The Best Community Colleges in the United States
| TBS Staff
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For many students, community colleges are important pathways to furthering their professional and educational goals.
During the 2018-19 school year, nearly eight million students enrolled in at least one course at a two-year college. Students attend top community colleges for a variety of reasons, not least because they cost less than four-year institutions. Additionally, community colleges often partner with universities, allowing students to easily transfer credits and earn a bachelor's degree.
The best community colleges also prepare graduates to begin working in their respective fields sooner, which appeals to nontraditional learners or those with professional responsibilities. Students who choose this route can also acquire pursue professional experiences and establish themselves within organizations sooner than students who earn four-year degrees.
|#1||Walla Walla Community College Walla Walla, WA|
|#2||Santa Barbara City College Santa Barbara, CA|
|#3||Lake Area Technical Institute Watertown, SD|
|#4||East San Gabriel Valley Regional Occupational Program & Technical Center West Covina, CA|
|#5||New Mexico Military Institute Roswell, NM|
|#6||North Central Kansas Technical College Beloit, KS|
|#7||Valencia College Orlando, FL|
|#8||Snow College Ephraim, UT|
|#9||Saint Paul College Saint Paul, MN|
|#10||Mayland Community College Spruce Pine, NC|
Best Community Colleges in the United States
With a current annual enrollment of over 13,000 new, returning and international students, Walla Walla Community College offers courses in Academic Transfer Education, Professional/Technical Education, Transitional Studies and Extended Learning.
Generally speaking, academic courses (100 level or higher) at WWCC are transferable to most four–year institutions. WWCC’s e–learning program enables students to get an Associate’s degree entirely online or through a combination of on online and on–campus courses.
The Running Start program offers high–school juniors and seniors an opportunity to enroll in courses at Walla Walla Community College.
In addition to traditional areas of study, Walla Walla CC is a base for technical and local community learning, hosting the Ag Center of Excellence, educational opportunities in agriculture; College Cellars of Walla Walla, educational opportunities in the field of Enology and Viticulture, including an operating winery; Learning Center for Non Profits, resources, training and education to current and prospective staff and board members of nonprofits; Water and Environmental Center, education for environmental and economic sustainability; and the Walla Walla Valley Early Learning Coalition, helping to improve the lives of children and families through early childhood experiences.
The Aspen Institute named Walla Walla Community College the 2013 co–winner of its prestigious Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. The Aspen Institute also recognized the junior college as a 2011 Finalist with Distinction for the same prize.
The 104–year–old Santa Barbara City College (SBCC) is located in Santa Barbara, California, on a campus surrounded by stunning ocean views. The junior college serves the south coast of Santa Barbara County.
The community college offers more than 50 certificate programs and 80 degrees, with an average class size of 28. SBCC has an enrollment of 20,000 students, of which 7,500+ are full–time.
57% of full–time students at SBCC transfer to four–year colleges; more than half of those ultimately earn a bachelor’s degree. Agreements with 76 colleges (in and out of California) guarantee that SBCC credits are accepted for transfer; several schools ensure admission if a student meets academic requirements. The college’s Transfer Achievement Program (TAP) helps students make informed decisions in their planning for the transition from SBCC to a four–year university.
SBCC’s Express–to–Success program uses small learning communities to assist students through first–year remedial courses to yield a significant rise in students’ course completion.
The college has a diverse student population and serves many traditionally underserved students, including an ever–increasing population of Hispanics. Hispanic students, who consist of 30+% of the student population, have achieved a notable three year–graduation/transfer rate of 48%.
Aspen Institute named Santa Barbara City College the 2013 co–winner of its prestigious Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. The Aspen Institute also recognized the college as a 2011 Finalist for the same prize. Santa Barbara City College ranked #23 in the CNN Money listing of community colleges in 2012.
Lake Area Technical Institute (LATI), a technical school located in Watertown, South Dakota, is the first technical school established in South Dakota. The campus serves an 18,000 square mile area.
Lake Area Tech has 29 study programs and 11 E–degrees. The junior college serves more than 1,700 full–time, part–time and online students. The school boasts low tuition cost and a 99% graduate placement rate.
A sampling of the school’s programs: Agri–Business, Custom Paint & Fabrication Cosmetology, Robotics, Aviation Maintenance, and Nursing.
Lake Area Technical Institute leads the nation in graduation rates and t helps its graduates secure jobs at strong salaries.
76 percent of first–time, full–time LATI students graduate or transfer to a four–year college within three years; the national average is 40 percent.
LATI graduates recently averaged 40 percent in earnings than other new hires in the area.
Through program–to–program articulation agreements, LATI graduates from a specific program may transfer LATI technical credits to a specific degree plan at South Dakota State University. Selected general education classes and technical credits may be used.
