Community colleges serve almost half of all undergraduate students in the United States. Community colleges play a vital role in developing the workforce and preparing students to enroll at four-year colleges. Community colleges provide vocational programs and academic transfer programs.
Community colleges are also known as junior colleges, city colleges or technical colleges.
Community colleges are mostly two-year public institutions providing associate’s degrees, diplomas and certificates. Often students can complete a certificate program in one year or less.
Community colleges prepare a large number of the nation’s police officers, nurses, paramedics and advanced-skill technicians.
Due to the strong partnerships many community colleges have with business and industry, students at community colleges often use cutting-edge equipment in their courses.
Community colleges provide career-focused programs not available at four-year colleges.
The Best Community Colleges Ranking Guidelines
We selected the community colleges based on an evaluation of several studies and ratings of community colleges located throughout the nation. We looked at factors such as student retention rates, percentage of students who graduate or transfer to another school within three years, student-to-faculty ratios, student support, the types of programs provided and the schools’ reputation.
#1 East San Gabriel Valley ROP/TC
East San Gabriel Valley ROP/TC, situated in West Covina, California, is a regional occupational program (ROP). An ROP focuses on hands-on career preparation and career guidance. An ROP program provides adult and high school students the technical skills required for specific jobs. Most of the courses provide community-based internships in local business and industry locations. East San Gabriel Valley ROP/TC in partnerships with more than 250 businesses and more than 40 support service agencies offers unified educational experiences.
The community college ranked #1 in the CNN Money listing of community colleges in 2012.
East San Gabriel Valley ROP/TC offers core majors such as:
- Business Management
- Criminal Justice
- Child Development
- Green Facilities
- Visual Communication Management
- Health Science
The center has articulation agreements with the community colleges and private post-secondary institutions including Citrus College, Mt. San Antonio College, Mt. Sierra College, Rio Hondo College, DeVry, Pacific Oaks, ITT Tech and Westwood College. Due to these agreements students, who complete selected courses can enroll in training programs at the community college, without having to repeat previously covered materials.
#2 Walla Walla Community College
Walla Walla Community College (WWCC) located in Walla Walla, Washington, provides courses in Professional/Technical Education, Academic Transfer Education, Transitional Studies and Extended Learning. The community college provide 70 degree programs and certificates.
The Aspen Institute named Walla Walla Community College the 2013 co-winner of the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. The Aspen Institute also recognized the community college as a 2011 Finalist with Distinction for the same prize.
Walla Walla Community College provides programs in area such as:
- Allied Health
- Criminal Justice
- Business Administration
- Sigh Language
The school’s e-learning program allows students to obtain an associate’s degree entirely online or via a combination of online and on-campus courses.
High-school juniors and seniors can enroll in courses at Walla Walla Community College through the Running Start program.
The community college provides technical and local community learning. The school’s Agriculture Center of Excellence provides access to advanced training facilities. The center connects education and industry and provides clear education and career pathways for the agricultural industry.
The Water and Environmental Center provides education for environmental and economic sustainability.
#3 Santa Barbara City College
Santa Barbara City College (SBCC) located in Santa Barbara, California, provides over 50 certificate programs and 80 degrees. The community college offers on-campus courses and online courses.
Aspen Institute named Santa Barbara City College the 2013 co-winner of its prestigious Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. The Aspen Institute also recognized the college as a 2011 Finalist for the same prize. Also, in 2012 the community college ranked #23 in the CNN Money list of community colleges.
SBCC’s Express-to-Success program utilizes small learning communities to help students through first-year remedial courses.
The school’s agreements with 76 colleges (in and out of California) guarantee the school’s credits are accepted for transfer. The school’s Transfer Achievement Program (TAP) helps students in their planning for the transition from Santa Barbara City College to a four-year university.
#4 Altamaha Technical College
Altamaha Technical College, with its main campus located in Jesup, Georgia, is a unit of Technical College System of Georgia. The school provides a variety of degrees, diplomas and certificates. The technical certificate programs prepare students for computer, industrial, medical and other fields.
