With university and college enrollments on the decline for the first time in decades, and tuition rates going steadily higher and higher, there is a lot of concern in higher education that not enough people are getting the education they need to compete in a tight labor market. Community colleges are a key part of picking up that slack, by providing career and technical training, associate’s degrees, and the opportunity to transfer to 4-year institutions at a fraction of the cost of even the cheapest public universities.
Who’s Going to Community College?
Today, as much as 45% of US undergraduates are enrolled at a community college, and community colleges are especially important for first-generation and minority students: well over half of all African-American, Native American, and Latino students are enrolled in community colleges, according to the American Association of Community Colleges Fact Sheet. Community colleges are central to social mobility, educational access, and entry into professional careers.
Community colleges are also crucial for working adults. The US economy has changed in major ways in the last couple of decades, with manufacturing and industrial jobs giving way to a professional and technical workforce, and community colleges have been the key force in educating and preparing working adults for the new world of work. For working adults already in a career, or who depend on their jobs too much to take time off for school, community colleges provide convenient, flexible courses in evenings, on weekends, or online.
What About Online Community Colleges?
Not all community colleges offer fully online degrees, often because community college budgets just can’t make the leap. But more colleges than ever are offering online courses to help working adults take courses on their own schedules. Online courses allow students to shape their education around their work schedules, take classes and do coursework at odd times at their own convenience, and improve their credentials for promotion and advancement without having to make too many sacrifices.
The mission of the community college is to make career, technical, and professional education accessible and affordable for the most people possible. Open admissions and low tuition rates help, but many community colleges have realized that to meet their demand in the modern world, fully online degree programs are a must. Offering online degree programs not only increases their reach; it allows community colleges to meet immediate needs in the labor force quickly, often with one-year diplomas or certificates.
Ranking Community Colleges: How We Do It
However, for all their importance, community colleges still tend to get ignored. That’s why Value Colleges is here. Our mission at Value Colleges is to run the numbers and find the institutions that will provide the best return on your educational investment – not the ones that spend the most on marketing, but the ones that combine affordability and quality so that graduates can be assured that their hard work and hard-earned money aren’t wasted.
There are more than 1700 community colleges in the US offering associate’s degrees, certificates, and diplomas in the US. We filtered our results to find schools that met criteria that we here at Value Colleges deem to be most relevant to our readership: average to high graduation rates (over 45%), low-to-average cost (under $10k per year), over 1,000 enrolled students, and AACC membership. All the VC Best Community Colleges are public and open admission.
The Value Colleges ranking is based on four factors:
- Annual Cost (from IPEDS data)
- Return on Investment (from PayScale graduate salary rates)
- Reputation (from Niche community college data)
In addition, colleges with an extensive number of fully online programs received higher consideration.
Santa Barbara City College
One of the oldest community colleges in the nation (founded in 1909), Santa Barbara City College is also one of the best, recognized as top in the nation by the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. With its location in Santa Barbara – one of California’s top areas for tourism and resorts – SBCC is dedicated to building the region’s workforce in services, technology, education, and government. SBCC is especially renowned for their impact on minority and low-income students, providing students from disadvantaged communities with the opportunity to move forward in careers as diverse as music, medicine, and engineering.
SBCC’s music, automotive, and science programs have a high reputation throughout California, and their graduation and transfer rates are stellar. In fact, SBCC graduates students at a rate of over 60% – much higher than the national rate of 40%. In recent years, SBCC has expanded its online programs significantly as well, developing more than two dozen fully online degree and certificate programs in areas ranging from business and marketing to information management and medical coding. In a state where education costs (and pretty much all costs) can run high, California education at affordable prices makes Santa Barbara City College a flawless investment.
Cochise College was one of Arizona’s first community colleges, opening in 1964 thanks to the lobbying and a bond referendum led by the people of Cochise County – then a remote, desert region better known as the setting of Westerns than for education. Cochise College’s dedication to the needs of Arizona’s people, though, and the support of the community, made it one of the top community colleges in the region. Cochise has earned national attention and rankings for its commitment to diversity, technology, and practical career education.
Cochise has earned its reputation the old fashioned way – with high quality education. While many community colleges are overstuffed and understaffed, Cochise takes the opposite approach, ensuring that students have the kind of personalized attention they would get from a small liberal arts college: a 15:1 student:faculty ratio, average class size of just 12 students, and real mentorship – even with more than 11,000 students. Cochise also offers more than a dozen fully online degree and certificate programs, including business, computer programming, economics, and social and behavioral sciences. With tuition costs of less than a third of the Arizona average, Cochise is a model of community college excellence.
Lone Star College System
The Lone Star College system (made up of seven campuses in the Greater Houston metropolitan area) is one of the largest in the nation, with over 78,000 credit students and more than 90,000 students overall. It has to be – Lone Star’s service area is home to more than 2 million residents. Founded in 1972, Lone Star grew alongside Houston as that city turned into one of the world’s most dynamic and influential new metropolises, and Lone Star has kept pace with changes in the job market and technology. Strong transfer programs and affordable tuition bring students to this leader – one with an economic footprint of more than $3 billion. Lone Star is one of the fastest-growing, nationally-recognized community colleges in the US.
With so many students to serve, Lone Star College has more than two dozen fully online degree and certificate programs, largely in professional career fields like Accounting, Administrative Services, and Computing. In addition, to meet the huge demand for career education, Lone Star has developed into a leader in online education, with nearly 40 fully online degree and certificate programs. Options include business, digital technology, and academic transfer programs for the many colleges and universities in the Houston area, and in Texas – one of the nation’s best states for public higher education. Lone Star’s deep industry connections mean students get an education that is closely tied to real-world needs and should help graduates make the most of their investment.
Coastline Community College
Coastline Community College is a top-flight California community college dedicated to quality, accessibility, and innovation: their very Californian motto is “Tomorrow’s College Today.” Founded in 1976, Coastline was originally intended to act as the Coast Community College District’s distance education center – Coastline did not even have a campus originally, just an administrative office. Though Coastline grew over time to include numerous small outreach centers for on-campus courses, the college has remained dedicated to providing opportunity for students who can’t make it to a traditional campus, especially as online education has become more available.