Aspen Institute named Lake Area CC a 2013 Finalist with Distinction in its prestigious Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. The Aspen Institute also recognized the college as a 2011 Finalist with Distinction for the same prize. The college ranked #11 in the CNN Money listing of community colleges in 2012.
East San Gabriel Valley ROP/TC, located in West Covina, California, is one of 72 regional occupational programs (ROPs) in the state of California.
An ROP focuses on practical, hands–on career preparation and career guidance and is designed to provide high school and adult students with the technical skills required for specific jobs. Most of the classes offer community–based internships, in local business and industry sites.
East San Gabriel Valley ROP/TC provides core majors of study such as: Business Management, Child development, Criminal Justice, Green Facilities Management, Health Science and Visual Communication. The Center partners with over 250 businesses and over 40 support service agencies to provide these unified educational experiences.
The center has articulation agreements with the following community colleges and private post–secondary institutions:
- Citrus College
- Rio Hondo College
- Mt. San Antonio College
- Mt. Sierra College
- Pacific Oaks
- Westwood College
- ITT Tech
These agreements allow students, who successfully completed selected courses, to enroll in training programs at the community college, without having to repeat previously covered materials.
The community college ranked #1 in the CNN Money listing of community colleges in 2012.
New Mexico Military Institute (NMMI), located in Roswell, New Mexico, is the only state–supported, co–educational, military boarding school in the United States. NMMI offers a college preparatory, four–year high school and a two–year junior college.
One of only six military junior colleges in the U.S., New Mexico Military Institute’s organization and architecture is based on Virginia Military Institute. The campus encompasses 40 acres of land, including an 18–hole golf course.
Students at NMMI are referred to as “cadets” and the school averages 975 cadets, 95 percent of whom go on to four–year universities. At any time, cadets represent almost every state in the U.S. and a dozen foreign countries.
The Corps of Cadets at New Mexico Military Institute has its own chain of command, responsible to the Commandant of Cadets and his staff. All cadets live under an honor system and are expected to meet the highest values of personal integrity. The honor code states that no cadet will “Lie, Cheat or Steal or Tolerate Those Who Do.” Cadets are required to defend and enforce the honor system.
More than one–third of the college students are seeking an Army Commission. Annually, via a two–year Early Commissioning Program (ECP), the school commissions about 35 cadets as US Army 2nd Lieutenants.
New Mexico Military Institute offers an all–inclusive liberal arts curriculum. An Associate in Arts degree requires sixty–eight hours of coursework. A cadet may choose to concentrate in a area while pursuing an Associate of Arts degree.
Areas of concentration include:
- Math and science
- Social sciences/business
- Physical education/recreation
The community college ranked #2 in the CNN Money listing of community colleges in 2012.
North Central Kansas Technical College (NCK Tech), a school of higher learning, offers degree, certificate and professional development education. NCK Tech’s main campus is located in Beloit, Kansas; the branch campus is located in Hays, Kansas.
North Central has an outstanding reputation for graduate placement, averaging over 90% annually. NCK Tech graduate salaries are consistently comparable to graduates of 2– and 4–year institutions.
The college offers 24 programs of study, including these major areas:
- Automotive Collision Technology
- Agricultural Equipment Technology
- Residential Electricity
- Diesel Technology
NCK Tech offers statewide articulation agreements in the following pathways:
- AV Communications
- Information Support/Services
- Network Systems
- Production – Welding
- Programming and Software Development
- Web/Digital Communications
The junior college has also developed The Kansas Institute of Underground Technology, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Commerce and local businesses.
The community college ranked #5 in the CNN Money listing of community colleges in 2012 and listed among the top 10% of all U.S. community colleges by the Aspen Institute in 2013.
Valencia College covers a broad region of mid–Florida, with campuses in east and west Orlando, Winter Park, Kissimmee, and Lake Nona.
The college offers 30 Transfer Plans, 12 pre–major options and an Associate degree that guarantees admission to any Florida state university.
The school offers more than 60 non–degree technical certificate programs. Valencia’s continuing education program includes courses in career development, criminal justice, healthcare professions, language programs and professional development.
The school had an enrollment of more than 70,000 students in 2012. Valencia College has a very diverse student population.
Valencia ranks first among the U.S.’s two–year colleges for the total associate’s degrees awarded. The school’s graduation rate is triple the average of comparable two–year institutions in the U.S. Valencia ranks second in the number of degrees awarded to Hispanics and it’s designated a “Hispanic Serving” institution with 27+ percent Hispanic students. The college ranks third in the number of associate degrees awarded to African Americans.
Valencia graduates boast a job placement rate of 93%—95%.
Director Steven Spielberg has called Valencia College’s film program one of the best anywhere. The college’s "Filmmaker in Residence" program invites talented producers, directors, writers and cinematographers to work with students on film projects.