Altamaha Technical College provides Associate of Applied Science degrees in areas such as:
- Networking Specialist
- Marketing Management
- Business Administrative Technology
- Drafting Technology
- Computer Support Specialist
- Early Childhood Care and Education
- Criminal Justice Technology
- Technical Studies
Altamaha Technical College provides adult education, continuing education, ESL and workforce development courses. The college provides on-campus courses and hundreds of online courses.
Altamaha Technical College provides job placement services which include helping graduates connect with local employers. The college reports graduates have a 98.6 job placement rate. The college also has numerous Adult Support Centers.
#5 Kingsborough Community College
Kingsborough Community College, situated in Brooklyn, New York, is part of The City University of New York (CUNY) system. Kingsborough Community College offers a wide array of associate degree programs in the liberal arts and in career education. The community college also offers a variety of certificate programs.
Kingsborough Community College named a 2013 Aspen Institute Finalist with Distinction. The New York Times named Kingsborough Community College one of the nation’s top community colleges.
According to Community College Week Kingsborough Community College consistently ranks in the upper half of the top 100 community colleges in the United States awarding associate degrees to minorities as well as the number of associate degrees awarded in total.
Kingsborough Community College received an award from the national community college honor society, Phi Theta Kappa, for the chapter with the largest growth.
New Start offers a second chance to students who had difficulty in college.
College Now helps prepare high school students for college-level work.
#6 Victor Valley College
Victor Valley College, situated in Victorville, California, provides a variety of associate degrees. The community college provides on-campus courses and some online courses.
Victor Valley College ranked #3 in the CNN Money listing of top community colleges in 2012.
Victor Valley College provides majors such as:
- Business Management
- Registered Nursing
- Agriculture and Natural Resources
- Criminal Justice
- Construction Technology
The Center for Institutional Excellence offers guidance and support for all the academic and non-academic programs on campus.
The Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (S.T.E.M.) division helps to prepare students to transfer to four-year schools and prepares students for careers requiring a math or science background.
The school’s Health Science/Public Safety/Industrial Technology division provides career technical education.
Victor Valley College offers vocational technology labs in agriculture, construction, welding, engineering and in other fields.
#7 North Central Kansas Technical College
North Central Kansas Technical College (NCK Tech) has its main campus in Beloit, Kansas and also has a branch campus in Hays, Kansas. NCK Tech provides degrees, certificates as well as professional development education.
North Central Kansas Technical College ranked #5 in the 2012 CNN Money list of community colleges and listed among the top 10 percent of all community colleges in the United States in 2013 by the Aspen Institute.
The community college provides 24 programs, including programs in areas such as nursing, residential electricity, culinary arts and agricultural equipment technology.
North Central Kansas Technical College reports a graduate placement, averaging over 90 percent every year. NCK Tech also reports salaries of its graduates are consistently comparable to graduates of two-year and four-year schools.
North Central Kansas Technical College in partnership with the U.S. Department of Commerce and local businesses created the Kansas Institute of Underground Technology.
North Central Kansas Technical College provides statewide articulation agreements in these pathways:
- AV Communications
- Information Support/Services
- Network Systems
- Production – Welding
- Programming and Software Development
#8 White Mountains Community College
White Mountains Community College, situated in Berlin, New Hampshire, is part of the Community College System of New Hampshire. The community college provides a variety of associate degree and certificate programs. The school provides traditional courses and online courses.
White Mountains Community College provides programs in areas such as:
- Business/Marketing/Computer and Information Sciences
- Engineering Technologies
- Health Professions and Related Sciences
- Liberal Arts/General Studies
- Mechanic and Repair Technologies
- Natural Resources/Environmental Science
The school’s environmental science program is a research partner alongside schools including the University of New Hampshire which participate in the state’s National Science Foundation funded Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research.
