And these days, from the best online colleges to the best distance learning programs, accessibility and affordability is the name of the game. In this regard the nation's over 1600 community colleges have been leading the way for a long time. As the name implies, community colleges serve communities. They grant two-year associate degrees, certificates, credentials, and diplomas that prepare graduates for a fulfilling career or successful transfer to a baccalaureate program. Many offer continuing and adult education courses. Some offer dual-credit programs to area high school students. In these ways and many more, community colleges—often called junior colleges, city colleges, or technical colleges—have a tremendous impact on their region and its population.
According to the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), 44 percent of all undergraduate college students are enrolled at a community college. Community colleges offer students the opportunity to save money, prepare for transfer to a four-year college, get ready for a career, try out college, and/or take advantage of a flexible schedule. There are many good reasons to consider a community college as your first step into higher education. Here are five of the most common:
- Community colleges are affordable! The AACC reports that in the academic year 2016-17, the average estimate of full-time cost for a student to attend a community college was $17,000, which included an average $3,520 for tuition, $8,060 for room and board, $1,390 for books and supplies, $1,760 for transportation, and $2,270 for other expenses. Students often pay much less than the "sticker price" after student aid and other benefits are factored in. In comparison, in-state students at public four-year schools can expect to pay closer to $25,000; out-of-state students approach $40,000; and students at private schools can pay $50,000 or more per year.
- Community colleges are inclusive! Community colleges do not have stringent admissions standards that require high scores on an admissions tests or a certain grade-point average from high school. In most cases, anyone with a high school diploma or equivalent can enroll. More and more community colleges are making it easier for high school students to enroll in college courses while still in high school, often earning high school and college credit simultaneously. Starting at a community college gives students a chance to improve a high school record before transferring to a university. Open access does not necessarily mean that students can take any course they want. Students usually are given placement examinations and then advised or placed into developmental courses if they are not up to college-level work.
- Community colleges are a part of your community! Most community colleges are supported by local taxes. So the best of them work at having a positive influence in the community. Other than the obvious way of providing affordable higher education, community colleges also work with area companies to stay abreast of the workforce needs in the region. They make adjustments to their programs and curricula to meet those needs quite often, whether it is through a degree program, a career enhancement course, an adult education class, or a technical certification program. Community colleges keep a finger on the pulse of the community.
- Community colleges are convenient! Because they are in touch with their communities, community colleges offer classes at times and locations that are convenient for students in those communities. Classes are often offered at several locations, during the day, in the evenings, or on weekends. An abundance of online and hybrid courses provide more alternatives to make education convenient to those who must fit school around work or family responsibilities. Many community colleges even offer childcare services for the parent-student. And class sizes are typically smaller at community colleges compared to similar courses at four-year institutions.
- Community colleges are diverse! Community colleges have the most diverse group of students. Students of the widest array of age, ethnicity, degree of ability, socioeconomic status, nationality, and much more attend community colleges. The opportunity to interact with and learn from students with many different backgrounds and life experiences is another big advantage of attending a community college. The diversity at community colleges, in some ways, better prepares students for life in our diverse world. But in addition to having diverse students, community colleges also have diverse programs. Community colleges offer both vocational programs and academic transfer programs. For example, community colleges prepare most of the nation's registered nurses, police officers, paramedics, firefighters, and advanced-skill technicians.
What Are the Best Community Colleges?
College Choice has correlated data from Aspen Institute's College Excellence Program, Payscale, and individual community colleges to compile a list of the 50 best community colleges in the country. We considered several factors in developing an institutional performance score, including first year retention rates, three-year graduation rates, credentials awarded, etc. We also factored percentage of non-traditional and minority students, percentage of Pell grants, and minority graduation rates in order to create a diversity score. Finally, we compared in-district tuition rates and potential salary to give us a sense of the return on investment. Since much of the focus at College Choice is on helping you choose a college, we did not consider schools that did not offer an associate degree, and we eliminated those schools where associate degrees were an exceptionally low percentage of their annual awards. In the end, we believe these fifty schools represent the best of what can be a wise decision for many prospective college students.
Santa Barbara City College
College Choice Score: 100.00
In-district Annual Tuition: $1,380
Founded in 1909, Santa Barbara City College (SBCC) is the oldest of California’s 113 community colleges. It is located in the Santa Barbara Mesa on a 74-acre bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The college serves all of Santa Barbara County as well as many others who are attracted to the beautiful setting of the California coast.
SBCC is a fully accredited community college that offers over eighty degrees and over fifty career technical programs, training in a wide range of career technical fields, and transfer programs that provide the first two years of study toward the baccalaureate degree. Over 30,000 students attend SBCC in some capacity. Of those, more than 28% are full-time students. Each year over 2000 students earn a degree, nearly 1500 are awarded a certificate, and close to 3500 transfer to a four-year institution. Two out of every three full-time students who begin at SBCC graduate within three years, a rate well over the national average.
The school’s Transfer Admission Guarantee partners with seven University of California campuses, California State University Channel Islands, and one private/independent college. And its Transfer Academy provides comprehensive support services to empower, inform, and educate students seeking to transfer to one of these or many other four-year institutions.
The student body is as diverse as the degree programs offered. Over a third of SBCC’s students are Hispanic, over half are female, and nearly a third are over the age of 25.
College Choice Score: 92.88
In-district Annual Tuition: $1,944
Established in 1959 on the western edge of the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, Broward College is part of the Florida College System and now has three campuses and several centers throughout Broward County. The school also has four International Centers located outside the United States, each of them offering standard, face-to-face Broward College courses identical to those taught in Florida, including complete associate degree programs.
More than 63,000 students enroll in classes at Broward College each year, helping the school to rank fifth for the number of associate degrees conferred annually. In addition to having a large number of students, Broward also boasts one of the most diverse student bodies in the nation, with students from over 180 countries. Of the more than 5700 degrees awarded, African Americans earned over 1700 and Hispanic students earned over 1800, placing Broward College in the top five for both.
Students at Broward have over 140 programs from which to choose. These programs lead to one of four certificates, three associate degrees, or three baccalaureate degrees. Over 4300 one-year certificates are awarded each year. However, nearly a two-thirds of awards are are two- to three-year associate degrees. Earning the Associate of Arts degree guarantees graduates successful transfer into one of Florida’s four-year state colleges or public universities.
Meridian Community College
College Choice Score: 92.37
In-district Annual Tuition: $2,525
Founded in 1937, Meridian Community College (MCC) is the only one of Mississippi’s fifteen public community colleges to originate through the initiative of the local school system. In fact, the college operated at Meridian High School until 1964 when the College moved to its present location next to the campus of Mississippi State University’s Meridian Campus.
Nearly 4000 students attend MCC, many working toward fulfilling careers through one of several technical, vocational, or pre-professional programs. Over 70% of all awards at MCC are associate degrees. MCC also offers the University Transfer Program for students who plan to transfer to a four-year institution. The University Transfer Program is parallel to the courses taken by freshmen and sophomores at universities and senior colleges. The University Transfer Associate in Arts degree consists of a series of core courses and a selection of transferable courses based on the student’s desired major.
The Phil Hardin Foundation Honors College at MCC offers academically-gifted students the opportunity to enhance their educational experience. The program is designed to complement the University Transfer Program through enriched courses. The Honors College develops students’ leadership skills and offers more individualized academic support. Students in the Honors College also gain the opportunity for growth in a number of ways including volunteering, traveling, and meeting with leaders and stewards of the community. Those who complete graduation requirements for the honors college are awarded an honors college diploma and become eligible to transfer into the honors college at participating Mississippi universities.
