to students who would like mental health or emotional support, as juggling the demands of an education program with other life circumstances can be demanding.
Location: Walla Walla, Washington
Oakton Community College
Oakton Community College is located in Chicago’s Northern Suburbs. They have a wide variety of degree programs that span over 80 areas of study. They range from health careers, technology, business, liberal arts and many more. They have many transfer options where students can easily graduate from Oakton and move straight to a bachelors program at a four year institution. They have three campuses that are centrally located in addition to over 240 off site locations within the community. They even offer over 90 classes online for students who are interested in more flexible course options. They foster a learning environment that is student centered and celebrates the diversity of their student body. They ensure that their faculty members are well versed in cultural competency and creating a safe learning environment for all students. They have a student body of over 46,000 students including credit and non credit students.
Location: Chicago, IL
Laramie County Community College
The Laramie County Community College was established in 1968, and is considered a full service two year college with two campuses including Laramie and Cheyenne. Their Cheyenne campus is located on two hundred and seventy one acres and is the home to 22 buildings. The buildings are enclosed in walkways, making the campus comfortable year round. They have a state of the art center for science, a physical education complex, and even three residence halls that can accomodate 250 students. Student life is alive and well at Laramie, which includes a variety of student clubs and many teams. They have 85 associates degree programs and 116 full time faculty members and instructional staff. They have a variety of workforce and outreach programs, some of which are geared towards youth in the community. Laramie proudly serves veterans, and offers many opportunities for those related to veterans and people in active duty.
Location: Laramie, WY
Paradise Valley Community College
Paradise Valley Community College is one of the ten colleges that are part of the Maricopa Community College system. They offer many academic pathways that include associate’s degree granting programs. This includes the following fields: applied technology, behavioral science and human services, business entrepreneurism and management, computer and information technology, culture and society, education, health sciences, STEM, and visual and performing arts. All of their students have access to an academic advisor to help them make academic choices that are in line with their goals. They also have extensive career services, disability resources and services, a learning success center and an action packed library. Their fitness center offers a myriad of exercise classes as well as modern exercise equipment. They are open every day of the week except for sunday. The Learning Success Center is a resources that enables students to receive academic support free of charge. This includes tutoring and workshops that cover topics such as time management, working better in groups, and applying college level skills to learning.
Location: Phoenix, Arizona
Amarillo College is a favorite in Texas. Some may say they are one of the best community colleges in the United States. Students access an education at Amarillo if they want to participate in one of their outstanding associates degree programs or achieve a certificate or technical degree. They have a variety of transfer options that make it easy for students to seamlessly move into a four year university in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree upon graduation. Amarillo College has recently expanded their distance learning opportunities. They now have several online classes and classes that are a hybrid format. This means they are a blend of face-to-face learning mixed with online coursework. They have a variety of student resources including their academic success center. Students can access a variety of tools to enhance their ability to access in their classes; this includes workshops that teach learning strategies and tutoring opportunities.
Location: Amarillo, TX
Lone Star College
The Lone Star College in Woodlands Texas is a comprehensive college that is beginning to be known as one of the best community colleges in the United States. One of the reasons they have become such a popular place to study is a result of their variety of offerings. In fact, in 2020 they are going to begin offering bachelor’s degree granting programs. A perk to studying for a bachelor’s degree at Lone Star includes the affordability that they offer. The bachelors degrees that they will begin offering this year include: applied technology in cybersecurity, bachelors of science in nursing (RN to BSN transition program), and bachelors energy, manufacturing and trades management. Their associates degree granting programs are vast and include a variety of subjects that apply to the current state of employability. They have many specialized resources on campus including veteran advising and academic counseling.
Location: The Woodlands, TX
Frederick Community College
Frederick Community College is fully accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. They are known for being an affordable and high quality option for students to achieve a two year degree, take classes, and/ or achieve a certificate. They have more then 85 degree programs, many of which are transfer programs, meaning graduates are able to easily enter four year degree programs at colleges and universities. They offer extensive financial aid opportunities, and 34 percent of their student body are currently receiving financial aid. 30 percent of their enrolled students are full time students and 70 percent are part time. This speaks to the fact that many students who attend Frederick are achieving an education alongside a full time job and many other personal obligations. They have many online offerings to ensure they are catering to students who require flexibility. Another interesting fact is that 28 percent of their student body are first generation college students.