Coastline’s dedication to outreach and access has shown results; course offerings nearly doubled between 2014 and 2016 to accommodate demand, with many of those online. Coastline has been a leader in online education, even earning the distinction of being the first college to offer a degree program designed specifically for mobile devices. CCC offers well over 70 degree and certificate programs fully online, so students have no shortage of affordable, quality options. Coastline also provides ample transfer programs for students who want to move on to a 4-year program, and the college’s low tuition makes it one of the most affordable options in California.
Ohlone College, named for the indigenous people who lived in the area before European colonization, is located in Fremont, CA, at the southeastern end of the San Francisco Bay Area and on the edge of Silicon Valley. Founded in 1965, Ohlone is a highly diverse institution, growing along with metropolitan San Francisco into a major community college serving more than 16,000 students. Ohlone is known for its excellence in student support and growth, and has the best retention and completion rate of any of California’s community college peers.
In a region known for technological innovation, Internet wealth, and rising costs, Oholone College fills an important need for technical and career education. Ohlone offers nearly 200 different degree and certificate programs, and provides cutting-edge technical and career training for a booming job market. Ohlone is recognized for their biotechnology, physical and respiratory therapy, and nursing programs, among many others. Very few things in San Francisco are affordable anymore – housing, coffee, a social life – but Ohlone College keeps tuition low to stay one of the best deals in the Bay Area.
There is no better place to go to community college than California, and Foothill College confirms it. Foothill College, in Los Altos, CA, is prominently placed in a corner of Silicon Valley. Founded in 1957, Foothill led the development of California’s post-WWII community college boom, with an award-winning campus (designed to emulate a Japanese garden) and contributing the growth of Silicon Valley. Serving more than 13,000 students with more than 70 degree and more than 100 certificate programs, Foothill has a significant impact on education and the job market of the region.
Foothill has an exceptionally high proportion of international students, may of whom come to the community college as an affordable stepping stone to California’s top-tier universities and Silicon Valley’s lucrative tech jobs. While Foothill emphasizes transfer, they also offer copious career-preparation programs and certificates, and a dozen online degree programs ensure that students can make their way on their own flexible schedules. From Graphic & Interactive Design to Business Administration and Economics, Foothill offers an entry into some of the most in-demand and rewarding career paths of today. With all of these options, and affordability too, Foothill College brings students’ futures within reach.
De Anza College
Founded in 1967, De Anza College is the sister institution to Foothill College, and regularly ranked as one of the top community colleges in the US. Alongside Apple, De Anza College helped make Cupertino a household name, not only in California, but around the nation. De Anza proudly provides all of the quality and amenities of a conventional university, from student organizations and sports to strong student support and professional development. De Anza combines the low price of a community college with the amazing resources of Silicon Valley, where De Anza has played a central role in talent development and career preparation.
Whether the goal is an associate’s degree, transfer to a 4-year college or university, a professional certificate, or even just enrichment courses, De Anza has it all. De Anza sends thousands of students to the likes of UC Davis, UCLA, and Berkeley – in fact, De Anza is consistently at the top of community colleges that send graduates to the University of California. Meanwhile, Silicon Valley professionals have depended on De Anza for certifications and courses that contribute to their credentials and career advancement. With resources and expertise that puts many 4-year colleges to shame, De Anza defines value for the community college.
Mesa Community College
Arizona does education in a big way – just look at Arizona State University, the largest university in the US and the leader in online education. When Mesa Community College, was founded in Mesa, AZ, the Phoenix suburb was just a small town, but since MCC opened in 1963, the suburb and the college have grown along with Phoenix. Now a big city its own, with more than a half-million residents, Mesa is the third-largest city in Arizona and a center of business and growth. Mesa also just happens to be one of the top sources of transfer students to ASU, and is the largest college of the Maricopa Community College District, which in turn is the largest district in the US.
Mesa serves more than 20,000 students in a highly diverse students body, including many traditional-aged young people and nontraditional-aged working adult students. Nearly half of MCC’s students plan to transfer to a 4-year program, and MCC has been acclaimed for its technology, its outreach to adult students, and its service – in fact, MCC is one of only a handful of schools recognized by the Carnegie Foundation Community Engagement Classification. In addition to a wealth of traditional on-campus programs, Mesa Community College is a leader in online education, with dozens of fully online degree and certificate programs, in everything from web design to fashion. At Mesa, it’s not just size – it’s excellence that brings a diverse student body and top-tier instructors.
Part of the California Community Colleges system, Cypress College is a 2-year college in Southern California, just a hop, skip, and jump from Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, and other major attractions. Cypress opened in 1966 to bring career and technical education to the growing region, building a service and professional workforce to accommodate California’s tourism industry. With a large, beautiful campus, noted for its exemplary Brutalist architecture (a futuristic style emphasizing raw concrete and right angles), Cypress College is recognized nationwide for excellence, diversity, and outreach to the community.
Cypress has built a huge selection of degree and certificate programs for its student body, now standing at more than 15,000. More than 50 transfer programs tailored to the University of California and California State University systems, along with more than 70 associate’s degree and nearly 200 certificate programs, gives students in Orange County a wealth of options. Among its many programs, Cypress is particularly notable for its programs in alternative fuel, nursing, and mortuary sciences (one of the few in California). Cypress also provides all of these opportunities at a low tuition rate, making it one of the best values in California.
Located on the shore of Galveston bay – hence the name of the city, Baytown, TX – Lee College is a 2-year community college that is leading the way for community college achievement. Lee dates back to 1934, when the growth of the petroleum industry in the Gulf region created a need for quality career and technical education, and Lee has never failed to provide it. One of the top community colleges issuing associate’s degrees for Hispanic students, a well as a leader in associate’s for science, Lee College is an Achieving the Dream school and one of the best community colleges, as ranked by the Aspen Institute.
Today, Baytown is a prominent and sizable suburb of Houston – the 3rd-largest in the metropolitan region – and the college provides educational opportunity for nearly 8000 students. Lee is growing quickly along with the population of the region, especially as the college’s programs have focused on technology. In fact, the most popular degrees at Lee are in areas like process technology, engineering technology, and business management. With top-quality programs in science and professional fields, Lee is also next door to one of the most thriving job markets in the US, so students can feel confident that Lee College will take them places.