Santa Fe College
College Choice Score: 91.87
In-district Annual Tuition: $2,532
The nearly 16,000 students who attend Santa Fe College choose from more than fifty accredited technology and applied sciences programs, most of which are two-year degrees. The majority of Santa Fe students attend classes at the main campus in northwest Gainesville, though the school has six other centers throughout Alachua and Bradford counties. Founded by the Florida Legislature in 1966 and now a part of the Florida College System, Santa Fe College is one of the top ten colleges in the nation for number of Associate of Arts degrees awarded.
Awards are given in three categories. The Associate of Arts degree consists primarily of liberal arts and sciences courses. The program culminates in a two-year liberal arts degree that can be transferred to most institutions offering bachelor’s degrees. The descriptions, course numbers, and content of classes at Santa Fe are the same as those in the first two years at Florida’s public universities. Santa Fe’s liberal arts courses are also transferable to most public and private four-year schools in the US.
The Technology and Applied Science Program consists of courses designed to prepare students for careers in skilled professions. Some of these courses are transferable to a four-year college or university. Most lead to a degree or certificate. Finally, Santa Fe College offers eight bachelor’s degrees: Clinical Laboratory Science, Early Childhood Education, Health Services Administration, Industrial Biotechnology, Information Systems Technology, Multimedia and Video Production Technology, Nursing, and Organizational Management.
Flint Hills Technical College
College Choice Score: 90.07
In-district Annual Tuition: $2,690
In 1963 the Emporia Board of Education founded a vocational and technical school that would come to be known as Flint Hills Technical College (FHTC). It wasn’t until 1995 that FHTC began awarding associate degrees. The school became an independent institution in 2004. In a short amount of time FHTC has grown to a much respected school for vocational training, career development, and educational preparedness.
FHTC has nineteen programs of study for its over 1,000 students that respond to today’s technical industry needs, through dynamic hands-on education and real-world experience. The main focus of the school is vocational and technical training, still over a quarter of the awards are associate degrees, giving many students the opportunity to transfer to four-year institutions.
Flint Hills Technical College is proud to take a high-tech, hands-on approach toward education that offers flexible training options for its students. To that end, FHTC has several active student organizations, offers excellent job placement and career services, and provides quality hybrid and online courses. The school also offers several ways for high school students to begin earning college credit even before graduating from high school. There are 16 Associate of Applied Science Degrees, 14 Technical Certificates, and 7 Licensure/Certificate Programs targeted to give students real world skills and experience. The school prides itself on having smaller than normal class sizes with an average of 15:1 student to faculty ratio.
Los Medanos College
College Choice Score: 90.03
In-district Annual Tuition: $1,380
Opened in 1974, Los Medanos College is situated in eastern Contra Costa County, California along the Sacramento River and in the foothills of Mt. Diablo. The school is one of three community colleges in the Contra Costa Community College District. Los Medanos has a beautiful 120-acre campus that has increased classroom space by 50% in the last ten years. The 9,000 students each semester enjoy the updated facilities, the friendly atmosphere and ethos, and the idyllic surroundings of Pittsburg, CA.
Los Medanos offers over thirty associate degrees and over twenty certificates of achievement. About 60% of students receive an associate degree, while many others get certification in a specialized career, and still others take courses to enhance career skills. The many excellent student resources include a state of the art library; science, math, and music study labs; more than 700 computers for student use; career center; free tutoring for current students; Honors Scholars program; and several learning communities and special academic programs. The Transfer Academy works with students to structure a curriculum for a successful move from Los Medanos to a four-year institution. Nearly 30% of students who complete coursework at Los Medanos transfer to a college or university offering baccalaureate degrees.
Not only are the educational possibilities endless, Los Medanos boasts an extremely diverse student body, with no one ethnic group comprising a majority. Hispanic students make up the largest ethnic group at 39%; white non-Hispanic students are 27% of the student population; and 15% of the student body is African American.
San Jacinto Community College
College Choice Score: 89.40
In-district Annual Tuition: $2,100
In addition to its central campus located in Pasadena, TX, part of the Greater Houston area, San Jacinto Community College (SJCC) has two other main campuses and twelve extension centers. Each main campus is somewhat autonomous with their own distinct campus culture and athletic teams. Altogether SJCC services residents in six school districts within Harris County, but it attracts students from across Texas and the US outside its official service area.
San Jacinto’s over 40,000 students are able to choose courses of study for more than 185 degrees and certificates in 46 technical and university transfer programs. Most of these educational opportunities are organized under seven areas of study: Business, Career and Technical Education, Fine Arts, Health Sciences, Industrial Technology, Liberal Arts, and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.
Over 60% of the awards granted are associate degrees. San Jacinto College guarantees students can transfer credit to those publicly supported Texas colleges and universities that participate in the College’s Guarantee of Transfer Credit Program when coursework at San Jacinto College is completed in accordance with an approved and properly executed transfer plan. SJCC offers services such as child care, financial aid, job placement, counseling, testing, and disability assistance to better ensure the success of every student regardless of their situation.
College Choice Score: 88.82
In-district Annual Tuition: $2,040
Two hours east of Dallas, TX and an hour west of Shreveport, LA, rests Kilgore College (KC), home of the world-famous Kilgore College Rangerettes, the first precision dance team in the world. But Kilgore College is more than home of the Rangerettes; it services residents of twenty school districts in the Pineywoods of Northeast Texas with numerous degree, vocational, and continuing education programs. Over 7700 students enroll in credit and non-credit courses each year.
Founded in 1935, KC’s original curriculum was designed to serve university-bound students, but today, the college also offers education and training in wide variety of workforce programs. Well over half of all awards given are associate degrees. Kilgore College promotes easy access through open-door admission, distance learning opportunities, dual credit courses, developmental education, and a comprehensive financial aid program.
In addition to its renown for the Rangerettes and its prominence as one of the most affordable community colleges in the state of Texas, Kilgore College is also home to the East Texas OIl Museum, which houses a large collection of memorabilia documenting the period of Texas history in which the college was founded. And for the last 32 years it has been host to the annual summer Texas Shakespeare Festival.
Palm Beach State College
College Choice Score: 88.77
In-district Annual Tuition: $3,030
Palm Beach State College (PBSC) was founded in 1933 as Palm Beach Junior College and was the first public junior college in the state of Florida. The college’s initial goal was to provide additional training to local high school graduates who were unable to find jobs during the Great Depression. Today PBSC enrolls nearly 49,000 students in over 130 programs of study for associate degrees, baccalaureate degrees, or short-term certificates.
The most popular programs of study for the over 7200 degrees and certificates awarded annually are the associate in arts degree and the various vocational certificates. Over 3500 Associate of Arts degrees and over 2700 certificates are awarded each year. Among the nearly 700 associate in science degrees awarded, the nursing program has the highest enrollment and number of graduates. In 2009, the college started its first baccalaureate program, a Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Supervision & Management. Palm Beach State now offers three bachelor’s degrees in six tracks and averages about 300 graduates each year.
PBSC is proud of its diverse student population. Over 156 countries are represented among its student body, and no ethnic group constitutes a majority. The school also enrolls over 15,000 students in distance learning programs, broadening its impact in Florida and beyond. And its Honors College provides over 430 students an opportunity for academic achievement in a highly stimulating environment, a mentoring relationship with an instructor, and a context for developing patterns of academic excellence.
College Choice Score: 87.54
In-district Annual Tuition: $2,693
Though only approaching fifty years of existence, Valencia College in Orlando, FL has distinguished itself as one of the largest and best community colleges in the nation. Valencia has several campus locations in Orlando with additional campus locations in Winter Park and Kissimmee. It is ranked fourth in the United States for the number of associate degrees awarded annually, and it is second in the number of one-year certificates.