Valencia was the winner of the 2011 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence and ranked as the No. one community college in the United States, according to Community College Week’s 2011 listing of the top 100 schools.
The college has an honors program and is a member of The National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC).
Snow College, a two–year state college, is located in rural Ephraim, Utah, about 120 miles south of Salt Lake City. Snow College is a part of the Utah System of Higher Education. Two campuses—–the main campus in Ephraim and another campus in Richfield, Utah—–serve a six–county area in Utah.
Snow College boasts of having some of the lowest tuition rates of any accredited institution of higher education in Utah. Undergraduate enrollment averages 3000 yearly.
The college offers certificates and associate degrees in several areas. The major study divisions include:
- Business & Applied Technologies
- Fine Arts, Communication and New Media
- Natural science & Mathematics
- Social & Behavioral Science
The junior college also offers continuing education, online and honors classes.
Snow College is widely regarded for its athletics, music and arts programs. The Horne School of Music, an all–Steinway School, is one of only 23 2–year colleges accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music in the U.S. Snow College music graduates have played in some of the finest colleges and musical groups in the world.
Snow College hosts some of the finest U.S. music camps, such as the Juilliard Jazz Summer Workshop and the Manhattan to the Mountains Chamber Workshop.
The National Association of Schools of Theatre has awarded Snow’s theatre arts department full accreditation and membership, an honor only bestowed to three other 2–year colleges.
Snow College’s athletic teams, known as Badgers, are consistently highly ranked regionally and nationally.
The college’s art program is highly recommended and is known to other colleges throughout the US.
Some of its students have gone on to colleges including Cornwall, University of Utah, New York Art Academy and other institutions.
The Ephraim campus is home to the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts (concert hall and theatre), Activity Center and art gallery; the Richfield campus houses the Sevier Valley Center, an indoor arena and theater. The surrounding community uses the facilities on both campuses.
Snow College is a member of the National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC).
Snow College ranked #6 in the CNN Money listing of community colleges in 2012 and listed among the top 10% U.S. community colleges by the Aspen Institute in 2013.
Saint Paul College a community and technical college, established in 1910 is located in St. Paul, Minnesota. The school has about 10,000 full–time and part–time students. Saint Paul College offers traditional classes, online classes and hybrid classes.
The college provides 39 associate degree programs as well as 60 career certificate and diploma programs.
Saint Paul College focuses on advanced technology to enhance the curriculum and the learning experience. The school also provides students free tutoring.
The Power of YOU scholarship programs provide free tuition to qualified students who graduate from St. Paul or Minneapolis public schools.
Student Life provides many social, wellness, educational and cultural events.
Saint Paul College has transfer agreements with four–year colleges and universities to provide pathways for students to transfer to continue their higher education.
Saint Paul College offers programs such as:
- Advanced manufacturing technology
- Computer graphics and programming
- Culinary arts
- American Sign Language interpreter and transliterator
- Health information technology
- Global trade
- Medical laboratory technology
Saint Paul College ranked the #1 community college in the 2010 Washington Monthly ranking of America’s best community colleges.
Mayland Community College, located in Spruce Pine, North Carolina, also operates the Avery Learning Center in Newland, North Carolina and the Yancey Learning Center in Burnsville, North Carolina. Mayland Community College is part of the North Carolina Community College System. The college has partnerships with area colleges and universities to provide transfer options to students. The school offers 35 programs. The junior college offers an Associate in Arts, an Associate in Fine Arts and an Associate in Science degree.
Besides providing classes for college credit, Mayland Community College provides classes for enrichment, skills development and personal enjoyment.
Mayland Community College has the following academic departments:
- Arts & Sciences (College Transfer
- Basic Skills
- Business, Engineering & Public Service Technologies
- Health Sciences
- Applied Technology Programs
Mayland Community College ranked the #4 community college in the 2010 Washington Monthly ranking of America’s best community colleges.
Northwest Iowa Community College (NWICC), an institution of higher learning, is situated on a large campus in the rural town of Sheldon, Iowa.
For local residents, the Northwest Iowa Lifelong Learning and Recreation Center is a state–of–the–art recreational facility which includes an indoor walking/running track, fitness classes, yoga, Pilates, indoor cycling, training with certified personal trainers, and much more.
Northwest Iowa Community College offers vocational technical programs and arts and sciences transfer courses, a total of 43 programs. Examples of areas of study include:
- Engineering Design
- Early Childhood Education
- Natural Resources & Conservation
NWICC’s student placement rate averages 98% and its skilled specialist programs have consistently had 100% employment success for its graduates.
The junior college has transfer agreements with universities throughout the Midwest, including South Dakota State University, University of Iowa, and Iowa State University.
Enrollment in credit programs is approximately 2,000 annually; non–credit enrollment exceeds 28,000 for students of high school completion, continuing education, online education and skill training services for area businesses.