Location: Frederick, MD
Collin County Community College
Collin County Community College is undergoing a major renaissance. In fact they are currently preparing to open new campuses. They offer students a variety of associates degree programs including associates in science or arts, associates of arts in teaching, associates in applied science, among certificate programs like core general education certificate. They want to cater to all students including those who require flexibility in order to study. In order to do so they have expanded online and distance programming as well as classes that meet on the weekends. They even offer a few bachelor’s degree programs including a bachelors of science in nursing and a bachelors of applied technology in cybersecurity. Their campus wide resources include a variety of accommodations for students with disabilities and a disability resource center, academic advising that has been made available to all students, mental health counseling and services, and three libraries with a myriad of study spaces and resources. A unique offering is their campus makerspace where every student can go to be an artist.
Location: McKinney, TX
Lakeland Community College
Lakeland Community College was Ohio’s first college that was developed by a vote from the people. Their mission revolves around meeting the community where they are in terms of supporting an economically and racially diverse population. They are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Their academic offerings include over 135 associates degree options and certificates as well as technical career ready certificates. Because they are working to meet the needs of all students, they are give students online class offerings so they can have the flexibility that some working adults require in order to study. They also have weekend and evening classes for this same reason. Their tuition is one of the lowest in the state of Ohio, which is another reason many students choose Lakeland. Some of their other resources include a child care center, a campus health clinic, hispanic center, career services, and a comprehensive bookstore.
Location: Kirtland, OH
Las Positas College
Among the best community colleges in California is Las Positas College. Their degree offerings include associates in arts, associates in sciences, associates in arts for transfer, and associates for science for transfer degree programs. They have extensive financial aid offerings for students, and many students access such resources. They have a high rate of transfer success, meaning many students have easily moved from their associates degree education at Las Positas and into a bachelors program at a high quality four year bachelor’s degree granting university or college. Their campus gives students access to high quality resources that include state of the art building, equipment, libraries, as well as a performing arts center science and technology labs. Because they want to provide academic offerings to all students, including those that require flexibility, they have programming that is offered in the evenings and weekends as well as online opportunities. They even have many fast track degree and certificate pathways.
Location: Livermore, California
Wharton County Junior College
Wharton County Junior College is situated amongst four campuses throughout Texas. This includes locations in Wharton, Richmond, Sugar Land, and Bay City. Like other key institutions of higher learning Wharton County Junior College is engaging the Academic Pathways program which is designed expressly for students who are interested in ultimately transferring to a four year degree program. This program engages associates degrees such that include associates of arts and associates of arts in teaching programs. They also have a Vocational Pathways program which supports programs that are occupationally oriented. The pathways topics include: arts humanities & communication, business & computer science, education, healthcare, public service, science & math, social & behavioral science, technical education, and general studies. They have a variety of online programming including resources such as
Location: Wharton, TX
Like several schools on this list Fullerton College is among the best community colleges in California. Their campus sits on 83 acres of land and offers a myriad of state of the art structures including libraries and labs. An exciting fact is that they are participating in the North Orange Promise Program Expansion, which means they offer free tuition for two years for any new students. Fullerton College is actually one of the oldest colleges in the state of California, as they first opened their doors in 1913. They boast of high transfer rates and a remarkable student centered approach to learning. They have a large variety of academic programs including 122 associates degree pathways and 110 career technical certificates. Among their associates offerings are 25 transfer associates degree offerings. On campus you will find 316 full time faculty members, all of which are in service to supporting the academic needs of a diverse student population.
Location: Fullerton, California
Tarrant County College District
Tarrant County College District is located on six different campuses including in Fort Worth, Hurst, and Arlington Texas. They also have a variety of program offerings online that cater to students who require flexibility to study. Among their accolades, they received an Aspen Prize for being one of the top 150 community colleges in the nation. They have a large variety of degree offerings including the following transferable degree avenues: associates of arts, associates of arts in music, associates of arts in teaching, associates of science, and associates of science in engineering. As far as technical programs are concerned, they have 68 associates of applied science degrees, 132 certificates of completion, and 18 occupational skills awards. Diversity runs through all of their mission statements as they believe in ensuring all students are safe and supported on campus. Their total enrollment in the 2018-2019 school year was 98,000 students.