Even with an annual enrollment of over 68,000 students, Valencia is able to maintain an average class size of just 23 students. Valencia offers over 120 programs, offering certificates and associate degrees. Many of the associate degrees are terminal, but most are part of a transfer plan. Valencia has a unique but popular avenue for transferring to the University of Central Florida through its DirectConnect program. The program guarantees Valencia graduates admission and a smooth transition to UCF. Approximately 45,000 students have indicated that they are DirectConnect students. Nearly 25 percent of UCF’s upper division students originated from Valencia in 2011.
The Valencia Foundation’s $68 million endowment is about 12 times the average community college endowment, which reflects an abnormally large commitment of local business, organizations, and individuals, including the foundation’s board of directors. In addition to the large community support, Valencia also reflects the diversity of its region. Its student body is made up of nearly 18% African American students, close to 5% Asian/Pacific Islanders, and a near equal number of Hispanic and Caucasian students at 32.5% apiece. With these large numbers it is no surprise that Valencia ranks fifth in the country for the number of associate degrees awarded to Hispanics and seventh for the number awarded to African Americans.
South Mountain Community College
College Choice Score: 87.40
In-district Annual Tuition: $2,580
South Mountain Community College (SMCC), in Phoenix, is one of the ten colleges in the Maricopa County Community College District. It is also one of the newest schools on our list, having been founded in 1978 and first opened in 1980. SMCC offers associate degrees, certificates of completion, courses that transfer to universities, and technology training to 7,500 students each year.
More than half of all students attend SMCC with the intent to transfer to accredited colleges and universities, with a growing number graduating with a degree or certificate at SMCC prior to transfer. Class sizes are small and offered during the day, at night, and online, in an effort to provide students with an personal and accommodating educational experience.
Few regions are as diverse as the area served by SMCC—a remarkable mix of rural, urban, agricultural, business, and residential neighborhoods, all nestled in the shadows of the beautiful mountain park from which the school draws its name. The connection to the service region remains strong. The new library at SMCC is a testament to its strong community ties. The library was constructed and opened in 2011. This library is not only for student use, but doubles as a branch of the Phoenix Public Library, and as such, it is open to the general public. Within the spacious building there is a cyber cafe, a teen space, a large and growing collection, a dedicated children’s area, as well as quiet reading and study areas.
Eastern Idaho Technical College
College Choice Score: 86.76
In-district Annual Tuition: $2,496
Founded in 1969 in Idaho Falls, Eastern Idaho Technical College (EITC) serves citizens in a nine county service area by being a minimal cost, open-door institution that champions technical programs, customized industry training, basic skills instruction, workforce and community education, online distance education, and student services. The college is organized into several divisions: Business, Office, and Technology; Health Professions; Trades and Industry; and General Education. EITC also offers courses in adult basic education, GED testing, and workforce training. With the exception of courses specifically designed for technical programs, all general education credits will transfer to other state colleges or universities and often out of state institutions.
Nearly 1200 students enroll for credit at EITC each year, with almost an equal amount of degrees and certificates awarded annually. More telling of its service to the community is the fact that EITC has over 12,000 students enrolled each year on a non-credit basis. EITC boasts one of the lowest faculty to student ratios in the nation. With one faculty member for every nine students enrolled, students are sure to receive a personal touch to their education. And with a 95% positive employment placement, graduates of EITC are well situated a successful career
Santiago Canyon College
College Choice Score: 86.48
In-district Annual Tuition: $1,380
Created in 1985 as an extension of Santa Ana College, Santiago Canyon College (SCC) separated from Santa Ana in 1997 and changed its name to reflect its new independent status. SCC is the newest school on our list. Located in the city of Orange, CA, SCC and Santa Ana College are the two campuses in the Rancho Santiago Community College District. About a third of the nearly 4000 awards granted each year are associate degrees. Another 1100+ students transfer to four-year institutions.
SCC offer 65 associate degrees, 17 associate degrees for transfer, and over 90 credit and non-credit certificates to its nearly 16,000 enrolled students. Three academic divisions administer the majority of the courses: Mathematics and Science, Business and Career Technical Education, and Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences. Graduates of its Honors Program find themselves at some of the nation’s top universities after their time at SCC. SCC also directs the state’s largest trades apprenticeship program, providing skilled workers in the fields of carpentry, cosmetology, electricity, maintenance mechanic, operating engineer, power linemen, and surveying. As part of the school’s CAP program, students in the 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grades of high school may be admitted as special part-time or full-time students to SCC
Florida State College at Jacksonville
College Choice Score: 85.78
In-district Annual Tuition: $2,518
Florida State College at Jacksonville (FSCJ) was established in 1965. It has multiple campuses and centers located around the First Coast region to serve students in the Duval and Nassau county areas. It currently enrolls more than 50,000 students annually. The institution was founded in 1965 as Florida Junior College, later changing its name to Florida Community College at Jacksonville, and then in 2009 with the introduction of a few baccalaureate degrees it changed to its current name.
FSCJ offers more than 150 degree programs in a dozen areas of study. Nearly sixty percent of all awards granted are associate degrees. Its academic offerings include 13 bachelor’s degrees, 45 associate degrees and more than 100 technical and workforce certificates. FSCJ has multiple campuses and centers throughout Duval and Nassau counties, including online classes globally accessed through FSCJ Online. They offer flexible class scheduling, online, hybrid, and traditional classes.
FSCJ has a transfer articulation agreement with the 28 Florida state colleges and the 11 state universities. The agreement states that associate in arts degree graduates of a state-approved Florida State College at Jacksonville program must be admitted as a junior to any state university as long as the university has space, money, and the curriculum to meet the students’ needs.
Lincoln Trail College
College Choice Score: 84.83
In-district Annual Tuition: $2,490
Founded in 1969 and located in Robinson, IL, Lincoln Trail College (LTC) is a part of the well-respected Illinois Eastern Community Colleges organization. The college offers career preparation programs as well as a two-year college transfer curriculum. LTC offers the state’s only Broadband Telecom program, a testament to its outstanding computer and electronics reputation.
LTC enrolls over 1600 students each year. Sixty percent of LTC’s students are female, and over forty percent are full time, both numbers that are rather high for community colleges. Also about forty percent of LTC students are 25 years old or older.
There are over sixty programs of study at LTC, with about half of them offering a curriculum making transfer to a four-year institution more feasible. And with an active music and drama program, athletic teams, and student organizations, LTC provides students a well-rounded educational experience in a small, intimate setting, no matter if they plan to move directly to the workforce or continue their education at a four-year institute.
College Choice Score: 84.75
In-district Annual Tuition: $2,568
Olympic College opened its doors as Olympic Junior College on September 5, 1946. The college’s main campus is a 33-acre site located in Bremerton, WA, and its two satellite campuses are located in Poulsbo and Shelton, WA. Its service area includes Kitsap and Mason counties and contains two major naval installations: Naval Base Kitsap and Naval Hospital Bremerton.
Olympic enrolls over 11,000 students each year into one of its degree, certificate, or general education programs. In addition, Olympic has courses for GED completion and continuing education. Olympic offers three bachelor degrees in Nursing, Information Systems, and Organizational Leadership and Technical Management, but the bulk of the awards granted each year are associate degrees and professional/technical certificates. Nearly 45% of all awards are associate degrees.
Through partnerships with local universities like Washington State University and Western Washington University, students can complete an associate degree with Olympic College then transfer into a partner program to earn a bachelor’s degree without having to leave Kitsap County. Although, many Olympic students transfer very successfully to colleges further from home. In fact, Olympic subscribes to the Washington State InterCollege Relations Commission (ICRC) Direct Transfer Agreement (DTA). Under this agreement, most Washington baccalaureate institutions accept a DTA degree to fulfill lower division general education requirements. Students transferring to an ICRC member college with a DTA will generally be admitted as juniors.