The NWICC College for High School Students offers a chance for some to complete their high school diploma and begin career training or college–level study.
The NW Iowa Development Network is comprised of local and regional businesses and partners with NWICC and the Iowa Department of Economic Development (IDED) to address the rapid growth in the rural sector of NW Iowa.
Northwest Iowa Community College ranked #7 in the CNN Money listing of community colleges in 2012 and The Aspen Institute listed NW Iowa Community College among the top 10% of U.S. community colleges in 2013.
Southeast Community College Lincoln (SCC–Lincoln), a community college network, is located in the southeast portion of Nebraska. It has three campuses and more than 20 learning centers in a 15–county district. The annual enrollment of full–time and part–time commuter students across the various campuses is ~11,000.
SCC–Lincoln provides over 50 programs of study; it also offers 12 online study programs and more than 300 courses each term.
The college awards the Associate of Applied Science Degree, Associate of Arts Degree, Associate of Science Degree, Diploma, and Certificate. The Nebraska Transfer Initiative, a cooperative effort among Nebraska’s higher education institutions, provides a seamless transition for SCC–Lincoln graduates to four–year schools.
For eight consecutive years SCC–Lincoln has produced the most graduates in Precision Production fields (Computer Aided Design Drafting, Machine Tool Technology, Manufacturing Engineering Technology) than any other school in the U.S.
SCC–Lincoln offers workshops, classes and seminars to people of all ages in its Continuing Education Program. The junior college also hosts a nationally–renown Entrepreneurship Center which operates a business incubator for new and growing enterprises.
The community college has a special focus on global education, aiming to infuse global perspectives into all courses to better prepare students for an increasingly global workplace.
Southeast Community College Lincoln ranked #8 in the CNN Money listing of community colleges in 2012 and listed among the top 120 U.S. community colleges by the Aspen Institute in 2011 and 2013. The community college ranked #8 among a list of 786 community colleges in the U.S. for Student Success Rates, based on graduation and retention stats.
Victor Valley Community College, located in Victorville, California, offers associate degrees in many areas. The community college offers majors such as business management, registered nursing, music, welding, agriculture and natural resources, animation, criminal justice and construction technology. The college offers traditional classes and some online classes.
Victor Valley Community College, one of the largest community colleges in California, has about 12,000 full–time students.
Victor Valley College’s Health Science/Public Safety/Industrial Technology division provides career technical education.
The Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (S.T.E.M.) division prepares students to transfer to four–year colleges and universities and prepares them for careers requiring a math or science background.
The Victor Valley College Office of Instruction provides traditional classes, online classes and hybrid classes
The community college also provides the Instructional Programs, Humanities, Arts & Letters Division
Victor Valley Community College provides vocational technology labs in agriculture, engineering, construction, welding and in other fields.
The Center for institutional Excellence provides guidance and support for all the school’s academic and non–academic programs on campus. The center evaluates change and offers best educational practices via evaluations and program reviews.
Victor Valley College ranked #3 in the CNN Money listing of top community colleges in 2012.
Georgia Military College, established in 1879 and located in Milledgeville, Georgia, is a co–educational liberal arts junior college and a separate preparatory school (grades 6–12). GMC focuses its educational programs on two facets: 1) Development of the intellect and 2) Elevation of character and three values: Duty, Honor and Country.
The main campus in Milledgeville serves approximately 275 full–time, resident ROTC students (the Corps of Cadets) and 200–300 commuting students. GMC’s five distance learning centers and two extension offices in Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Madison, Sandersville, Valdosta and Warner Robins serve ~4,000 students.
The distance learning centers also serve as junior colleges to their local communities. The preparatory school's ACCEL Program enables qualified seniors to attend classes at the junior college and the high school simultaneously, while earning credit for both their high school diploma and their college degree.
GMC is one of five military junior colleges in the Army’s Early Commissioning Program (ECP). Cadets who graduate from the college’s two–year, military science–oriented curriculum receive an officer’s commission in the U.S. Army.
After completing the two–year degree, GMC graduates pursuing a 4–year degree at Georgia’s senior military college, North Georgia College and State University (NGC&SU) in Dahlonega, Georgia qualify for a transfer scholarship. After completing their four–year degrees, they are promoted as a 1st Lieutenant in the US Army. In addition, numerous articulation agreements exist between allied colleges.
The college offers three degrees: Associate of Arts (AA), Associate of Science (AS) and Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in a variety of study areas, e.g. Criminal Justice, Human Communication, Logistics Management, International Affairs, Psychology.
GMC’s classes are small, typically no more than 15 students, and ensuring individual attention; for students who request it. Every course provides free tutoring.