Napa Valley College
Founded in 1942, Napa Valley College began as a high school and junior college, offering the last two years of high school and the first two years of a college degree. Fortunately, Napa was established and ready just in time for the influx of WWII veterans returning home to return to civilian life on the GI Bill. Since that initial boom, Napa Valley College has grown with the Napa Valley, one of California’s most-visited tourist regions and the center of the American wine market. As part of the California Community Colleges system, Napa Valley College belongs to the largest and most admired public community college system in the nation.
Napa Valley College offers dozens of 2-year associate’s degrees and transfer programs, with a focus on highly in-demand technical and career fields like business, graphic design, and nursing. Of course, Napa Valley also offers one of the most complete and exceptional wine-making programs of any college, community college or university. The NVC Viticulture Teaching Winery provides students with access to the most current technology in the field, as well as programs dedicated to viticulture, wine-making, and the business of wine. A growing, changing Napa Valley needs education to keep pace, and Napa Valley College has been leading for more than six decades.
GateWay Community College
The first technical college in Arizona, GateWay Community College has been innovating career and professional education since 1968. GateWay was a pioneer in establishing connections between college and the business sector, using the insights of the job market to design programs that meet students’ needs more effectively. GateWay’s deep connections with the business and industry sectors of Phoenix mean that students can be sure they are getting an education that will prepare them for work, qualify them for promotion, and equip them for a lifelong career. A healthy, multicultural campus life gives students all the benefits of a college experience at the price of a community college.
GateWay offers more than 160 degree and certificate programs in areas that are in high demand, from beauty and wellness to automotive, healthcare and nursing to technology. In addition to transfer and academic programs, GateWay is home to the Maricopa Skill Center, which offers a full slate of Trade and Technical Training programs that are delivered in a hands-on format. With Gateway’s deep connections throughout the Phoenix metropolitan area, students can expect not only the highest quality training and education, but the means to get a rewarding job and begin a lifelong career.
Grayson College, a community college in Denison, TX, is focused on working with the business and industry of Grayson County and the surrounding area to educate a modern workforce. Grayson has been a part of life in northern Texas since 1965, providing services ranging from GEP education to career and technical training through the Center for Workplace Learning. In 2007, Grayson began a revitalizing program that expanded technical education opportunities. Grayson is also known for their outreach to the community through numerous programs, including a student-run restaurant and training salon, giving students hands-on experience and community members a connection to the college.
Some of Grayson’s unique offerings include nationally-recognized programs in Viticulture and Enology (grape cultivation and winemaking), which are supported by the Thomas Volney Munson vineyards. In addition to its traditional career training and academic programs, Grayson currently offers only four fully online degree programs – Criminal Justice, Child Development, Education, and General Studies – but Grayson’s commitment to the future of work ensures that more opportunities will be on the way. Grayson’s affordable tuition rate helps ensure that the people of North Texas can take the courses and earn the credentials to make a difference in their lives, without a lot of debt.
Central Texas College
Built on land donated by Fort Hood, the US Army base in Killeen, TX, Central Texas College has been a military-friendly institution since its founding. CTC opened in 1967, and began offering programs on the base at Fort Hood in 1970 and programs in Europe beginning in 1974. With its interest in education for military personnel, CTC became a pioneer in distance education, from televised courses to multimedia and video courses beginning as far back at 1970. CTC adopted online education relatively early, using Internet-enhanced courses in 1996 and fully online programs in 1998. CTC also pioneered outreach to incarcerated students at the state prison in Gatesville.
Besides the more traditional community college mission of providing education to economically disadvantaged students, working adults, and college transfer students, Central Texas College has also developed a strong military niche, with satellite campuses at military bases all over the world. CTC knows the value of distance education, obviously, and that knowledge has also led to a well-developed online presence, with more than 60 low-cost, fully online degree and certificate programs. CTC’s commitment to accessibility and affordability have made it one of the best values for higher education in Texas, and a model of community college excellence.
The evocatively-named Saddleback College (named for its location between two mountains in Mission Viejo, CA) is the oldest and most prominent community college in the South Orange County region. Founded in 1968, Saddleback has proudly educated more than 500,000 students in its six decades, and stands as the top source of transfer students to universities like UC Santa Cruz, San Diego State, and Cal Poly. Saddleback provides the full gamut of educational needs, from Career Technical Education and non-credit enrichment to transfer programs and associates degrees.
Offering more than 300 degree, certificate, and training programs to choose from, Saddleback not only trains the workforce of Orange County, but transfers thousands of students to UC and CSU schools every year. Saddleback is especially proud of their leading arts and communications programs, with degrees in everything from radio to theater, offerings that rival most 4-year colleges. All this at a low price make Saddleback a proven Best Value. Saddleback College shows what community colleges are capable of.
City College of San Francisco
Founded in 1935, the City College of San Francisco played an important formative role in making the modern San Francisco. CCSF began as a direct response to the Great Depression, focusing on career training and education that would help displaced workers find new avenues for their lives. In the decades that followed, the school, nicknamed “Trolley Car College” because of its two locations (connected by trolley), grew into a force for education in the Bay Area. With multiple campuses and one of the largest and most diverse students bodies of any community college, CCSF remains dedicated to the needs of San Francisco even in the face of tremendous growth and change.
City College of San Francisco’s dedicated to the city is obvious in many ways, including its historical public art collection and its affordable programs. But beginning in 2017, CCSF took the next step in affordability by offering free tuition to all San Francisco-area residents. Enrollment has risen in force, but more importantly, CCSF is providing opportunity in a city that looks very different than it did just a few years ago. While rent and cost of living in San Francisco has skyrocketed, CCSF has single-handedly made education the most affordable thing in the Bay Area.
West Valley College
West Valley College began humbly in 1963, meeting in mobile units parked on the playground of a former elementary school. What no one anticipated at the time was what an important role its location would prove to become – in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains, and at the southern edge of a valley region that would become home to the technological heart of the 21st century. As Silicon Valley has boomed, so has the demand and need for affordable career and technical education, as well as affordable transfer programs that help first-generation and underrepresented students prepare for professional education and careers.
With that mission West Valley is home to a highly diverse student body of more than 8000, with a third of the population made up of Hispanic and Latino students, along with a high proportion of Asian-American and international students. Students come to West Valley for affordability, transferring at high rates to the University of California and California State University systems, but WVC also provides certificates and associate’s degrees for working adults. Low tuition rates and strong connections to the corporate and public sectors of the Valley give students an accessible, valuable entry into their professional careers.