College of Central Florida
College Choice Score: 84.48
In-district Annual Tuition: $3,450
Located in Ocala, FL, the College of Central Florida (CCF) serves Citrus, Levy, and Marion counties. CCF was founded in 1957 as Central Florida Junior College. In 1966 it merged with one of the first black, two-year colleges in the state, Hampton Junior College. Five years later it changed its name to Central Florida Community College. And then in 2010, when it began offering a bachelor degree in Business and Organizational Management, the name was changed once again to its current moniker. It now offer two more baccalaureate degrees, but its main focus is still on serving its region through vocational and technical training, associate degrees, and lower-level college courses. Offering over seventy academic avenues, CCF prepares its students to contribute to their world in a plethora of ways.
The College Credit Certificates and Associate in Science degrees prepare CCF students for a career most expeditiously. CCF students can, however, also earn an Associate in Arts degree at and guarantee general admission into at least one of Florida’s eleven public universities. Also one can take advantage of the university partnerships with guaranteed admission into either University of Central Florida or University of South Florida.
With six locations in its service area, CCF is accessible. With over fifty student clubs, five athletic teams, and five intramural sports, CCF is active. And with over one million dollars in scholarships available and with over 87% of first-time college students receiving financial aid, CCF is affordable. In fact, in 2015 the US Dept. of Education named CCF the 20th most affordable college in the United States.
College Choice Score: 84.36
In-district Annual Tuition: $1,380
Chaffey College is the oldest community college in the state of California. Founded in Ontario, CA in 1883 as the Chaffey College of Agriculture of the University of Southern California. The school was run by USC until 1901 when financial troubles forced the school to close. In 1906 the Chaffey endowment was legally separated from USC and reorganized to benefit the newly created Chaffey Union High School District. In 1916, the Chaffey Junior College of Agriculture was added as a postgraduate department to the high school. It has been a publically funded institution ever since. Chaffey College moved to its current main location in the San Bernardino County city of Rancho Cucamonga, California, United States, in the northern part of the community of Alta Loma in 1960.
Chaffey College serves over 18,000 students offering academic and career technical education programs to the local residents at three campuses and online. The college’s superior general education courses provide a basis for students to transfer to four-year colleges and universities or to acquire job skills necessary for the changing marketplace. Chaffey College is also recognized for its outstanding career technical education programs. Chaffey offers associate degrees and occupational certificates in many fields, including aviation, automotive, business, science, the arts, history, philosophy, psychology, RN, and LVN nursing. Chaffey offers one of the oldest aviation programs in the United States.
Olney Central College
College Choice Score: 84.00
In-district Annual Tuition: $2,490
Like Lincoln Trail College, Olney Central College (OCC) is a part of the Illinois Eastern Community College system. It is located in Olney, IL. OCC offers several programs for vocational training and career preparation, along with an array of associate degrees, many of which have transferable courses. In addition to its associates degrees and technical certificates, OCC also offers online four-year degrees through its affiliation with Franklin University.
OCC enrolls about 2000 students each year, three out of five are whom are female and a third of whom are 25 or older. Over three out of every four students who receive an award or certificate at OCC are granted an associate degree and half of those transfer to a four-year institution.
Like its sister college in our ranking, OCC offers over sixty educational programs, with about half of those curricula comprised of courses that transfer to a baccalaureate degree at a university or college. The OCC Blue Knights field men’s teams in basketball and baseball, as well as women’s teams in basketball and softball.
Northeast Community College
College Choice Score: 83.46
In-district Annual Tuition: $3,285
Serving twenty counties in northeast Nebraska, Northeast Community College (NCC) is the only community college in the state with one- and two-year vocational, liberal arts, and adult education programs all on one main campus. Established by the state legislature in 1973 as a comprehensive community college and formed from the merger of two separate and distinct institutions—Northeastern Nebraska College and Northeast Nebraska Technical College—Northeast Community College has become an instrumental part of the state’s education system.
NCC’s headquarters and main campus are in Norfolk. It has three other campuses and offers courses in over sixty communities to make itself more accessible to the over 7000 students enrolled for credits and over 16,000 enrolled in noncredit courses. Upon graduation 99% of Northeast students either continue their education or become employed.
NCC awards four two-year associate degrees—Arts, Applied Science, Science, and Nursing—as well as several one-year diplomas and certificates in over 100 programs of study. Over 88% of the awards are associate degrees, with about 40% of NCC students planning to transfer to a four-year institution.
Western Texas College
College Choice Score: 83.44
In-district Annual Tuition: $2,370
Located in Snyder, TX and founded in 1971, Western Texas College (WTC) enrolls 2300 students annually in serving ten counties in the western part of the state. WTC offers four two-year college degrees—the Associate of Arts Degree, the Associate of Science Degree, the Associate of Applied Science Degree, and the Associate of Arts in Teaching. In addition to the four degree programs, WTC has several programs for job training, career certification, distance learning, and dual credits.
Its College on the Square program focuses on adult and continuing education, while the Opportunity Center focuses on workforce training and job skills improvement. WTC also provides dual credit courses to 43 area high schools and college-level coursework to inmates in three prisons in the West Texas area. WTC is unique in offering an Associate of Science degree in Wind Energy. This academic program seamlessly transfers to the Wind Energy Program at Texas Tech University.
Over 4200 students enroll at WTC each year, and over 45% of the awards granted are associate degrees. Thirteen academic departments offer courses in a wide array of disciplines. To add to the college experience, WTC fields seven men’s and eight women’s athletic teams.
Johnston Community College
College Choice Score: 82.68
In-district Annual Tuition: $2,377
Thirty miles west of Raleigh, NC, in Smithfield, over 5000 students enroll each year in curricula programs at Johnston Community College (JCC). In addition, nearly 10,000 continuing education students enroll in courses at the college that serves Johnston county and beyond. Established in 1969, JCC is a member of the North Carolina Community College System and offers courses in eleven departments with over forty programs for degrees and certificates. The 175-acre main campus boasts state-of-the-art facilities, picturesque pines, colorful azaleas and scenic ponds. JCC also has campuses throughout the county, including the Cleveland Center, the Johnston County Workforce Development Center in Clayton, and the Howell Woods Environmental Learning Center, a 2800-acre wildlife preserve and teaching facility.
In addition to the many traditional courses of study and degrees, JCC is the home of the North Carolina Truck Driver Training school; the oldest truck driver training program in the United States. It also offers a Cosmetology certificate in Spanish. In all this, JCC is committed to understanding and meeting the educational needs of the area’s citizens, businesses, industries, and service sectors.
About 57% of all awards granted each year are associate degrees, with a large portion of the graduates transferring to four-year institutions. Through intercollegiate athletic teams, student organizations, state-of-the-art computer labs, and a Workforce Development Center, Johnston Community College caters to all aspects of the student experience, both inside and outside of the classroom.
Northeast Mississippi Community College
College Choice Score: 82.62
In-district Annual Tuition: $2,500
Northeast Mississippi Community College (NEMCC) was established in 1948 in Booneville, MS. Known early on as an agriculture school and junior college, NEMCC has today grown to include two more extension centers and services an area comprised of five counties in the northeastern part of the state.
NEMCC is a comprehensive community college with transfer, career, and technical courses in day, evening, weekend, and online formats. Its courses are offered in over ninety programs within six academic divisions. At NEMCC, students who have never attended college before find a welcoming place no matter where they are in life. Many students attend right out of high school, drawn by affordable tuition, top notch academics, and the many scholarships available. Others attend seeking a new career or enhancement of skills for the career they are already in. Whatever the reason, NEMCC’s nearly 4000 students find a deep academic tradition anchored in superior student services.
Of the many degrees, diplomas, and certificates awarded each year, 87% are associate degrees. But in addition to the several degrees, NEMCC’s division of Workforce Training and Economic Development partners with several organizations to develop the economy of the region through both the training of the potential workforce and assistance for companies looking to expand operations or locate in Northeast Mississippi. The synergy created is good for the companies, the region, and the many students who develop skills at NEMCC.