College Atlas.org named MMI one of the top 25 community colleges. The college ranked #9 in the CNN Money listing of community colleges in 2012. GMC ranked #12 in the 2010 Washington Monthly ranking of top 100 U.S. community colleges.
DeAnza College, located in Cupertino, California, also home to Apple, Symantec, Sun, Hewlett–Packard, and many other high–technology firms.
The community college is part of Silicon Valley’s Foothill–De Anza Community College District, which also administers Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, California. The district serves the cities of Cupertino, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Sunnyvale and San Jose.
The annual enrollment is ~22,000 students, with a transfer rate of ~1,800 students. DeAnza College has 10 instructional divisions which sustain more than 100 areas of study.
The college offers 90–plus associate degree and university transfer programs, including popular majors such as Animation, Broadcasting, Biological, Health and Environmental Sciences, Graphic Design and Computer Graphics.
The college’s Intercultural/International Studies program has garnered much attention and the college attracts students from more than 50 countries.
The Community Education program offers non–credit classes, weekend adult workshops and summer programs for children.
DeAnza College is a cultural hub for the Silicon Valley area. It is the home of Flint Center for the Performing, the Fujitsu Planetarium, the Euphrat Museum of Art and the California History Center.
The Kirsch Center, which opened in 2005, is a carbon–easy, sustainability–leading building and was the first community college building in the US to receive a LEED platinum rating. It’s a favored location for Silicon Valley conferences and events.
DeAnza College consistently ranks #1 or #2 in the state annually for the number of students who transfer to the University of California and California State University campuses. The college ranked #10 in the CNN Money listing of top community colleges in 2012. DeAnza ranked #45 in the 2010 Washington Monthly ranking of the top 100 U.S. community colleges.
Marion Military Institute (MMI), located in Marion, Alabama, is a two–year junior college and regarded as the official state military college of Alabama. Founded in 1842, MMI is the oldest military junior college in the U.S. The junior college focuses on intellectual, moral–ethical, physical–athletic, and leadership development experiences in a military environment. In recent years, MMI has produced more than 206 admirals and generals; the school has several renowned military alumni.
MMI offers various military training programs including the Army’s Early Commissioning Program (ECP) in which qualified students can get commissioned as a Second Lieutenant after two years of college.
The Service Academy Preparation Program (SAP) provides freshmen a year of solid academic and physical preparation for students who wish to attend one of the Service Academies (West Point, Air Force Academy, Naval Academy, Merchant Marine Academy or Coast Guard Academy). Marion also offers the first two years of the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps.
MMI recently introduced a new program: An extracurricular flight–training program using a local partner in aviation. Enrollees learn to fly through a combination of online ground school instruction, computer–based and in–flight training.
Providing a private pilot’s certificate, the program is designed to preclude U.S. Air Force and Navy Initial Flight Screening (IFS) requirements.
Annual enrollment of degree– and non–degree–seeking students is ~400.
The junior college offers Associate of Science and Associate of Arts degree programs, based on a rigorous General Studies curriculum. Within these programs, students may select study options based on their interests; they can choose the General Studies curriculum or, focus on specific disciplines e.g. Natural Science, Pre–nursing, Elementary Education or Criminal Justice.
Cadet life at Marion is rich with extracurricular options such as Choir, Sports, Drama, Band, Drill Team, etc.
The college ranked #12 in the CNN Money list of top community colleges in 2012.
Kingsborough Community College, located in Brooklyn, New York, is part of The City University of New York (CUNY) system. Kingsborough Community College provides a broad range of associate degree programs in the liberal arts and in career education. The community college also provides certificate programs in many areas.
Kingsborough Community College offers programs for special populations including the My Turn program which provides free tuition for residents 60 years of age and older. College Now prepares high school students for college–level work. New Start provides a second chance to students who had difficulty in college.
Most of the classes have less than 30 students, allowing instructors to teach students via hands–on learning and group discussions utilizing technology such as video–conferencing rooms and smart classrooms.
Kingsborough Community College named one of the nation’s top community colleges by the New York Times. The community college named a 2013 Aspen Institute Finalist with Distinction.
Community College Week reports Kingsborough Community College consistently ranks in the upper half of the top 100 community colleges in the nation awarding associate degrees to minorities as well as the number of associate degrees awarded in total.
Kingsborough Community College received an award from the national community college honor society, Phi Theta Kappa, for the chapter with the largest growth.
Situated in Rock Springs, Wyoming, Western Wyoming Community College (WWCC) is one of seven community colleges in Wyoming. An extended campus center is located in Green River in Sweetwater County. Rock Springs is the fourth largest town in Wyoming; the next closest towns are Salt Lake City, Utah (180 miles) and Denver, Colorado (350 miles).
Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park and Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area are all accessible to the WCCCC community.
Due to the high elevation and harsh winters in the area, all the main college is located indoors, connected by hallways.