Northcentral Technical College
Northcentral Technical College is part of the Wisconsin Technical College System, the state’s system of career and technical training and 2-year education schools. Founded in 1912 – making it one of the oldest colleges of its kind – Northcentral was focused from its beginning on educating a capable, adaptable workforce for Wisconsin. Today, Northcentral’s main focus is on changing students’ lives, breaking cycles that keep students from achieving their best, and helping students from all walks of life accomplish their career goals and life dreams.
Northcentral’s mission has pushed the college to expand and evolve over the years. Wisconsin’s many rural and remote areas force colleges to think creatively to reach students and meet their needs, and Northcentral has become a model of outreach. Its six regional locations provide opportunity throughout central Wisconsin, but in recent years Northcentral has become a leader in online education as well, offering more than 40 fully online degree and certificate programs, and many more hybrids. Flexible scheduling, convenient formats, and affordable tuition make Northcentral Technical College an important part of learning and work in Wisconsin.
Irvine Valley College
Irvine, CA, is the home of the world-renowned University of California Irvine, but if UC tuition rates seem a little steep for basic courses, or an associate’s degree will get you where you want to go, Irvine Valley College is there. Originally a satellite campus of Saddleback College in 1979, Irvine Valley grew into an independent community college by 1985, driven by the same growth in the area that made UC Irvine and the planned city of Irvine. The quality of the California Community College system – one of the best in the nation – is attested by the number of award-winning scholars, scientists, artists, and professionals who teach, and Irvine Valley is recognized as having the highest rate of students transferring to 4-year colleges in the state.
With more than 14,000 students, Irvine Valley College has a highly diverse, highly accomplished population. IVC is recognized for its excellent student support, as its high transfer rate demonstrates, and the college offers a full slate of associate’s degrees (60 programs), transfer programs (more than two dozen), and certificates (over 100). IVC is especially known for the quality of their dance program, which prepares students for the rigors of college and graduate dance education. A diverse student body and low prices make Irvine Valley a fine companion to UC Irvine and an admirable institution in its own right.
Moorpark College has been widely recognized as one of the best community colleges in the nation for years, by publications ranging from Huffington Post to WalletHub. Founded in 1967, Moorpark is one of the Ventura County Community Colleges, located in one of California’s most famously scenic regions, the Simi Valley. Moorpark’s highly diverse student body is made up of more than 15,000 learners, from high school to continuing education and enrichment for seniors. Moorpark is known for its high levels of success in career outcomes and graduate placement, as well as for a high proportion of transfer students going on to 4-year programs throughout California and beyond.
Students come to Moorpark for a wide selection of degree and certificate programs in more than 70 different disciplines, including highly in-demand health-related career and technical programs like nursing, biotechnology and radiology. Moorpark is notably on a national level for the only community college program in exotic animal training, and Moorpark is home to America’s Teaching Zoo, a unique exotic animal compound where students learn hands-on care for animals from around the world. Moorpark is deeply connected to the people and community of Ventura County, and provides an affordable, exceptional opportunity for future professionals.
South Mountain Community College
Part of the Maricopa Community Colleges – Arizona’s largest higher education system, and one of the largest community college systems in the nation – South Mountain Community College was founded in 1978 to serve the southern region of the Phoenix metropolitan area. Located at the foot of its namesake, South Mountain Community College grew along with the city of Phoenix, from just 500 students to more than 10,000 today. SMCC is known throughout the region for its impact on social mobility and career preparation; more than three-quarters of the student body is Hispanic, making SMCC a federally designated Hispanic Serving Institution.
Students come to SMCC for a wide variety of degree and certificate programs, including highly respected performing arts and fine arts programs supported by the SMCC Performing Arts Center, a cultural hub for the region. In addition, 70% of South Mountain Community College’s student body are first-generation students, and nearly half plan to transfer to a 4-year college or university. SMCC has earned recognition for its outreach to the community and its deep connections to the government and private industry of Phoenix, giving graduates strong inroads into their careers and delivering on a reputation for value.
Diablo Valley College
One of California’s best-known (and most memorably named) community colleges, Diablo Valley College has served more than a million and a half students since its founding in 1949. Beginning with temporary classrooms in churches, banks, and army barracks, Diablo Valley grew along with Contra Costa County – the “opposite coast” of the San Francisco Bay, now a popular suburb of the Bay Area. All that growth has led to substantial development for Diablo Valley College, and the student body now stands at more than 22,000. DVC is one of the leading feeder schools for the University of California and California State University systems, with a transfer rate more than two-thirds higher than the national average.
As the top community college in California for transfers to UC Berkeley, and a top 5 for many other California colleges and universities, Diablo Valley College is obviously known for its high-quality transfer programs. Nearly half (49.6%) of all DVC students plan to transfer to a 4-year school. Options range from information technology and mechanical engineering to health sciences, business, and human behavior. But Diablo Valley also provides opportunity in numerous career and technical fields, preparing the workforce for one of the busiest and most competitive job markets in the US.
Pasadena City College
One of the oldest community colleges in California, Pasadena City College was founded in 1924 in a Pasadena high school. Like many junior colleges of the day, PCC offered the last two years of high school and the first two years of college, but the San Gabriel Valley region’s growth created no end of demand for quality academic education and career training. PCC has long been a center for diversity and excellence – the college proudly counts Jackie Robinson as an alumnus – and today Pasadena City College’s student population is more than half Latino.
With more than 29,000 students, Pasadena City College is one of the state’s leading 2-year colleges, with more than 100 degree programs, 80 certificates, and dozens of non-credit programs. PCC awards more than 3000 associate’s degrees every year, and has one of the highest transfer rates to California’s public universities. The college is also ranked at the top for associate’s degrees awarded to minorities, Asian-Americans, and veterans. From transfer programs to career training, Pasadena City College provides all the San Gabriel Valley needs for a well-educated, capable workforce, at an incredibly affordable tuition rate.