Miles Community College
College Choice Score: 82.39
In-district Annual Tuition: $3,059
Founded in 1939 as Custer County Junior College in Miles City, MT and operating for its early years out of the local high school, Miles Community College (MCC) remains a small community college serving its region of the state with quality education and exceptional career development. MCC enrolls just under 700 students, some come to MCC right out of high school, others just want to take a few non-credit classes, and many more are looking to develop skills for new or current jobs.
MCC offers eight divisions, each offering a handful of programs of study. Over 90% of the awards granted each year are associate degrees. And with the student to teacher ration at 11 to 1, students are offered a level of attention uncommon in any college setting. In addition, MCC’s Center for Academic Success provides free tutoring, while the Distance Education and Community Outreach department excels at community education and workforce development.
Walla Walla Community College
College Choice Score: 81.93
In-district Annual Tuition: $4,203
Walla Walla Community College (WWCC) was founded in 1967 to serve the southeastern region of the state of Washington around the city of Walla Walla. WWCC is now a multi-campus college, maintaining three campuses and a facility at the Washington State Penitentiary. Outstanding athletic programs and student organizations provide a positive and well-rounded college life experience.
WWCC has an average annual enrollment of about 9,000 students. It has almost ninety areas of study and certificates as well as 45 different associate degree programs. Career training programs are designed to meet the growing demands of industry so graduates are work force ready for their chosen profession, and academic courses readily transfer to an accredited college or university
WWCC added one of its most important programs, the enological and viticulture program, in the late 1990s when the town of Walla Walla was facing economic uncertainty due to the decline of the agriculture industry locally. This program is responsible in part for the boom of the wine industry in Walla Walla in that it has graduated many of the wine makers of the over 175 wineries in the area today. From here WWCC has had several more non-traditional programs, in addition to more typical programs to meet the needs of the Walla Walla Valley such as the Commercial Truck Driver Program, John Deere Technology Program, and Water Technologies and Management Program.
Daytona State College
College Choice Score: 81.72
In-district Annual Tuition: $3,071
Another member of the Florida College System, Daytona State College was established in 1957 as Daytona Beach Junior College. Later its name changed to Daytona Beach Community College, but in 2008 it became Daytona State College (DSC) in order to reflect its transition to a four-year institution offering workforce baccalaureate degrees. As with other state colleges in the Florida College System, the four-year degrees are minimal. The focus of DSC has been on the same three areas since its beginning: college credit, adult education, and vocational training.
Over 20,000 students enroll in FSC each year, with about 45% of these full-time students. With seven sports teams, state of the art aquatic center and fitness center, intramural sports, active student organizations, and its location near one of the world’s most famous beaches, student life at FSC is second to none.
The school is organized into several colleges, including an Honors College. The College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Health and Public Services, the College of Workforce and Continuing and Adult Education, and the College of Business, Engineering, and Technology each offer four to eleven programs of study. DSC also offers online and out-of-state distance learning courses.
East Mississippi Community College
College Choice Score: 81.46
In-district Annual Tuition: $2,490
East Mississippi Community College (EMCC) has roots going back to 1915 as Kemper County Agricultural High School. In 1927 in the town of Scooba, the high school was turned into a junior college as part of the state’s to make educational opportunities more accessible for residents of rural areas throughout the state. Now today, East Mississippi Community College has two campuses, offers classes in five other locations, and serves and is supported by a five-county region in east central Mississippi.
Roughly three-quarters of all freshmen in the state of Mississippi are enrolled in community colleges. EMCC offers a broad range of academic/university parallel, career-technical, and workforce training options. These include “stackable” education credentials. At EMCC, one student could progress seamlessly through these steps, earning in order: GED, industry certificate through a noncredit workforce class, vocational certificate through a for-credit career-technical program, two-year associate degree in a career-technical program. Some EMCC graduates enter the workforce at different points along this path; others transfer to four-year colleges and universities. EMCC is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award the Associate of Applied Science degree and the Associate of Arts degree.
EMCC enrolls almost 8000 students and well over three quarters of the graduates receiving awards earn an associate degree. In the last decade, EMCC’s athletic programs have been extremely successful. The ten teams have combined for three NJCAA national championships, 10 NJCAA national postseason appearances, nine NJCAA Region 23 championships, four MACJC state championships, and 16 MACJC North Division regular-season titles.
Scottsdale Community College
College Choice Score: 81.09
In-district Annual Tuition: $2,580
Scottsdale Community College (SCC) is a two-year college located on the eastern boundary of the city of Scottsdale, Arizona, on 160 acres of land belonging to the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. Established in 1969, SCC is one of ten colleges in the Maricopa Community College District. Each semester about 10,000 students enroll in courses for credits, while another 3,000 enroll in special-interest, non-credit courses.
Most students are enrolled in credit programs leading to associate degrees, with scheduled plans to transfer to four-year universities. Over half of all annual awards granted each year are associate degrees. SCC offers eight associate degrees for university transfer.
SCC also has broadened opportunities for students to prepare for careers that do not require four-year degrees. The Associate in Applied Science offers more than 23 different career or occupational programs, including Nursing, Drafting, Fashion Merchandising, Interior Design, Hospitality and Tourism, Culinary Arts, Administration of Justice, Equine Science, Tribal Management, and Computer Information programs. These programs are developed in accordance with the needs of students, the community, business, and industry. Another almost sixty programs lead to certificates in various occupational areas. College personnel work closely with community employers to assess current educational and training needs.
Central Community College
College Choice Score: 80.74
In-district Annual Tuition: $2,880
Central Community College is one of six regional community colleges in the state, serving a group of 25 counties. Central’s first campus was founded at Hastings in 1966. The school has since grown to include campuses in Columbus and Grand Island, where the school’s central administrative offices are located. Central also includes three extension sites and uses a variety of distance learning techniques to provide educational services in some ninety communities in its service area..
Central offers 36 career and technical education programs with a focus on degree, diploma, and certificate programs requiring two years or less to complete. The college also offers an academic transfer program for students who want to complete the first two years of a bachelors degree before transferring to a four-year college or university. Associate degrees are about a third of all awards granted each year.
Central is one of 24 Nebraska colleges that are a part Nebraska Transfer Initiative, agreeing to accept a common core of 34 semester-hours of credit completed at any of the colleges. The Nebraska Transfer Initiative is designed to smooth the transfer process for community college graduates who want to complete a bachelor’s degree.
Indian River State College
College Choice Score: 80.43
In-district Annual Tuition: $3,175
The history of Indian River State College (IRSC) is similar to that of many of the members of the Florida College System. IRSC began life as a junior college in 1959, changing to a community college eleven years later. In 2008 it became a state college to reflect the addition of a few bachelor degree programs.
IRSC offers over 150 programs leading to Bachelor’s Degrees, Associate Degrees, Technical Certificates, and Applied Technology Diplomas. The open door policy in force at the school guarantees that anyone who holds a high school or high school equivalency diploma will be admitted to IRSC. Providing comprehensive educational to the region, with a state-designated career and technical center, IRSC has developed a reputation for quality that inspires over 32,000 people to enroll in classes each year. Of those receiving an award upon completion of a program, over 62% receive an associate degree.
The school’s impact on the region is exemplified in its impact on area high students. High school students who wish to get a head start on college can discover new challenges and broaden their experience through IRSC’s Dual Enrollment and Early Admissions Programs. Most area high school graduates take their first steps toward future plans at IRSC. In fact, over 70% of the region’s college-bound high school seniors attend IRSC following graduation.