The junior college awards one–year certificates in 36 program areas, including:
- Web Site Development
- Technical Theatre
- Digital Design Technologies
- Fitness Leadership
- Power Plant Maintenance Mechanics
Western Wyoming Community College confers Associate of Arts (AA), Associate of Fine Arts (AFA), Associate of Nursing (AN), Associate of Science (AS) and Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degrees, and a few four–year degrees in partnership with the University of Wyoming in Laramie, Wyoming.
Degree–related programs include:
- Science and Mathematics
- Humanities and Fine Arts
- Health Science
- Social Science
- Technology & Industry
Close to 70 percent of students are in transfer programs. The school has a strong international students segment, with many resources including a host family program.
Online and compressed video courses are available statewide; online courses may be taken for associate, bachelor and master degree courses.
An annual “Wyoming Safety & Workforce Summit” is free to the community and offers presentations on safety issues and workforce development.
WWCC is also home to the Instructional Well–Site Facility, a closed–loop system that provides “real world” training for local industry technicians and customized specialty courses. This site also serves as a meeting space for industry professionals.
WWCC is a member of The National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC). College Atlas.org named WWCC one of the top 25 community colleges. The college ranked #13 in the CNN Money listing of top community colleges in 2012. Finally, WCCC ranked #15 in the 2010 Washington Monthly ranking of the top 100 U. S. community colleges.
North Iowa Area Community College (NIACC), a two–year community college located in Mason City, Iowa, serves the North Iowa region. North Iowa Area Community College was founded in 1918 as the first public two–year college in Iowa.
Annual enrollment at North Iowa is 3700, with 56% enrolled in transfer programs and 44% in Career/Vocational programs.
Among first–time, full–time degree–seeking students at NIACC, 42% graduate within three years and another 20% transfer prior to graduation.
NIACC has more than 40 articulation agreements with 4–year colleges and universities and almost all the school’s career/vocational programs are transferable.
The community college has a notably low tuition, compared to other community colleges, colleges and universities in the region. Additionally, NIACC offers an “Extreme Makeover: College Edition” contest annually, where two lucky students win an entire year of education at NIACC for free, including textbooks and other resources.
NIACC Career & Technical graduates have a 95% placement rate while 91% of NIACC graduates continue to live and work in North Iowa.
NIACC’s John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center is a major source of entrepreneurial support for local residents and the community in reaching their potential. The center has assisted in 127 new local business starts and 300+ new statewide starts.
The junior college has a strong intercollegiate athletics program – with more than 250 students involved — including men’s baseball, basketball, wrestling, golf, cross country, soccer and track & field; and women’s basketball, softball, cross country, volleyball, golf and track & field. For example, NIACC claimed the 2013 Region XI baseball title.
The NIACC Performing Arts & Leadership Series offers a variety of shows, entertaining ~16,000 people each year. Online classes and a continuing education program provide learning to more than 3000 participants annually.
The Aspen Institute listed North Iowa Area Community College among the top 10% of all U.S. community colleges in 2013. The college ranked #14 in the CNN Money listing of top community colleges in 2012.
Situated near Rainsville, Alabama between DeKalb and Jackson counties, Northeast Alabama Community College (NACC) serves the Northeast Alabama region.
Through the academic divisions at Northeast Alabama Community College – Business & Computer Science, English & Fine Arts, Mathematics, Health Sciences, Social Science/Speech/Foreign Language and Natural Sciences — students may earn an Associate of Arts (AA), Associate in Science (AS) or Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree in more than 130 majors.
Career/Technical programs, which lead to a certificate or an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree, include such programs as Drafting & Design Technology, Salon & Spa Management, Industrial Electronics, and Emergency Medical Services.
STARS (for state colleges and universities in Alabama) and 2TO4 (for independent colleges and universities in Alabama) are articulation agreements guaranteeing NACC credits transfer to four–year institutions and two years at NACC counts as two years towards a bachelor degree.
Graduates of its Technical/Career programs have ranked first within the Alabama Community College System in job retention and NACC students have placed first among prospective teachers taking the Basic Skills test.
Northeast Alabama Community College also has Distance Education, Continuing Education (including ESL and GED) and Workplace Education (classes offered by a company or industry specifically for its employees) programs available. Additionally, NACC chosen as one of 36 colleges to participate in the Plus 50 Encore Completion Program, a national effort sponsored by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) to train 10,000 baby boomers for new jobs in healthcare, education and social services.
The community college ranked #15 in the CNN Money listing of top community colleges in 2012. The Aspen Institute listed Northeast Alabama Community College among the top 10% of all U.S. community colleges in 2013.
Colorado Mountain College (CMC) is a network of eleven community college campuses that serves nine counties in north–central Colorado: Chaffee, Eagle, Garfield, Grand, Jackson, Lake, Pitkin, Routt and Summit.