Location: Fort Worth, TX
Lake Superior College
Lake Superior College is part of the Minnesota State College System. Their campus is astounding in its beauty. It is situated on 97 acres that are wooded with overlooks of Lake Superior. They offer students over 90 associates degree programs and certificates. This includes a variety of transfer programs that are specifically geared towards students who are interested in transferring to a bachelor’s degree program at a four year college or university. Lake Superior College is known for their low tuition rates. In fact, they have the third lowest tuition cost in the state of Minnesota. They cater to a wide array of learners, including adults who require flexible learning opportunities in order to study and maintain a full time career among other life commitments. They offer over 200 classes online every semester that students can accomplish while serving in the military or in the comfort of their home.
Location: Duluth, Minnesota
Though Crowder College has its flagship campus in Neosho, Missouri, they have five additional locations, all of which share the same values and standards. Their other campuses are located in Cassville, Joplin (Advanced Training), Mcdonald County, Nevada, and Webb City. They pride themselves on having no lecture halls, but instead classrooms that have no more than 17 students at a time. They also have many online offerings that cater to students who require a more flexible pathway to their degree or certificate. The campus experience at Crowder offers a large range of resources including access to the Longwell Museum, which is a teaching museum that was established in 1970. They also have a variety of career services, and library resources that stem from the Lee Library. They serve close to 5,000 students each semester. They are fully accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Location: Neosho, Missouri
Panola College was established in 1947 with an early vision to offer an accessible two year education that would prepare students for a successful bachelors degree transfer at a four year college or university. Panola offers a comprehensive campus with a myriad of resources, not to mention their three college extensions including: Shelby College Center, Shelby Regional Training Center, and the Marshall College Center. Their main campus is the home to the MP Baker Library which offers many academic resources including study and social spaces among print and electronic newspapers, magazines, archival items and journals. They have a wide range of associates degree granting programs that includes topics within allied health sciences, industrial technologies, among many other topics. As far as student life goes, they have many student run clubs and organizations including chorale, band, book clubs, and even campus baptist student ministries, and even a geography and gaming club.
Location: Carthage, TX
Mesa Community College
Like the other nine Maricopa Community Colleges, Mesa Community College serves a diverse student population with a variety of well rounded programs. They have a myriad of associates degree offerings that are within the following fields of interest: Applied Technology, Business Entrepreneurism and management, computers and information technology, culture and society, education, health sciences, STEM, and Visual and Performing Arts. They are rich in resources that include their Mesa Community Outreach Center, their Continuing education program, and their comprehensive library. The arts are an active part of the fabric at Mesa. They even have a Rose garden, a planetarium and an art walk that they whole community can participate in. Financial aid is accessible to most students who attend Mesa, and there are support staff that can help students fill out the FAFSA forms and learn about their options. Student life offers a variety of clubs and activities that make life on campus interesting.
Location: Mesa, AZ
Cincinnati State Technical and Community College
Cincinnati State Technical and Community College is on the move as they have continued to grow their programming and offerings each year. In fact, they are launching their first bachelor’s degree program in 2020 in applied science. They have a large variety of associate’s degree programs including many that are designed to be a smooth transfer into bachelors degree programs at participating universities and colleges, as well as those who may not be on this list, but pique the student’s interest. The degree types include: associates of arts, associates of science, pre business administration, pre-engineering, and pre-nutrition science. Their culinary program is extensive and is represented throughout the campus at their Bakery Hill, Overlook Cafe, Summit Restaurant, and more. They also have a variety of Centers on campus including the Career Center, Occupational therapy Center, and Workforce Center.
Location: Cincinnati, OH
Riverside City College
Among the best community colleges in California is Riverside City College. Riverside is fully accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. They first opened their doors in 1916, revamping the site that was once Poly High School. They now sit in downtown Riverside and play a big role in the community itself. They pride themselves on having the tools to serve a diverse population of learners. They offer a wide variety of associates degree programs including transfer degrees that make it easy for students to directly enter a bachelors program upon graduating from Riverside, as well as certificates. They have a strong mission of inclusion, student centered learning and social justice that is the foundation for all of their programming. They have many offerings that are designed to support student success from every angle including comprehensive student advising, mental health counseling for students who are interested in receiving extra support, and a myriad of student clubs and organizations.
Location: Riverside, California
Central Carolina Community College
Central Carolina Community College is considered one of the best community colleges in the United States. They are situated in Sanford, North Carolina where they have a campus full of state of the art buildings, materials, and tools to promote student success. They have a wide array of associates degree offerings including those that are geared towards transferring to a four year bachelors program at a college or university upon completion and Central Carolina. Some of the degree programs they offer including: associates in arts, associates in engineering, and associates in science. They aim to serve a diverse population of students including adult learners who can participate in adult education programming on campus. They also have online learning opportunities for students who require a more flexible degree path while juggling work and complex personal circumstances. Their main campus sits on 40 acres of land, and they have two additional locations, one being the Chatham County Small Business Center and the other is called the Siler City Center.