Florida SouthWestern State College
College Choice Score: 80.28
In-district Annual Tuition: $3,401
Florida SouthWestern State College (FSW) was founded in 1962 and originally named after Thomas Edison as Edison Junior College. After several name changes over the years, in 2014 the name was changed to reflect the wide region the school serves. With its main campus in Fort Myers in Lee County, and satellite campuses in Charlotte and Collier counties, FSW is an integral institution in the southwest part of the state.
Degree offerings include nineteen associate degrees, ten bachelor degrees, and ten certificate programs, with emphasis on business, technology, health, and education programs. Over 21,000 students enroll at FSW each year. The college also enrolls more than 3,500 dual enrollment students per year in part due to the Florida SouthWestern Collegiate High School, which has two locations on the Lee and Charlotte campuses. The collegiate high school is a dual-enrollment based program allowing students to earn an associates degree at the same time as a high school diploma.
FSW offer ten Bachelors Degrees, twenty Associate Degrees, and sixteen Certificate Programs. Each year over 3000 degrees and certificates are awarded to students completing the course curriculum of these programs. Of those awards, over two-thirds are associate degrees. Adding to the student experience, FSW resumed its athletics program in 2015 after having been discontinued in 1997. Known as the Buccaneers, the school fields teams in softball, baseball, men’s and women’s basketball.
Bronx Community College
College Choice Score: 80.19
In-district Annual Tuition: $2,805
The Bronx Community College of The City University of New York (BCC) is a community college located in the University Heights neighborhood of The Bronx. The college was established in 1957 and offers a wide array of workforce community development and personal enrichment courses and programs through Continuing & Professional Studies, which also delivers customized training for local employers.
BCC offers more than thirty academic programs that prepare students for careers and starts them on their way to can education at four-year colleges. It is located on a 45-acre tree-lined campus, which is home to the Hall of Fame for Great Americans, the country’s first hall of fame. The school provides over 15,000 students with quality academic programs, outstanding faculty, and flexible class schedules. BCC is also a Hispanic Serving Institution, with students representing approximately one hundred countries. Just over four years ago the BCC campus was declared a National Historic Landmark, becoming the country’s first community college campus to receive such a designation.
Nearly 99% of the students who complete a program at BCC receive an associate degree. And with competitive athletic teams, active student organizations, and location in the nation’s largest city, BCC offers an unique and affordable student experience unlike many other community colleges.
GateWay Community College
College Choice Score: 79.93
In-district Annual Tuition: $2,580
One of ten regionally accredited colleges in the Maricopa County Community College District and located near Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport, GateWay Community College (GCC) is an urban school with an international outlook. GateWay was originally located in downtown Phoenix and named Maricopa Technical College, the first technical college to be established in Arizona. Since the the integration of its Maricopa Skill Center division—now referred to as Trade and Technical Training programs—GCC has three campuses and two additional sites.
GCC offers more than 160 degree, certificate, as well as trade, technical and workforce training options. It is especially known for its excellent healthcare programs. Whether one is interested in getting an associate degree, transferring to a university, or learning a skill or trade for quick entry into the workforce, GCC has something to fit the needs of the nearly 16,000 students who enroll each year.
GateWay Early College High School is located on the GWCC campus. Students can be enrolled in college classes and earn credits to eventually earn an associate degree. GCC is also home to two men’s and two women’s athletic teams, a center for entrepreneurial innovation, and several programs for workforce and business development. All of this is a testament to GCC’s commitment to a fruitful student experience, being a part of the future of business, and helping bolster its regions present workforce.
Estrella Mountain Community College
College Choice Score: 79.88
In-district Annual Tuition: $2,550
Estrella Mountain Community College (EMCC) is one of the newest schools of the ten in the Maricopa County Community College District. Established in 1990 and moved to the Avondale campus in 1992, EMCC serves the population of the Southwest Valley and enrolls almost 15,000 students per year. Since EMCC is located in the fastest growing region of the county and one of the fastest in the country, there is a master plan to be a large comprehensive learning college of more than 40,000 students.
Its Avondale campus is home to the SouthWest Skill Center, which provides short-term training programs for immediate job entry into skilled professions, focusing on industrial skills and healthcare professions. Its Buckeye campus opened in 2011 and is located in the heart of downtown Buckeye. The full-service campus makes a college education even more accessible to the expanding Southwest Valley, and provides convenient access to a variety of degree-tracked, job-training, and community education courses. With over sixty programs to choose from, students are earning over 2300 awards each year, over half of which are associate degrees.
Saint Johns River State College
College Choice Score: 79.69
In-district Annual Tuition: $3,300
Founded in 1958 as St. Johns River Junior College, it is a member institution of the Florida College System. As with many of the schools in the Florida College System, Saint Johns River State College (SJRSC) now offers a few four-year degrees and as such is designated a state college. The school is located in Northeast Florida with campuses in Palatka, St. Augustine, and Orange Park.
Florida School of the Arts (FSA) is an accredited arts school under the umbrella of St. Johns River State College. It is located on the Palatka Campus. First opened in 1976, FSA was designed to be an intimate setting where students could receive close and individual attention. FSA offers course concentrations with accredited Associate in Science and Associate in Arts degrees in the fields of Visual Art, Acting, Dance, Musical Theatre, and Theatre Production/Design.
SJRSC grants over 1300 degrees and certificates each year, with over half being an Associate of Arts degree, a recognized transferable degree. All total about three quarters of the awards granted each year are an Associate of Arts or Science. Nearly 11,000 students enroll for courses each year at SJRSC and quarter of these students are full-time enrollees.
College Choice Score: 79.55
In-district Annual Tuition: $2,610
Odessa College (OC) serves the population in over twelve counties in the Permian Basin region of Texas. It was established in 1946 and enrolls almost 5,500 annually in career, technology, workforce, and transfer programs, and over 7,400 students annually enroll in lifelong learning and enrichment programs. Over a thousand degrees and certificates are handed out each year from the over 120 programs available. Associate degrees are over 40% of the awards granted. For those students who wish to continue their education beyond an associate degree, OC has more than fifty articulation/transfer agreements with colleges across the country.
Odessa College is known for its successful athletic programs. The eleven active OC sports programs have won 46 national NJCAA titles, making them the most winning program in NJCAA history. In the most recent academic year OC also had eight Academic All Americans.
OC is proud to have been designated an Achieving the Dream Leader College in 2013. This accomplishment recognizes Odessa College as being in the top 7% of all community colleges nationwide for improving student success and eliminating achievement gaps. Odessa College is part of an elite group of eight community colleges in Texas that share a common vision for deep student success reform. The cadre of colleges educates 43% of the state’s community college students and is committed to accelerating existing reform efforts, creating a center of gravity for innovation, and helping more students find their way and stay on track through college—ultimately turning the tide on the achievement gap.
Rend Lake College
College Choice Score: 79.26
In-district Annual Tuition: $3,315
Rend Lake College (RLC) was founded in 1955 as Mt. Vernon Community College to allow students from a local high school district the opportunity to receive post-secondary education similar to university curriculum. The institution was officially renamed Rend Lake College when it was reorganized in 1966. RLC currently has its main campus in Ina, Illinois. A second learning center for classes, known as the RLC Murphy-Wall Pinckneyville Campus is located in Pinckneyville. In addition to RLC’s two credit learning campuses, the college holds non-credit classes at its RLC Marketplace location, which is located in Mt. Vernon. The RLC Marketplace houses shops and businesses as a part of RLC curriculum. In addition to the degrees it offers at its two campuses, Rend Lake College currently operates two satellite campuses at local correctional facilities.