Orange Coast College
Located in Orange County, south of Los Angeles, Orange Coast College stands as one of the best community colleges in California and the US in general. Founded in 1947, Orange Coast College began, like many community colleges, with the need to provide educational opportunity for returning WWII veterans who were using their GI Bill to return to civilian life. Building on a decommissioned army air base, Orange Coast quickly became known not only for quality programs, but also for its groundbreaking modern architecture and model urban campus. Today, Orange Coast serves more than 25,000 highly diverse students.
With one of the highest transfer rates in the nation, Orange Coast College perfectly prepares students for 4-year college, but it also excels at bringing practical and technical education to a wide variety of diverse students, especially the growing Latino population. In addition to transfer programs, Orange Coast is particularly known for their nautical programs, one of the largest and most acclaimed public seafaring programs in the US. With highly accomplished instructors, award-winning students, and an exciting location, Orange Coast College has everything necessary to make a great education, and a low tuition rate that makes any choice a best value.
Shoreline Community College
Shoreline Community College, in Shoreline, WA (a suburb of Seattle), is one of the most trusted 2-year colleges in the Pacific Northwest. Shoreline has been awarded honors for its excellent value, as well as for programs such as its alternative fuel vehicle automotive training, one of a small number of community colleges with that specialty. Shoreline was founded in 1964 with the intention of providing opportunity for students to transfer to the University of Washington. Today, Shoreline is known for its commitment to diversity and community outreach, particularly for contributions to the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community of Washington.
Shoreline Community College‘s proximity to Seattle, WA places it right on the doorstep of one of the most exciting technology and business centers in the world. Many students come to Shoreline with the intention of transferring to Washington’s public universities, but the college also dominates in professional-technical programs, including health sciences, computers sciences, and biotechnology. Some of these programs are even offered online. Shoreline has been recognized for it work in sustainable energy and solar power, and for other innovations that lead students into the competitive Seattle/Pacific Northwest job market with confidence.
Amarillo College was founded in 1929, when it became apparent that Amarillo was the only large city in Texas without a public higher education option. Originally Amarillo Junior College, AC’s value and necessity became really clear after WWII, when the region and the college experienced massive growth. Today, Amarillo College is the pride of the Yellow Rose City. With six campuses, Amarillo College meets the needs of over 10,000 students, with more than twice that many taking continuing education or non-credit training courses – a tremendous number of students helped.
Amarillo College has long focused on practical career education, opening an allied health center in 1966 and an industrial technology center in 1997. With several online degree programs, Amarillo College also makes it possible for students to earn degrees in Criminal Justice, Radiation Therapy, and more from home (though Mortuary Science students have to attend an on-campus orientation). Sadly, though Amarillo, TX, is home of the world’s most productive helium reserve, helium mining does not appear to be offered – but aviation, renewable energy, and wind energy are!
San Luis Obispo’s Cuesta College was founded in 1964, but it wasn’t the first attempt at a junior college; the first predecessor fell during the crises of WWII, while a second public school, housed in the city’s high school, ended in 1959. But in 1964, the time was right: neighboring Cal Poly had grown into one of the nation’s most prestigious STEM-centered universities, and San Luis Obispo was on the map as a destination. Today, Cuesta College transfers more students to Cal Poly than any other community college, even without an official articulation agreement and with Cal Poly’s strict admission standards.
Cuesta College offers more than 70 associate’s degree programs and more than 60 certificate programs. Because Cuesta’s programs are strongly aligned with Cal Poly SLO, many of Cuesta’s strongest programs are in technology and science fields, ranging from biology, geology, meteorology, and oceanography. Cuesta’s diverse student body is known throughout California for their dedication, motivation, and ambition, making Cuesta not only a prime location for transfer students going into California’s public university systems, but also for employers recruiting technicians and professionals. Low tuition makes Cuesta a bargain.
Tarrant County College District
One of Texas’s largest cities, and one of the fastest-growing cities in America, Fort Worth has nearly a million residents and is part of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, one of the nation’s 10 largest metropolitan regions. The Tarrant County College District, made up of six campuses and several more learning centers, provides educational opportunity for the county. Founded in 1965, Tarrant County College has adjusted to momentous changes in Fort Worth, always dedicated to providing the most in-demand, most useful education and training to the workforce and professionals of the Fort Worth metropolitan area.
Tarrant County College offers a full range of educational options for students, from traditional college-aged students to working adults and returning students. Transfer programs, technical training, professional development, enrichment courses, and more are available at a low tuition rate. TCC has also made important inroads in online education, offering nearly 20 fully online associate’s degree and certificate programs in areas including business, accounting, and entrepreneurship – all quite useful in Fort Worth’s booming energy and technology economy. Tarrant County’s offerings give students throughout Fort Worth an affordable option for changing their future.
Scottsdale Community College
Part of the Maricopa Colleges, Scottsdale Community College is a unique 2-year institution, founded in 1969. Through an agreement with the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community – two federally recognized tribes at the border of Scottsdale – SCC is the only community college in the nation located on Native American territory. Supportive outreach to the American Indian community, and a new Indigenous Scholars Institute, makes SCC an important institution for Arizona’s natives. Scottsdale Community College has also been recognized for its community engagement, including nomination for the Aspen Award.
Students at Scottsdale Community College can choose from more than 150 associate’s degree and certificate programs, ranging from education and fine arts to computer science and business. With a major tourist economy in the region, SCC also offers numerous culinary and hospitality management programs, as well as health and wellness options like yoga therapy and personal training. Of course, SCC offers degrees tailored for Native American life as well, including Tribal Court Advocacy and Tribal Development. SCC has begun developing 8-week accelerated courses, as well as online and hybrid courses, for greater convenience, all at a reasonable tuition rate that keeps a life-transforming education affordable.
Laramie County Community College
Laramie County Community College, located in the city of Cheyenne, has an ambitious plan emphasizing entrepreneurship, passion, and authenticity. The least populous state in the union, with just one public university and one private university, Wyoming’s higher education falls to the system of community colleges. Laramie County Community College, in the state’s most populated region, is a key to professional and career training for Wyoming. For Wyoming’s sparse and highly independent population, LCCC is one of the most important forces ensuring that Wyoming meets its potential.
Since 1969, Laramie County Community College has done exemplary work providing opportunity for a largely rural, sparse population. LCCC knows that students today need accessibility, especially in the wide-open west, and a strong selection of fully online degree and certificate programs is helping Laramie County meet those needs. With reasonable tuition and articulation agreements with universities across the west for easy transfer, Laramie County Community College is doing work of the finest caliber.