White Mountains Community College offers a program which allows students seeking a teaching career to begin their studies while in high school, transition to White Mountains Community College to obtain an associate degree in teaching then obtain a four-year degree through completing courses under Plymouth State University teachers at the White Mountains Community College campus.
The Business Training Center offers training services for business and industry. The Business Training Center prepares individuals for the workplace via customized training. The Business Training Center helps business and industry deal with technological advances, management practices as well as manufacturing and quality initiatives.
#9 Lake Area Technical Institute
Lake Area Technical Institute (LATI), located in Watertown, South Dakota, offers and array of study programs and numerous E-degrees. The institute provides small interactive classes and new technology.
The Aspen Institute named Lake Area Technical Institute a 2013 Finalist with Distinction in its Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. The Aspen Institute also recognized the college as a 2011 Finalist with Distinction for the same prize. Lake Area Technical Institute ranked #11 in the 2012 CNN Money list of community colleges.
The Chronicle of Higher Education named Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown the number one public two-year college in the United States for graduation rates.
Lake Area Technical Institute provides programs in areas such as:
- Computer Information Systems
- Financial Services
- Human Services Technician
Staff members work closely with the school’s business partners to reinforce to students what industry expects.
76 percent of first-time, full-time LATI students graduate or transfer to a four-year college within three years; the national average is 40 percent.
LATI graduates from a specific program via program-to-program articulation agreements, may transfer LATI technical credits to a specific degree at South Dakota State University. Students can use selected general education classes and technical credits.
#10 Flint Hills Technical College
Flint Hills Technical College, situated in Emporia, Kansas, provides hands-on education. The college has partnerships with local companies. Flint Hill Technical College provides an array of associate degrees, technical certificates and licensure/certificate programs.
Flint Hills Technical College provides a workforce training center, business & industry center community connections courses, general education courses, customized training and online courses.
Flint Hills Technical College provides programs such as:
- Computer Program Design
- Business Administrative Technology
- Health Occupations Technology
- Culinary Arts
- Machine Tool Technology
- Industrial Engineering Technology
About 70 percent of education time is allocated to labs or practical training. The schools provides the equipment and software used in the real world.
The job placement center operates career fairs to help graduates find a job.
#11 Brazosport College
Brazosport College located in Lake Jackson, Texas, offers a wide variety of programs including associate degree programs and vocational programs. Students pursuing a bachelor’s degree can enroll in classes in 16 majors which transfer to four-year schools.
Brazosport College named a 2013 Finalist in the Aspen Institute’s Prize for Community College Excellence. The school is a member of The National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC).
Students seeking a certificate or degree in an occupational or technical field can take classes leading to a Bachelor of Applied Technology in Industrial Management in four areas as well an Associate of Applied Science degree in 19 areas.
Brazosport College has relationships with the local community and the region’s major petrochemical employers, BASF and Dow Chemical. The school has partnerships with companies to provide technical training. Brazosport College offers the Center for Business and Industry and the Small Business Development Center.
#12 College of the Ouachitas
College of the Ouachitas, located in Malvern, Arkansas, offers a wide variety of programs. College of the Ouachitas also provides certification in an array of academic, medical, law enforcement, and technical fields.
The College of the Ouachitas named a 2013 Finalist in the Aspen Institute’s Prize for Community College Excellence. The college is a member of the National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC).
College of the Ouachitas offers Associate of Applied Science and Associate of Arts degrees in the following study divisions:
- Allied Health Science
- Applied Science Technology
- Arts, Sciences, and Education
- Business Technology
- Professional Studies
Some popular degree programs include:
- Crime Scene Investigation
- Medical Office Administration
- Engineering and Manufacturing Technology
- Law Enforcement Administration
- Early Childhood Education
#13 Valencia College
Valencia College has campuses in east and west Orlando, Kissimmee, Winter Park, and Lake Nona.
Valencia College received the 2011 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence and ranked as the number one community college in the United States, according to Community College Week’s 2011 list of the top 100 schools.
Valencia College is a member of The National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC).