Location: Sanford, North Carolina
As part of the Dallas County Community College District you will find Richland College in the heart of Dallas Texas. They are a comprehensive two year institution who is committed to serving a diverse population of students with a variety of personal and academic goals. They offer a large number of associates degree programs, as well as specific programming geared towards university transfers. They have a high rate of student transfers to four year institutions of higher learning upon graduation. They also offer online programming for students who require a more flexible learning path to accomplish their education. Many of their learners are juggling a lot including full time work schedules and big commitments at home, making it hard to achieve an education in tandem. Richland takes all of this into account when designing curricula and creating a programming path. They also have an open door to veterans and active members of the military.
Location: Dallas, TX
Shoreline Community College
Shoreline Washington is a beautiful place to study. The students at Shoreline Community College have benefits beyond an excellent education, which include a beautiful state of the art campus. They serve close to 10,000 students per year, about half of which are full time students. Their student body accounts for over 50 countries scattered throughout the world. It is no surprise that this is one of the most diverse campuses you will find, and the academic offerings reflect this detail. They have a large number of associates degree granting programs, which includes transfer options for students who are interested in moving directly into a four year degree program. Unlike many community colleges they offer student housing options and active student life opportunities. This includes clubs and organizations as well as health and wellness resources and a well stocked library and technology center.
Location: Shoreline, WA
Casper College was founded in 1945 and is considered one of the best community colleges out there. They have nearly 3,000 students enrolled in their programming, but that does not stop them from offering intimate classes with a lot of personal attention for each learner. They pride themselves in their 13 to 1 faculty to student ratio. They award over four million dollars worth of financial aid per year. Another amazing tool that Casper is known for is their partnership program. They have joined forces with 11 four year universities and colleges that make it easy for their graduates to move up the ladder in their academic trajectories. They are fully accredited by the Higher Learning Commission while also offering specific programs that are accredited by specialized accrediting bodies. They design coursework to cater to all learners, and therefore they offer many online learning options for students who require a more flexible degree path.
Location: Casper, WY
From this list you can get a sense that the options when looking at the best community colleges are boundless. There are so many offerings that can take you where you want to go, wherever that may be.
Can I get a Job with Just a Community College Degree?
This answer is variable as it depends on the type of job you are looking for. There are many technical and vocational careers that require a certificate, technical diploma or an associates degree. In this case, bingo! You can absolutely achieve a career with the credentials achieved from a community college. However, many lucrative jobs require a bachelor’s degree or beyond, in which case a community college is an excellent place to get started. Any one of these schools can lay the foundation for a successful bachelor’s degree education with an easy transfer option to a four year degree program. Achieving an associates degree can make you an excellent candidate to study for a bachelor’s degree at the college or university of your choice. Many of the schools above have comprehensive partnerships with local four year degree granting schools. In this case the transfer is seamless once you have completed your associates.
Post Community College Transfer Options
While you may choose an associates degree program that has an explicit transfer option, you may also achieve an associates degree and do some of your own research to get into a four year college or university of your choice. If you pick a school known for being one of the best community colleges in the United States, it should not be hard to easily matriculate into a university that you desire. Even the Ivy Leagues are not off limits as a transfer student. It is a matter of planning and setting goals for yourself. As you can see, most of these academic options that we have sourced for you have comprehensive student advising. Advising is a valuable resource to take advantage of, as you will have the opportunity to regularly sit down with a professional that can collaborate with you to map out an academic path to help you meet your goals, and ensure that you are remaining on track throughout the process.
If I’m Going to Transfer Anyway, Why Start at a Community College?
The reasons are endless why you might pick a community college as you embark on your academic career. First, the price tag on community college looks pretty good when you start exploring the cost of four year degree programs. If you are only going to get your general education under your belt in order to choose a major at a four year institution, you might just be setting yourself and your pocketbook up for success. The other piece of this is that achieving an education is a multi-faceted experience, and sometimes having some time to explore, get some good grades and pick where you want to go from there is not a bad idea. All of these schools offer a variety of resources, including student life opportunities, so if you want to join a club or learn about a new topic, they keys are there.