Rend Lake College partners with area four-year colleges and universities as part of a statewide transfer agreement that ensures general education credits are transferable among more than one hundred participating colleges or universities in Illinois. RLC has seven primary academic divisions: Advanced Technology, Math/Science/Education, Allied Health, Health & P.E., Applied Science, Skills Center, Liberal Arts, and Special Programs. These divisions offer a over forty associate degree programs and eighty certificate programs. RLC has an active student population, with over 25 registered student clubs that provide students opportunities for involvement in academic, competitive, and cultural based activities.
Northcentral Technical College
College Choice Score: 79.05
In-district Annual Tuition: $4,390
One of the sixteen schools in the Wisconsin Technical College System, Northcentral Technical College (NTC) serves a district encompassing ten counties. The main campus is located in Wausau, with regional centers in Antigo, Medford, Merrill, Phillips, Spencer, and Wittenberg. The college began as Wausau Industrial School in 1912. Over the years, as its offerings and service area grew, the school changed names and locations a few times. It began occupying its present facility in 1969 and it was renamed Northcentral Technical College in 1988.
NTC offers associate degrees,technical diplomas, and over one hundred certificate programs in agriculture, business, community services, general studies, health, public safety, and technical and trades. All total NTC provides over 185 program offerings including two-year associate degrees that combine technical skills with general education, one and two-year technical diplomas that provide concentrated hands-on-learning, and short-term certificates to improve job skills.
NTC’s over 8300 students find affordable tuition, exceptional job placement rates, and numerous transfer opportunities, makes an education at NTC excellent preparation for the jobs of the future. Nearly 37% of the degrees and certificates awarded at NTC each year are associate degrees. Almost 95% of NTC graduates either find jobs or transfer to a four-year institution within six months of completing their programs at NTC.
Northwest Florida State College
College Choice Score: 78.79
In-district Annual Tuition: $3,324
Northwest Florida State College (NWFSC) began life in 1963 as Okaloosa-Walton Junior College, with its campus in Valparaiso, Florida. In 1969 the school moved to a permanent location in Niceville. Under the new Florida College Pilot Project, several community colleges were allowed to offer four-year degrees and become a part of the Florida College System. Thus, in 2008 the school changed to its current name to reflect this new status and to better reflect the wider region it serves. Still today it’s primary contribution to the region is as a college for the community, with vocational and career training, as well as a wide array of associate degree programs.
NWFSC has two campuses, four centers, and offers online and hybrid courses, providing its 10,000-plus students over one thousand accessible course options. With an average class size of just eighteen students, NWFSC also offers personal attention and care throughout the students’ programs. Within the eight meta-majors at NWFSC, there are nearly one hundred degrees, certificates, and diplomas offered.
NWFSC also has a charter high school called the Collegiate High School at Northwest Florida State College. Established in 2000, the high school enables 10th, 11th, and 12th grade students to simultaneously earn both a standard high school diploma and a transferable two-year college degree or transferable college credits.
Trinidad State Junior College
College Choice Score: 77.85
In-district Annual Tuition: $4,259
Trinidad State Junior College (TSJC) has an enrollment of about 1,800 students on two campuses: Trinidad and Alamosa. The school offers courses in many diverse areas, including gunsmithing, aquaculture, cosmetology, electrical line tech, welding and nursing, as well as traditional arts and sciences subjects like English, biology and chemistry. TSJC is renowned as one of the top three gunsmithing schools in the country.
Established in 1925, Trinidad State Junior College was the first community college in Colorado. It consistently has the highest completion rates of any community college in the state. Offering a student to teacher ratio of thirteen to one, TSJ provides the sort of attention and care that makes for successful educational experiences. There are 28 transfer degrees and 22 career-ready degrees offered at TSJC. In addition the school offers several career-ready certificate programs. Nearly a third of all awards granted each year are associate degrees.
A unique aspect of TSJC is its Southern Rockies Heritage School (SRHS). Based on traditional folk school concepts, SRHS focuses on the history and cultures of the southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico heritage. It offers classes in arts, crafts, skills, sustainable living, and general interest classes. It aims to create community and a brighter future by re-visioning the past.
South Puget Sound Community College
College Choice Score: 77.83
In-district Annual Tuition: $3,056
Serving the city of the Washington state capital, Olympia, and its surrounding communities for more than sixty years, South Puget Sound Community College (SPSCC) enrolls over 6000 students each year. With campuses in Olympia and Lacey, as well as hybrid online classes, SPSCC makes courses accessible. And with an open door admissions policy—anyone who may benefit from their programs, regardless of academic background, is accepted—SPSCC makes an education for people from all walks of life possible.
Courses are offered in nine broad areas of study, with over fifty degrees and certificates available. Nearly 70% of the awards granted each year are associate degrees, many of which are transferable to a four-year institution. The Direct Transfer Agreement (DTA) associate degrees allow students to complete their first ninety credits at SPSCC and then transfer to a four-year school in Washington as a college junior. Most private schools in Washington State and many public colleges out-of-state will also accept a DTA degree.
SPSCC makes student life more than just attending classes. Students can get involved with student leadership, clubs, athletics, events, and much more. SPSCC is home to four Clippers athletic teams: a men’s soccer team, a women’s volleyball team and men’s and women’s teams for basketball.
College Choice Score: 77.78
In-district Annual Tuition: $3,846
Established in 1961 in Des Moines, WA south of Seattle, and as the first community college in King County, Highline College enrolls over 17,000 students annually. In addition to its main campus, there are additional service-area locations and the Marine Science and Technology Center located approximately ten minutes south of the Highline College campus at Redondo Beach Park. The goal of the Marine Science and Technology Center is to promote understanding, appreciation, and preservation of the marine environment through hands-on research, education, and community activities that highlight the beauty, complexity, and importance of the South Puget Sound ecosystem.
The demographics of Highline are diverse due to both the local population and the enrollment of international students. In a recent term, 26% of all students were categorized as White, 20% were Asian/Pacific Islander, 17% African American, 19% Hispanic/Latino, and 1% Native American. There are five types of degrees and two types of certificates awarded at Highline. Close to 80% of annual awards are an Associate of Arts, Associate of Science, Associate of Applied Science, or Associate of Applied Science-Transfer. In recent years Highline has started to offer Applied Bachelor’s degrees in four vocational areas. In addition to the degree programs, Highline offers a Certificate of Completion in professional-technical areas and a Certificate of Arts and Sciences for educational enhancement.
West Kentucky Community and Technical College
College Choice Score: 77.63
In-district Annual Tuition: $4,920
Formed in 2003 with the consolidation of Paducah Community College and West Kentucky Technical College, West Kentucky Community and Technical College (WKCTC) is one of sixteen two-year, open-admissions colleges of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System. WKCTC is located in the beautiful river city of Paducah and services ten counties in the region. The school is regularly recognized for providing students with strong job training and continuing higher education opportunity, for achieving high completion and transfer rates, and for providing strong employment results for its graduates.
WKCTC enrolls nearly 9000 students in courses annually. Over 4500 enroll in at least one online course, and WKCTC has over 1400 high school students who take dual-credit courses. With a student to faculty ratio of 20 to 1, students receive the sort of attention that helps them succeed in one of the 200 associate degree, diploma, and certificate options. Just shy of a quarter of the awards granted each year are associate degrees, three of which are designed to transfer into a bachelor’s degree program at a four-year institution. WKCTC also offers dozens of non-credit learning classes and activities each year for people of all ages, interests, and learning needs. From summer camps for kids to affordable professional and personal development classes, WKCTC meets the needs of its community.
South Texas College
College Choice Score: 77.52
In-district Annual Tuition: $3,470
Serving all of Hidalgo and Starr Counties in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, South Texas College (STC) enrolls 34,000 students across its five campuses in McAllen, Weslaco, and Rio Grande City. With nearly 120 academic programs—including four bachelor degree programs—STC students have numerous options for preparing for high-demand careers in high-growth industries or continued pursuit of a higher level degree. They also offer 30 programs that can be completed entirely online without students ever setting a foot on a physical college campus.