Valencia College ranks first among two-year colleges in the United States for the total number of associate’s degrees awarded. Valencia College has a job placement rate of 93 percent to 95 percent.
Valencia College provides an Associate degree which guarantees admission to any Florida state university, 30 Transfer Plans and numerous pre-major options.
Valencia College provides over 60 non-degree technical certificate programs. The Valencia continuing education program offers courses in career development, healthcare professions, criminal justice, professional development and language programs.
Director Steven Spielberg called Valencia College’s film program one of the best anywhere. The college’s “Filmmaker in Residence” program invites talented producers, directors, writers and cinematographers to work with students on film projects.
#14 Saint Paul College
Saint Paul College, a community and technical college, situated in St. Paul, Minnesota, offers 39 associate degree programs and 60 career certificate and diploma programs. The community college offers on-campus courses, online classes as well as hybrid courses.
Saint Paul College ranked the #1 community college in the 2010 Washington Monthly ranking of America’s best community colleges. Saint Paul College scored the highest in the country on the 2011 Community College Survey of Student Engagement.
The program divisions include:
- Computer Graphics & Visualization Programs
- Health Science Programs
- STEM & Liberal Arts
- Service Programs
- Trade & Technical Programs
Saint Paul College emphasizes advanced technology to enhance the learning experience.
Saint Paul College has transfer agreements with four-year colleges and universities.
Qualified students who graduate from St. Paul or Minneapolis public schools may receive free tuition via the Power of YOU scholarship programs.
#15 Northwest Iowa Community College
Northwest Iowa Community College (NCC), located in Sheldon, Iowa, provides a variety of vocational technical programs and arts and sciences transfer courses.
Northwest Iowa Community College ranked #7 in the 2012 CNN Money list of community colleges and The Aspen Institute listed NW Iowa Community College among the top 10 percent of U.S. community colleges in 2013.
Northwest Community College provides programs in areas such as:
- Agriculture & Natural Resources
- Business & Computers
The community college provides on-campus courses and online courses.
The school’s student placement rate averages 98 percent. The school’s skilled specialist programs consistently have 100 percent employment success for its graduates.
The community college has transfer agreements with universities throughout the Midwest, including University of Iowa, Iowa State University and South Dakota State University.
#16 Mayland Community College
Mayland Community College, situated in Spruce Pine, North Carolina, is part of the North Carolina Community College System. The junior college has partnerships with local colleges and universities to provide students transfer options.
Mayland Community College ranked the #4 community college in the 2010 Washington Monthly ranking of America’s best community colleges.
Mayland Community College provides 35 programs. The community college provides Associate in Arts, Associate in Fine Arts and Associate in Science degrees. The school also provides industrial training certificates. Mayland Community College also offers courses for skills development, enrichment and personal enjoyment.
Mayland Community College includes the following academic departments:
- Arts & Sciences (College Transfer)
- Business, Engineering & Public Service Technologies
- Basic Skills
- Applied Technology Programs
- Health Sciences
Mayland Community College operates the Yancey Learning Center in Burnsville, North Carolina, and the Avery Learning Center in Newland, North Carolina.
#17 De Anza College
De Anza College, located in Cupertino, California, has 10 instructional divisions which provide over 100 areas of study. The college attracts students from over 50 countries.
The college ranked #10 in the CNN Money listing of top community colleges in 2012. DeAnza ranked #45 in the 2010 Washington Monthly ranking of the top 100 U.S. community colleges.
De Anza College consistently ranks #1 or #2 in the state annually for the number of students who transfer to the University of California and California State University campuses.
The college provides over 90 associate degree and university transfer programs. Popular majors at the school include Animation, Biological, Health and Environmental Sciences, Broadcasting, Computer Graphics and Graphic Design.
The Community Education program provides weekend adult workshops, non-credit classes, and summer programs for children.
#18 Snow College
Snow College, located in rural Ephraim, Utah, is a part of the Utah System of Higher Education. Snow College has another campus in Richfield, Utah.