The average annual enrollment across all campuses is 24,000, with 3600 full–time students. The junior college grants associates degrees and four–year bachelor degrees in Business Administration and Sustainability Studies. Top degree programs are Business, Nursing, EMT, Outdoor Education and transfer programs.
Located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, in an area that includes 15 of the 25 ski areas in Colorado, the college takes full advantage of its location to provide related courses of study. The most popular areas of study include:
- Sustainability studies
- Ski business
- Ski area operations
- Ski lift maintenance and operations
- Outdoor education
- Culinary arts
- Veterinary technology
Graduates of many of CMC’s courses are employed in Colorado’s winter and summer tourism–oriented economies. The Colorado Mountain College Ski Team at the Steamboat Springs campus is a member of the Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association, the strongest college ski racing conference in the U.S.
In 2012, the Isaacson School for New Media, one of the country’s first community college programs dedicated to new media, opened at CMC. With classes offered at the Aspen, Colorado, Spring Valley and Glenwood Springs campuses, the school offers courses in digital journalism, digital media, digital marketing and design. The school provides professional training, certificates and degrees.
In another arena, students can earn an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree in Professional Photography at the Spring Valley campus. Faculty in the Photography program includes shared Pulitzer Prize winner Steven G. Smith.
CMC’s Workforce Training and Customized Business Services offers professional development courses e.g. supervisory skills, safety, workplace Spanish, social media.
Colorado Mountain College ranked #17 in the CNN Money listing of top community colleges in 2012. CollegeMeasures.org ranks CMC #17 in the nation for graduation plus transfer rates for schools with more than 200 full–time freshmen. The college is also ranked #1 among Colorado’s two–year colleges for graduation plus transfer rates.
Located in Mitchell, South Dakota, Mitchell Technical Institute (MTI) is a post–high–school vocational technical school. MTI operates two campus locations.
Annual enrollment at MTI averages 1,000 students, with notable diversity. The school is military friendly and more than 89% of MTI students receive financial aid. MTI is respected for its strong job placement rate — 96% among its graduates.
MTI also strives to meet local business and community needs through adult, business and industrial training programs, including programs that require licensure or recertification. For example, the school has partnered with the satellite communications provider, GVF, to offer professional satellite communications courses for VSAT training. Successful completion of the courses paired with the Hands–on–Skills Testing can lead to the GVF Basic VSAT Installer Certification or the GVF Advanced VSAT Installer Certification.
The Oak Room, an elegant dining room staffed by MTI students, is an integral part of the Culinary Academy at Mitchell Technical Institute. It serves meals five days a week, September through April.
MTI awards the Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree and offers diploma programs. The institute features 28 on–campus academic programs and seven online degree–related programs across six study areas:
- Agricultural & Transportation Technologies
- Business & Service Industries
- Construction & Manufacturing Technologies
- Energy Production & Transmission
- Engineering Technologies
- Health Sciences
Examples of its degree programs include Power Sports Technology, Wind Turbine Technology, Satellite Communications and Speech–Language Pathology Assistant.
The Aspen Institute listed Mitchell Technical Institute among the top 10% of U.S. community colleges in 2011 and 2013. The community college ranked #16 in the CNN Money listing of top community colleges in 2012.
Itasca Community College, established in 1922 is located in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. The community college has about 1,900 students. The college offers Associate in Arts degree, an Associate in Science Degree, an Associate in Applied Science degree, diplomas and professional certificates.
Besides traditional programs Itasca Community College provides several programs entirely online and many programs which include on–campus and online courses.
The school offers an. Students can complete the first two years of a bachelor’s degree in just about any field.
Itasca Community College provides free tutoring and provides a special needs office, an academic resource center and computer labs. The school has on–campus student housing in Wenger and Itasca Halls.
Transfer programs include:
- Class Act
- American Indian Studies
- Geography/Geographic Information Systems
- Early Childhood Education
- Mass Communications
- Pulp and paper Science
Itasca Community Colleges is part of the Minnesota Colleges Athletic Conference (MCAC
Itasca Community College ranked the #5 community college in the 2010 Washington Monthly ranking of America’s best community colleges and #30 in the CNN Money listing of community colleges in 2012.
Located in Alexandria, Minnesota, a rural community, Alexandria Technical & Community College (ATCC) is a two–year college and a member of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system.
The school offers more than 50 study programs, ranging from certificates to Associate of Science (AS), Associate of Applied Science (AAS) and Associate of Arts (AA) degrees. Alexandria T&C is one of the few colleges in Minnesota that offers a law enforcement program, making it one of ATCC’s most popular programs; students in the law enforcement program may earn an AAS degree, an AS transfer degree and a career transition degree.
Alexandria Technical & Community College serves 2200 students annually, in studies from Farm/Ranch Management to Web/Multimedia Design, Nursing to Hospitality Administration and Fashion Management to Computer & Voice Networking.