Over 95% of the student population is Hispanic, reflecting the culture of the region. More than 60% of the students at STC are the first in their families to attend college. Over 57% of all awards each year are associate degrees, and over a third of all STC students go on to pursue baccalaureates at four-year institutions. STC excels at give everyone access to an outstanding education regardless of income. Most of their students graduate debt-free, and over 80% have financial aid. STC is committed to helping students get a degree, not debt.
The college also operates one of the largest dual enrollment/early college high school programs in the United States. The 16,000 dual credit students take academic or technical college courses that count as credit toward a high school diploma as well as credit toward a college degree or postsecondary certificate. Over twenty area high schools participate in the dual-credit program.
Anoka-Ramsey Community College
College Choice Score: 77.12
In-district Annual Tuition: $4,982
With campuses in Cambridge and Coon Rapids, MN, as well as ten off-campus locations, Anoka-Ramsey Community College (ARCC) has been a provider of higher education and training in the north suburban area of Minneapolis–St. Paul and east central Minnesota since 1965. Offering over 100 courses and program, and boasting the lowest college tuition in the state of Minnesota, ARCC is one of the best values for those seeking degrees or certificates to advance their careers and those wanting to complete the first two years of a four-year degree frugally.
Over 12,000 students enroll each year at ARCC, and with the 75-plus active student organizations, these students are able to enhance their college life both socially and academically. ARCC offers over fifteen certificate programs, many of which can be applied to an associate degree in the same area. ARCC has also expanded students’ access to four-year and graduate degrees by bringing programs from other institutions to its Coon Rapids and Cambridge campuses. ARCC’s alignment with with Anoka Technical College creates the largest community and technical institution in Minnesota.
The school’s main draw, however, is its four associate degrees. Nearly 92% of all annual awards are associate degrees. Many of the programs leading to an associate degree are also transferable to four-year institutions. ARCC is a part of the Minnesota Transfer Curriculum, a collaborative effort among all two-year and four-year public colleges and universities in Minnesota to help students transfer their coursework in general education between institutions.
Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College
College Choice Score: 76.99
In-district Annual Tuition: $4,340
Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College (WITC) is a multi-campus technical school in Northwest Wisconsin offering career-focused associate degree programs, technical diplomas, short-term certificates, customized training, and a wide array of courses for personal or career enhancement. WITC has four campuses in Ashland, New Richmond, Superior, and Rice Lake, two outreach centers at Hayward and Ladysmith, and the Washburn County Learning Center located in Spooner.
WITC offers more than 50 career programs, half of which lead to associate degrees. In addition WITC partners with Nicolet College to offer a liberal arts associate degree. With smaller class sizes held in person, via ITV, and online, students experience instructors who care about their individual success. Upon graduation, students can start a career right away or they have the option to seamlessly transfer up to 72 credits into one of the many transfer agreement programs at a four-year university.
Nearly 6000 students enroll at WITC each year, and with all that the school has to offer, WITC estimates one in nine residents in the service region have taken some sort of class at one of its campuses or outreach centers. Each year almost a quarter of all students completing one of WITC’s many programs receive an associate degree.
Gordon State College
College Choice Score: 76.04
In-district Annual Tuition: $4,164
Gordon State College (GSC) has roots going as far back as 1852 when it was formed as The Male and Female Seminary, a private school for higher education of boys and girls. Over the years its scope and name changed from time to time. Moving from Gordon Institute to Gordon College, and from the mid-1930s to 1972 the school was known as Gordon Military College. In 1972 Gordon Military College officially became part of the University System of Georgia as Gordon Junior College, an associate-level college.
Today GSC is designated as a four-year state school following approval in 2006 of a change in status for the two-year college in Barnesville, GA to allow it to offer limited baccalaureate programs within the University System’s state college sector. Despite the fact that the school offers ten baccalaureate degrees and only three associate degrees, nearly a quarter of the annual awards are associates. Also its athletic teams compete in the National Junior College Athletic Association. These facts along with the school’s integration into and impact upon the residents of its community, make GSC a part of the community college discussion.
GSC enrolls around 4000 students each year. At the associate level, the school offers an Associate of Arts (AA), an Associate of Science (AS), and an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN). The ASN degree is a three-year program that leads directly to a career in healthcare. The AA and AS both have fifteen different programs of study leading to a degree, most of which are meant to transfer to a bachelor degree program at a four-year institution.
Renton Technical College
College Choice Score: 75.74
In-district Annual Tuition: $4,167
In Renton, WA, within the Seattle metropolitan area, Renton Technical College (RTC) offers associate degrees and certificates of completion in professional-technical fields. Established in 1942 as a war production school, RTC later became a state-funded vocational school with the mission of assisting industry in converting from a war-time to a peace-time economy. Today the RTC offers 52 career training programs with 90 certificate options, 37 Associate in Applied Science degree options, 16 Associate in Applied Science Transfer degree options, 1 Bachelor of Applied Science degree, 27 Apprenticeships, and 3 Direct Transfer Agreements. In addition RTC provides courses for basic studies such as GED completion and ESL classes.
The RTC service area encompasses the Renton, Kent, Auburn, Tahoma, and Enumclaw School Districts and the central and south portions of the Seattle School District. Over 10,000 students enroll in courses at RTC each year, with nearly 60% of them stating career training or apprenticeship as their reason for enrolling. In fact nearly a third of all students are considered “working students.” Out of the over 1400 awards granted each year, over 20% are associate degrees.
RTC maintains an intimate ratio of students to faculty at fourteen to one. Several student organizations enhance the student experience. RTC has much to offer in achieving its goal to prepare a diverse student population for work, fulfilling the employment needs of individuals, business and industry.
State Technical College of Missouri
College Choice Score: 75.40
In-district Annual Tuition: $4,792
Since 1961 State Technical College of Missouri (STCM) has been one of the nation’s top two-year schools. Founded in Linn, MO as Linn Technical Junior College and later changed to Linn Technical College, the school became Missouri’s first and only public institution devoted solely to technical education at the Associate of Applied Science level. This development led to the change of the school’s name once again, and so in 1996 it was called Linn State Technical College. Finally in 2014, in order to reflect the institution’s statewide role in technical education, the school’s current name was established.
STCM offers over 35 programs in advanced technical training for both emerging and traditional technologies to its over 1200 students each year. Since 1995, 95% of STCM graduates find gainful employment or continue their education within six months of graduation. Nearly 82% of all awards granted each year are associate degrees. In addition to the main campus in Linn, STCM has two centers and partnerships with two other colleges, making a technical education more accessible to its service region.
Essex County College
College Choice Score: 74.72
In-district Annual Tuition: $4,785
Established in 1966 as an open access community college for the Essex County region, Essex County College (ECC) in Newark, NJ offers Associate of Science, Associate of Arts, and Associate of Applied Science degree programs in 48 different majors. The Newark campus neighbors the Newark campuses of both the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) and Rutgers. Other facilities include the West Essex Campus in West Caldwell and other satellite centers around Essex County. Recently ECC has also expanded to include the Police Academy in Cedar Grove.
As an open-door public community college that is committed to providing quality educational programs and lifelong learning activities at the most affordable cost, ECC is open to students with a wide variety of backgrounds and abilities. The diversity of the school reflects the diversity of the region. Over 51 countries are represented among the approximately 25,000 people enrolled each year in ECC’s various degree and non-degree programs.
In addition to the degree programs offered at ECC, there are close to ten academic certificates and and fifteen certificates of completion available. Of the awards granted annually 96% of them are associate degrees, some of which transfer to four-year institutions. In fact, ECC sends more transfer students to Rutgers Newark, NJIT, and Bloomfield College than any other two-year college in the state.