Snow College ranked #6 in the 2012 CNN Money list of community colleges and included among the top 10 percent of community colleges in the United States by the Aspen Institute in 2013.
Snow College is a member of the National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC).
The college offers an array of certificates and associate degrees.
The school’s major divisions include:
- Business & Applied Technologies
- Fine Arts, Communication and New Media
- Social & Behavioral Science
- Natural Science & Mathematics
The junior college provides online and honors classes and continuing education.
The National Association of Schools of Theatre awarded the theatre arts department full accreditation and membership, an honor bestowed to only three other two-year colleges.
Snow College is widely regarded for music and arts programs. The Horne School of Music, an all-Steinway School, is one of only 23 2-year colleges accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music in the U.S. Snow College hosts music camps, such as the Manhattan to the Mountains Chamber Workshop and the Juilliard Jazz Summer Workshop.
#19 Western Wyoming Community College
Western Wyoming Community College situated in Rock Springs, Wyoming, (WWCC) has an extended campus center located in Green River in Sweetwater County. The school has a strong international students segment, with many resources including a host family program.
Western Wyoming Community College ranked #13 in the CNN Money listing of top community colleges in 2012. WCCC ranked #15 in the 2010 Washington Monthly ranking of the top 100 U. S. community colleges. College Atlas.org named Western Wyoming Community College one of the top 25 community colleges.
WWCC is a member of The National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC).
Western Wyoming Community College provides Associate of Arts, Associate of Fine Arts, Associate of Science, Associate of Applied Science and Associate of Nursing degrees. The community college also provides a few four-year degrees in partnership with the University of Wyoming in Laramie, Wyoming.
Degree-related programs include:
Science and Mathematics
Humanities and Fine Arts
Technology & Industry
The junior college provides one-year certificates in numerous program areas such as:
Web Site Development
Digital Design Technologies
Power Plant Maintenance Mechanics
WWCC is home to the Instructional Well-Site Facility, a closed-loop system which offers “real world” training for local industry technicians and customized specialty courses. The facility also serves as a meeting place for industry professionals.
#20 Northeast Alabama Community College
Northeast Alabama Community College located in Rainsville, Alabama, offers a wide array of majors. The community college provides associate degrees and certificates.
The community college ranked #15 in the CNN Money listing of top community colleges in 2012. The Aspen Institute listed the community college among the top 10 percentage of all U.S. community colleges in 2013.
Northeast Alabama Community College also provides Continuing Education (including ESL and GED), Distance Education, and Workplace Education (courses provided by a company or industry specifically for its employees) programs.
The school’s divisions include Business and Computer Science, English and Fine Arts, Health Sciences, Mathematics, Natural Sciences; Social Science, Speech and Foreign Language; Workshop Development, and Skills Training.
The community college provides career/technical programs leading to an associate degree or certificate. The junior college provides programs such as:
Drafting & Design Technology
Salon & Spa Management
Industrial Systems Technology
Northeast Alabama Community College selected as one of 36 colleges to participate in the Plus 50 Encore Completion Program, a national effort sponsored by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) to train 10,000 baby boomers for new jobs in healthcare, education and social services.
#21 Southeast Community College – Lincoln
Southeast Community College – Lincoln located in Lincoln, Nebraska, offers three campuses and over 20 learning centers.
Southeast Community College – Lincoln ranked #8 in the 2012 CNN Money community colleges list. Southeast Community college ranked #8 in a list of 786 community colleges in the United States for Student Success Rates, based on graduation and retention statistics. The community college included in the top 120 U.S. community colleges by the Aspen Institute in 2011 and in 2013.
For eight consecutive years Southeast Community College – Lincoln has the most graduates of any school in the United States in Precision Production fields (computer aided design, machine tool technology, manufacturing engineering technology and drafting).
The junior college emphasizes global education, offering global perspectives for its courses to help prepare students to work in a global environment.