The Yavapai people (the “people of the sun”), the indigenous people of the region that would become Prescott, AZ, are remembered in the name of the county, and of the community college that serves it, Yavapai College. Founded in 1965, Yavapai College serves the region around Prescott, AZ, including numerous towns and the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Reservation, which borders the city. With more than 11,000 students and a wide service area, Yavapai College offers a wealth of educational opportunities and career training to a diverse student body, including a large Hispanic population.
Yavapai provides transfer programs tied to the requirements of Arizona State, the University of Arizona, and Northern Arizona University, and around 80 certificate programs offer needed credentials in nearly all career fields. Known for the Yavapai College Gunsmithing School, one of the best gunsmithing training and education programs in the US, Yavapai College also has an impressive set of online degree programs to serve the people of Arizona. Students in career paths as varied as Administration of Justice, Emergency Management, and Video Game Development can earn fully online degrees at Yavapai’s low tuition price (a tenth of the price of Arizona State or the University of Arizona).
Lakeland Community College
Founded in 1967, Lakeland Community College was the first community college in Ohio founded by popular vote, after a successful campaign by the League of Women Voters. From that grassroots movement, Lakeland has grown to serve more than a quarter-million students over its 50 years, and more than 20,000 credit and noncredit students attend Lakeland every year. Lakeland’s mission, from the beginning, has centered on providing education across the board, from traditional-aged college students, to working adults, to seniors, and Lakeland’s success is clear.
Lakeland Community College offers more than 135 associate’s degrees and certificate programs in a wide variety of fields, preparing students for careers, transfer to community college, or advancement in their jobs. Along with their programs, students come to Lakeland for a large selection of noncredit programs needed for continuing education units related to their professional certifications. Nearly 20 fully online degree and certificate programs include accounting, business, and emergency management options. With one of the lowest tuition rates in Ohio, Lakeland secures its reputation as a best value.
Frederick Community College
Founded in 1957 as an evening education program for adults, Frederick Community College has been providing educational opportunities to Maryland’s 2nd-largest city for more than six decades. Its location in the historic city of Frederick, which is included in the Washington-Baltimore metroplex, has made FCC a crucial site for career and technical training, as well as for transfer students planning to move on to the many top-tier colleges and universities in the region. A diverse student body reflecting the region’s population, and highly qualified instructors have earned FCC a national reputation.
Frederick Community College offers more than 70 degree and certificate programs to more than 6000 students annually. Newer offerings include in-demand programs such as game programming, simulation, and development; cyber technology; computer animation; and network engineering. FCC is also the only community college in the nation with recognition from FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute for its undergraduate certificate and associate’s degrees in emergency management. Sixteen fully online degrees and certificates, including emergency management, cybersecurity, and network engineering, provide market-ready education and training in a flexible, affordable format designed for working adults.
Western Wyoming Community College
Western Wyoming Community College, in Rock Springs, WY, is a community college like no other. Founded in 1959, WWCC carries an important responsibility; Wyoming’s small population means that, with only two universities in the state, community colleges become essential. For transfer students and working adult students alike, WWCC provides a wealth of opportunity. WWCC is also a national treasure – because the Rock Springs region is a significant fossil field, the WWCC has numerous dinosaur skeletons on display, as well as a Wildlife Museum displaying many preserved species.
To prepare for the frosty Wyoming winters (WWCC is over 6500 feet above sea level, after all), buildings on WWCC’s thriving residential campus are connected with hallways so no one has to go outside to change classes. Of course, if you’re taking online courses, you never even have to leave home, and not surprisingly, Western Wyoming offers many fully-online degree programs, including Criminal Justice, Computer Information Systems, and Business Administration. With WWCC’s incredibly low tuition rates, Wyoming students can earn a degree without sinking in debt.
The Dallas-Ft. Worth metropolitan area is home to many world-class universities and colleges, and Richland College, part of the Dallas County Community College District, is an ideal path for students to make their way to any of them. Founded in 1972, Richland College is a key player in education in Texas’ largest metropolitan area, providing opportunity to more than 25,000 credit and continuing education students annually. Richland is the only community college to ever win the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, a recognition for excellence in community-building awarded by the President of the United States.
With all the resources metropolitan Dallas has to offer, Richland is well-known for excellence in business, language, and their cutting-edge digital forensics program. Richland is the only community college in Texas to be named a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance, and its digital forensics program is the only one to receive recognition from the Texas Skills Standard Board. More than 20 fully online degree programs, including business, education, and technology, give students a convenient option for career development. With all of these distinctions, and affordable tuition, the Richland name is one that students can wear with pride.
Wharton County Junior College
Founded in 1944 to prepare for the post-WWII boom of veterans returning to civilian life, higher education, and the workforce, Wharton County Junior College has been an academic and cultural center for Wharton, TX, for more than 70 years. In all of that time, WCJC’s mission is to provide a top-quality education to the people of hot, humid southeast Texas, not far from the Gulf Coast, and Wharton County Junior College does it well. WCJC is all Texas, with student baseball and rodeo teams among their extracurricular activities, and the college has an economic impact on Wharton County approaching $300 million a year.
Not only is WCJC one of the lowest-priced community colleges in the nation, but one of the most successful in terms of graduation and transfer rate, and graduate placement statistics. More than half of Wharton County Junior College’s student body belongs to a minority group, with Hispanic students alone making up 40% of the population. Nearly half of WCJC’s student body intends to transfer to a 4-year college or university, but the college’s adult education and career programs also show significant gains: graduates see an 18% return on their investment in less than 10 years. WCJC is a small investment, but one that has proven to pay off much bigger.
Anne Arundel Community College
Anne Arundel Community College is one of the most extraordinary 2-year schools in the nation, recognized for its quality and scope. Founded in 1961, AACC has been providing opportunity for the people of Anne Arundel County for nearly 60 years. With its location in Arnold, MD – a suburb of Maryland’s capital city of Annapolis – AACC is deeply tied to Maryland’s people. AACC has been recognized with the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity award by INSIGHT magazine, and named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for 9 straight years.