The school provides assistance for students with disabilities, tutoring services and writing assistance.
Alexandria Technical & Community College has the highest graduation rate for two–year public colleges in the state of Minnesota as well as a high job placement rate of over 90%.
With Alexandria’s Post Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO), high school students can enroll full–time or part–time in college courses or programs. PSEO students receive free tuition and course required textbooks at no cost.
College Atlas.org named CVTC one of the top 25 community colleges in 2012. The college ranked #27 in the CNN Money listing of top community colleges in 2012. The Aspen Institute listed Alexandria among the top 10% of U.S. community colleges in 2013. Alexandria ranked #8 in the 2010 Washington Monthly ranking of the top 100 U. S. community colleges.
West Kentucky Community & Technical College, located in Paducah, Kentucky, is one of the sixteen open admissions, two–year colleges within the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS). The school serves 10 counties in the Purchase and surrounding area.
WKCTC offers three two–year degrees – Associate in Arts, Associate in Fine Arts in Visual Arts, and Associate in Science – all with a general education core and additional courses designed to parallel the first two years of a bachelor’s degree.
The school provides a broad array of instructional programs ranging from Fire/Rescue Science and Homeland Security/Emergency Management Technology to Culinary Arts and Respiratory Care.
West Kentucky’s Workforce Solutions offers specialized training for local businesses and professionals. The online training program includes classes in Residential Construction. For residents of every age its Community Education department offers a variety of programs including Zumba, Lego Summer Camp, Science Camp, Cooking, Estate Planning, Senior Learning, etc.
The community college houses the Clemens Fine Arts Center which presents a diverse itinerary of performance and visual arts opportunities, including professional touring productions of plays and musicals, dance companies, celebrity recording artists, speaker series and art exhibits, as well as performances by students and local residents.
WKCTC provides a variety of extracurricular activities including career clubs, professional fraternities and faith/ethnic/cultural organizations.
Aspen Institute named West Kentucky C&T College a 2013 Finalist in its prestigious Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. The Aspen Institute also recognized the college as a 2011 Finalist with Distinction for the same prize.
Community College Ranking Guidelines
We ranked these communinity colleges based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.
How to Choose a College
Choosing a community college is an important decision. Students should consider factors like location and educational costs. For example, students planning a career in another state can access low out-of-state tuition rates while establishing residency.
While community colleges offer lower rates than traditional four-year institutions, tuition rates vary. Students may want to compare rates before committing to a program.
Community college students often commute. However, out-of-state learners or students seeking a traditional college experience may want to narrow their search by finding schools that offer housing packages.
Students should also consider their learning styles. Larger colleges usually offer more networking opportunities, while smaller colleges offer intimate classes sizes that provide more opportunities for mentorship and practical learning.
The best community colleges accept financial aid and provide assistance navigating the application process. Advisors can help students through the admissions process.
How to Choose an Associate Degree
An associate degree prepares graduates for the workforce. However, the best community colleges also consider how credits transfer to four-year institutions. Students should identify their long-term career goals to determine which programs best meet their professional goals.
Financing Your College Degree
Funding a college degree requires a significant investment that most students cannot pay out of pocket. Fortunately, students have multiple funding options, beginning with federal financial aid.
The FAFSA is a free application form that determines if students qualify for grants and loans. Grants do not require repayment, and the government provides these awards based on need.
Students begin repaying loans within six months after graduating unless they enroll in another program. Learners may also apply for private student loans offered through banks and financial organizations, which tend to have more expensive interest rates than federal loans.
The best community colleges also offer federally funded work-study opportunities. During these programs, students work on campus, often in a field that reflects their career goals.
Students should also consider scholarships, which do not require repayment. Colleges and universities typically provide merit-based or need-based scholarships. These scholarships are often offered by community organizations and large corporations, which identify a target population to support and provide fundings for people in that population.
Frequently Asked Questions
Community colleges focus on two-year programs that prepare graduates for immediate employment. These programs can also cover general education requirements, allowing students to transfer to four-year schools. Four-year programs include general education requirements and advanced topics, and are what most people think of when they think of traditional college.
Junior colleges specifically provide vocational training, while community colleges offer two-year programs that often meet the transfer requirements for four-year institutions.
Top community colleges that strive to provide a full college experience may offer on-campus housing. However, most community colleges do not offer housing.
Community college students qualify for scholarships and can begin their searches by contacting their schools for in-house opportunities. Community college students also qualify for private and federal scholarships.
The best community colleges accommodate any student who wants to earn a degree. Most community colleges offer open admission.
Attending a community college provides students with an opportunity to boost their GPAs with college coursework, which may increase students' chance of gaining admission to programs, especially if they didn't do well in high school.
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