Southeast Community College provides Associate of Arts Degrees, Associate of Applied Science Degrees and Associate of Science Degrees. The community college also offers certificates and diplomas.
Students have more than 50 programs to choose from. Southeast Community College also provides over 10 online study programs and over than 300 courses.
Southeast Community College’s Continuing Education Program provides an array of courses, workshops and seminars for people of all ages. The school also operates a nationally-renown Entrepreneurship Center which provides a business incubator for new and growing enterprises.
#22 Garden City Community College
Garden City Community College (GCCC), located in Garden City, Kansas, provides Associate of Applied Science (AAS) terminal degrees, Associate of Science (AS) transfer degrees, Associate of Arts transfer degrees, Associate of General Studies (AGS) transfer degrees as well as Associate of Science in Nursing degrees.
The community college ranked #24 in the 2012 CNN Money listing of top community colleges and included among the Aspen Institute top 10 percent of U.S. community colleges in 2011 and 2013.
Garden City Community College reports its students consistently earn higher GPAs at their transfer schools compared to students spending all their college time at the transfer institution. The community college has a high rate of program on-time completion.
The eduKan Online University provides access to degrees, certificates and individual courses. Students can complete the entire program online or combine online learning with campus classes.
The Business and Industry division provides a wide variety of career training and enhancement courses.
#23 Pearl River Community College
Pearl River Community College located in Poplarville, Mississippi has four locations: The main campus in Poplarville, the Hancock Center in Waveland, The Forrest County Center and Lowery Woodall Advanced Technology Center in Hattiesburg.
Pearl River Community College is a member of the National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC). The community college ranked #20 in the 2012 CNN Money list of top community colleges. Pearl River Community College included in the top 10% of all U.S. community colleges in 2013 by the Aspen Institute.
Pearl River Community College provides associate degrees and transferrable credits for students interested in obtaining a four-year degree. The junior college offers an array of career-focused and technical programs as well as certificate of proficiency programs.
Pearl River Community College provides online courses via the Mississippi Virtual Community College. The community college also includes the Honors Institute which provides an Honors Study Abroad option.
#24 Coconino Community College
Coconino Community College with its main campus located in Flagstaff, Arizona, has other college locations in Tuba City, Grand Canyon, Fredonia, Page/Lake Powell, Williams and Flagstaff Lone Tree.
Coconino Community College ranked #25 in the CNN Money listing of top community colleges in 2012.
The community college offers Associate of Science, Associate of Applied Science, Associate of Arts (AA), and Associate of Fine Arts (AFA) degrees in a variety of study areas. The junior college provides over 70 associate degrees and certificates.
Coconino Community College provides classes in the areas of Arts & Science, Corporate & Community Learning as well as Career & Technical.
Via the CCC2NAU program, Coconino Community College partners with Northern Arizona University as well as 16 other colleges to oversee the transfer process to four-year colleges.
The CC2NAU program has received several awards such as a 2012 Outstanding Institutional Advancement Advising Program Award from the National Academic Advising Association, a 2012 Lee Noel and Randi Levitz Retention Excellence Award, and the Arizona College Access Network’s 2011 Pathways to Postsecondary Education Award.
The school’s Life Long Learning program offers a variety of on-campus, online and interactive TV (ITV) courses.
The school’s Community Learning program, specializes in professional courses and corporate development. The school offers a six-module Leadership Academy.
#25 Normandale Community College
Normandale Community College, located in Bloomington, Minnesota, is a member of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system. The junior college offers an array of programs.
Normandale Community College provides two-year degrees such as Associate in Science (AS), Associate in Applied Science,
Associate of Arts and Associate in Fine Arts. The community college also provides an array of certificates.
The school’s Community College Continuing Education program offers a variety of professional enrichment courses. Normandale Community College also offers specialized courses customized for local companies. The courses are available at the college, online or at the business location.
Normandale Community College in collaboration with Education for Global Learning (EGL), provides a short-term and semester Study Abroad program.