More than 45,000 credit and noncredit students attend Anne Arundel Community College, attracted by more than 250 degree and certificate programs, along with a wide selection of noncredit programs for continuing education and workforce credentials. In addition, AACC has fully embraced online education, offering nearly three dozen fully online associate’s degree and certificate programs in areas ranging from business to law enforcement to computer science. With all of these advantages, it’s no wonder Anne Arundel Community College has long been recognized as one of the best community colleges in the nation, and one of the best values.
Founded in 1946, Odessa College was part of the nationwide boom in junior colleges that accompanied the return of WWII veterans to school and civilian life. Today, Odessa College serves around 5000 transfer and career students, and more than twice that many for continuing education and basic courses. One of the most acclaimed community colleges in the nation, Odessa is an Achieving the Dream Leader College, cited for their excellence in producing graduates, and a 94% course completion rate for students is a testament to the support students receive. In addition, Odessa has been named a Rising Star by the Aspen Institute, one of the most prestigious prizes for community colleges.
Odessa is a crucial part of career and technical education for the Permian Basin region, from health sciences and technology to university transfer programs. IN addition, OC Global, Odessa College’s online degree wing, offers more than a dozen fully-online degree programs, including Associate in Arts, Associate in Science, and Associated in Applied Science degree types in everything from Business to Speech Therapy. Odessa works hard to get students the education they need, and low tuition costs – less than $300 per course – make Odessa College a solid educational investment.
As nearby Dallas, TX, has grown exponentially, so has suburban McKinney, TX, home of Collin College, which has grown from a small-town community college to a 53,000 student district since its founding in 1985. Collin College is the only public college in Collin County, so its role in providing academic and career training and education is exceptionally important. Changing its name from Collin County Community College District to reflect its status and growth, Collin College boasts an impressive library modeled on Thomas Jefferson’s University of Virginia Library and a number of national award-winning faculty.
Collin College, as the county’s only public college, has a lot of roles to fill, and it does the job with more than 100 degree and certificate programs in a wide variety of fields. From university and college transfer programs in business, criminal justice, education, criminal justice, and more to workplace training and continuing education, Collin meets the needs of traditional-aged students, working adults, seniors, and many more. Providing reputable education at a fraction of what a comparable college might charge Collin College is on the verge of something big – Texas big.
Cincinnati State Technical and Community College – better known simply as Cincinnati State – is one of Ohio’s premier 2-year institutions, known throughout the state and the Midwest for quality and student support. Founded in 1966 as a technical college, Cincinnati State was notable from the beginning for its emphasis on cooperative education; students alternated career and technical training with actual on-the-job experience with the college’s partners. Today, Cincinnati State has one of the largest cooperative programs of any community college, with more than 600 partners and more than 2400 placements each year.
Cincinnati State is a major part of workforce training and professional development for the Cincinnati metro region, and for Ohio more broadly, with more than 100 degree programs and certificates in areas ranging from business and technology to health and public safety. More than a third of Cincinnati State’s students are over 30, and nearly half the student body goes on to transfer to a 4-year university; Cincinnati State has articulation agreements with more than 20 colleges. Cincinnati State also offer 20 fully online degree and certificate programs, providing more flexibility and convenience for Ohio’s working adults.
Casper College was founded in 1942 as Wyoming’s first junior college, originating with evening classes in the local high school. However, Wyoming’s wide open spaces and sparse population has made for a unique higher education system, in which community colleges carry the burden that the state’s single public university can’t. For more than 60 years, Casper College has brought educational opportunity to Wyoming’s second-largest city, a center of the petroleum industry and cowboy life – in fact, Casper has a nationally-famed rodeo team that counts country music legend Chris LeDoux among its alumni.
Casper College’s responsibility to the people of central Wyoming is great, and the college has handled it well. One of the region’s largest colleges, at just over 4000 students, Casper offers more than 140 degree and certificate programs in a wide range of fields, as well as 11 fully online programs. Online degrees help Casper reach all the way to Wyoming’s most remote areas. Casper has maintained the kind of low faculty:student ratio (14:1) and small classes that allow for strong mentorship and student support. Meanwhile, 11 colleges and universities have partnered with Casper to provide programs at the college for transfer students.
Bismarck State College
Founded in 1939, to address the need for a higher education option in North Dakota’s capital city, Bismarck State College began in a high school before moving to a building on the capital grounds – which it also quickly outgrew. Today, BSC sits on a 120-acre campus on the Missouri River, home to more than $4000 traditional students and more than 20,000 annual noncredit and continued education students. With many students spread out in rural locations, it’s essential for BSC to make their education as accessible as possible, and Bismarck State has gone to great lengths to provide accessibility, usefulness, and affordability – all of which make BSC a definitive value.
It should be no surprise that Bismarck State College would invest in strong online degree programs; after all, North Dakota is not known for mild winters and easy travel. For that reason, Bismarck State College offers not only 2-year degrees for college transfer and career credentialing, but BSC has also enlisted colleges and universities in the area to offer degree completion courses through BSC. Bismarck State also offers 20 fully-online degree programs, from professional fields like Business Administration and Criminal Justice to technical fields like Nuclear Power Technology or Renewable Generation Technology. Online is just one way Bismarck State College brings education to the people.
Craven Community College
Founded in 1965, Craven Community College began in the early 1960s as an extension campus of Lenoir Community College to meet the need for educational opportunity in the region, one of the oldest and most historically rich areas in the South. While CCC began as a small technical school, focused on career training, today Craven Community College serves more than 3000 for-credit and more than 10,000 continuing education students annually. In addition to the main campus in New Bern, NC, Craven Community College provides opportunity for military personnel at the Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Cherry Point, and in the nearby town of Havelock.
Craven Community College serves a largely rural student body in eastern North Carolina, and to reach the population, the college has developed a variety of options. In addition to its Cherry Point and Havelock campuses, CCC offers more than 40 fully online associate’s degrees and certificates including business technology, criminal justice, and education. CCC also partners with East Carolina University, North Carolina State University, and Southern Illinois University to offer degree programs from those universities at CCC. CCC is also known for its Institute of Aeronautical Technology, which is offered in Havelock for MCAS employees and prospective aeronautical professionals.
From its location on the Texas-Louisiana border, Panola College serves more than 2600 students in northeast Texas and the bordering Louisiana parishes, a mission it has been tackling since 1947. In addition, Panola offers educational programs for the nearby Barksdale Air Force Base. With a diverse student body of over 2000, and steady growth in full-time, continuing ed, and noncredit students, Panola College is reaching out and meeting the needs of the region’s working adults and traditional-aged students.
Since its beginnings, Panola has been focused on useful, career-ready training and education, with programs developed directly for the job market. With business, nursing, and computer technology programs, as well as business and management certificates, Panola College is preparing students for some of the fastest-growing and most in-demand job markets. Of course, with its Gulf Coast location, Panola offers programs related to the petroleum industry as well. Panola is in the top percentiles of lowest-priced community colleges, making them a clear bargain.
Wayne Community College
Wayne Community College is part of the North Carolina Community College System, one of the largest and fastest-growing in the nation. Founded in 1958 as a vocational training school, Wayne has followed the trends in North Carolina’s job market and workforce, growing to nearly 12,000 students. North Carolina’s rapid rise in population and economic significance has fueled unprecedented development in community colleges, as this once agricultural and industrial region modernizes, and Wayne Community College is a perfect example.
Originally a technical institution, WCC now offers over 130 degree programs, many of them available fully online, most focused on bringing a blue-collar workforce into professional careers like Business Administration, Criminal Justice, and Medical Office Administration. Wayne Community College is dedicated to diversity and opportunity, providing the degrees and certificates students need to improve their skills, earn rewarding jobs, and increase their social mobility. With some of the lowest tuition rates in the nation, Wayne Community College is making education affordable for all.
Rio Salado College
Rio Salado is one of the most innovative community colleges in the nation. Their headquarters is in Tempe, AZ, part of the renowned Maricopa Community Colleges, but Rio Salado is everywhere. Even from its founding in 1977, Rio Salado offered classes in an innovative way, through as many as 180 non-centralized sites, but when Rio Salado discovered online education in 1996, it found its niche. Since that time, Rio Salado has been praised by sources like the Gates Foundation, Forbes, and others for their commitment to technology, students success, and tireless work to find the best ways to reach their students.
Since 2006, Rio Salado has gone all-in for online education, becoming one of the most recognized names in the field over the last decade. Almost all of Rio Salado’s courses are offered online today, and Rio Salado’s list of fully online degree programs beats many community colleges’ on-campus offerings. Students can earn degrees in nearly every market-ready, in-demand field, from accounting to computer programming, entrepreneurship to mobile app development. With the convenience of online education, a reputation for excellence, and affordable tuition, Rio Salado is showing community colleges how it’s done in the 21st century.
Hagerstown Community College
Founded in 1946, Hagerstown Community College was Maryland’s first community college, established with evening classes in the local high school. With no higher education options in rocky western Maryland, Hagerstown Community College was focused on career and technical training, with post-WWII industrialization making the region a heavily factory-focused economy. Today, Hagerstown is the center of the fastest-growing region of Maryland, and one of the fastest-growing in the US, making HCC’s role in workforce education and college transfer more important than ever.
Hagerstown Community College offers more than 100 degree and certificate programs for students, including more than 6000 credit students and nearly 10,000 noncredit continuing education and enrichment students. To better meet the needs of the area, HCC has developed more than 20 fully online programs, offering a flexible, convenient way for students to advance their careers in areas like criminal justice, cybersecurity, business, and education. Hagerstown Community College has become a key part of Maryland’s higher education landscape, and more than earned its growing reputation as a top community college and best value.
College of Southern Maryland
The College of Southern Maryland was founded in 1948 in a La Plata, Maryland high school. A small town in Charles County, La Plata has experienced growth in recent years as the Washington, DC and Baltimore metropolitan area spreads, giving CSM a larger and larger population to serve. Currently, CSM brings educational opportunity to more than 10,000 traditional for-credit students, and more than 13,000 more continuing education and noncredit students. With four campuses and a growing online presence, College of Southern Maryland is growing and gearing up for even more change in coming years.
College of Southern Maryland’s diverse student body is the largest in Maryland, with more than 65% of college-bound high school students in the area choosing CSM. For transfer students, CSM has articulation agreements with more than 60 colleges and universities, including all of Maryland’s public universities. More than 100 degree and certificate programs, including 21 fully online programs, provide students with entry into a variety of fields. In addition, CSM is recognized by the NSA and the Department of Homeland Security as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Security – an important distinction for students interested in pursuing cybersecurity careers in Washington, DC.
Sinclair Community College
The institution that would become Sinclair College was founded in 1887 as a small adult training school by David Sinclair, director of the Dayton, OH, YMCA – a common start for adult education in those days. Sinclair did not stay small, however. With over 32,000 students on one campus, Sinclair College is one of the largest in the nation, and at over 125 years old, one of the oldest. Today, Sinclair has five locations throughout the Dayton metropolitan area, Its excellence makes it one of the most highly respected community colleges in the US, and its affordability makes it a best value.
With a student body that would make up a small city, Sinclair has a big responsibility, and a lot of fields to cover. That’s why Sinclair offers more than 220 degree and certificate programs, and a low student:faculty ratio for student support. Sinclair also offers almost three dozen fully online degree and certificate programs in practical fields such as business and computers, with an articulation agreement that allows students to transfer to any public Ohio university or college, making Sinclair’s online programs exceptionally flexible and useful.
Oakton Community College
A community college with campuses in the Chicago suburbs, Oakton Community College serves as many as 46,000 students from the massive Chicago metro area. Founded in 1969, Oakton began in four former factory buildings before building its own beautiful, forested campus in Des Plaines, and building a second location in Skokie. Besides two campuses that provide a classic college environment, Oakton offers courses at more than 240 off-campus locations, and a growing number of fully online courses. Oakton is proud to provide many of the amenities that students would expect from liberal arts college or university, including numerous athletic teams, dozens of clubs, and a vibrant theater, music, and arts scene.
To meet the needs of so many students, Oakton has more than 700 highly qualified faculty members offering more than 80 degree and certificate programs in a variety of areas. From personal enrichment to college transfer, certificate programs to associates, Oakton offers it all. Oakton also welcomes a highly diverse student body, with more than half the population representing minority groups, and works to create a traditional on-campus community. With their dedication to educational excellence, Oakton Community College is excellent preparation for a 4-year degree at one of Illinois’s top-notch universities, or a sound investment in career training.
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