For many young Americans, the well-worn path of finishing high school, then jumping into a super expensive four-year program at an elite university is becoming less and less attractive for a couple of reasons.
First, while a prestigious degree certificate is still a significant boost to the prospects of any high school leaver, rapid changes to the job scene in this fast-paced internet age are making it less of a requirement for many professions.
Second, a traditional bachelor’s program is, without a doubt, a big jump for any high school graduate. Students often have to move away from home, stack up significant financial commitments, and bounce straight into the crux of a college program without having any feel for what it entails.
Situations like this make community colleges an inviting prospect for millions of young Americans. These typically smaller institutions provide students with an excellent opportunity to try out the college experience in a reassuring while stacking up little to no debt.
Consequently, here, undergraduates can refrain from making a significant financial commitment until they are confident in their choice of majors. Plus, community colleges often maintain significantly more flexibility than larger institutions, allowing students to move freely from part-time to full-time and adjust their learning schedule.
Furthermore, if you decide a regular four-year program is for you, you can always transfer and apply your earned credits towards a bachelor’s degree.
What is a Community College?
Community colleges—also known as city colleges, technical colleges, or junior colleges, are typically smaller institutions that generally offer 2-year programs. Here, undergraduates can earn diplomas, associate degrees, or complete certificate programs.
These programs often provide students either with the foundational knowledge needed for more advanced education or a career-oriented technical focus that offers hands-on learning, acting as a rapid launchpad into the job market.
Consequently, community colleges are a favorite amongst people looking to dip their toes into the college experience, people looking to get a career started as soon as possible, and for adult learning and continuing education.
The term “community college” comes from the fact that local taxes often support these schools, and they typically attract students from the surrounding settlements. All this, plus the reality that community colleges strip away most of the expensive add-ons you get at a high brow university, resulting in far fewer costs for the undergraduate.
Consequently, it is no surprise that students are taking advantage of this opportunity. According to a report by the American Association of Community Colleges, the 1,100+ American community colleges are responsible for more than half of all undergraduate enrollment in the country.
If you are considering opting for a community college for your undergraduate program, here are the top 50 schools in the U.S. you should add to your shortlist.
50 Best Community Colleges in the United States
With more than a thousand community colleges to choose from, selecting the right one for you can quickly become a hassle. Hence, we have chosen some of the best options in the country to narrow down your search process significantly.
Our ranking criteria includes a study of multiple comparison studies and judging schools based on their student success ratios for employments and transfers, the robustness of their learning environment, their price to value ratio, and their practices and policies in matters like student diversity.
The following 50 colleges are without some of the best options for you by these criteria.
Normandale Community College offers programs in career-oriented fields like nursing, dietetics, hospitality management, engineering, and dental hygiene to its 10,000 enrolled students. The junior college also has a significantly diverse student base, with more than 30% of the population identifying as minorities.
To its massive annual enrollment of 30,000 students, Schoolcraft College offers associate programs in fields of study like education, anthropology, health, fine arts, and liberal arts as well as technical career-oriented certificate programs, including ones in baking and pastry arts, fire technology, computer graphics, and animation, and sound recording technology.
Out of its four campuses, the Northland Community and Technical College offer transfer programs for liberal art students and a host of technical degree and career-oriented certificate programs 100+ fields of study.
Since it is situated near two strategic United States Marine Corps bases, the Coastal Carolina Community College attracts a lot of veterans and military personnel. The two-year college offers associate degrees of both art and science in disciplines like music, art, drama, biology, and engineering.
Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College has over 50 career-oriented programs on offer, including ones in food production and management technology, electrical line training, and machine tool technology.
Consequently, the school offers a robust platform for students who want hands-on practical instruction that is immediately applicable to real-life professional situations.
Washington County Community College is a tiny junior college in Maine that offers beefed out study programs in everything from geographic information systems, to tourism and human services to its 500 enrolled students.
Mott Community College is an excellent option for Michigan residents who want to get into visual arts. Top courses at this junior college include television and film, radio, and sign language interpreter education.
The school’s Visual Arts and Design Center is also a valuable resource to its students, providing avenues for advancing knowledge in graphic design and fine arts.
Students in Missouri can enjoy a sound technical education in any of the 30+ programs available at the State Technical College of Missouri. Here, associate degrees on offer include extremely practical pursuits like electric power generation technology, heavy equipment technology, and nuclear technology.
Furthermore, the school posts one of the best success rates of any junior college, as for the last two decades, 95% of its graduates find employment or continue their education with six months of completing their program.
Kaskaskia College offers a wide variety of course offerings, including 93 certificate programs and 41 associate degree programs to its 12,000 enrolled students. The school also runs a student success center that provides students with academic workshops, tutoring, and career resources to increase their chance of program completion.
Southwest Texas Junior College is a facility-rich two-year college in west Texas that serves 11 counties in the region.
Out of its six campuses, the school offers associate programs in disciplines like business, computer science, and criminal justice, and technical programs, including automotive technology, vocational nursing, and wildlife management. Southwest Texas also hosts career-building programs, including ones in real estate, K-9 handling, and nurse aiding.
Students at Northeast Iowa Community College can participate in associate degree programs in study areas like health sciences, human and public services, education, advanced manufacturing, mechanical technology, agricultural science, and animal science.
One of the school’s three campuses, the Peosta Campus hosts the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety, an agricultural training center with accreditation from some of the top national bodies in the field.
College of the Ouachitas is a small community college in Arkansas that provides a far-reaching curriculum to its almost 1400 enrolled students. The junior college consistently serves a low-income student majority, with up to 60% of its undergraduate receiving Pell grants.
This two-year college offers certificate and associate programs in different areas of academic, technical, medical, and law enforcement fields. The school also runs an adult education and a continuing education program.
At Chippewa Valley Technical College, students get to ending intimate learning experience thanks to its mix of small class sizes and the incorporation of online classes into the curriculum. Courses on offer include a massive portfolio that cuts across all the major disciplines.
The school also provides continuing education training and a broad range of professional development courses and seminars.
The beauty of the campus at Foothill College is enough to win any aspiring student over. The school facilities all feature a nod to Japanese culture and aesthetics, and you even get a bamboo garden and a meditation pavilion.
This junior college offers 107 certificate programs and 79 associate degree programs to its rich, culturally diverse student enrollment of around 18,000.
Moorpark College in California has a vast arsenal of programs students can choose from, including transfer majors to career-oriented certificate programs. Here, applicants can join any of the programs in 70 different disciplines that are on offer.
The school has a yearly enrollment of around 14,000 students, with 150 of those being international students from around the world.
With over 200 years of operation under its belt, Clarendon College is one of the oldest community colleges in the United States. This junior college is also one of the most renowned in the country. Consequently, its reputation and history attract students from around the country as well as a handful of international students.
Clarendon College runs 27 associate degree programs across the liberal arts, health, science, and career-building. The school also has a summer enrichment program on offer for high school students aged 5-15.
At Coconino Community College, students can enjoy a varied portfolio of associate degrees as well as opt for professional certificates in any of their LifeLong Learning programs that include courses in bouldering, beginning Japanese, and flying training.
Thanks to the junior college’s partnership with Northern Arizona University as well as 16 other 4-year colleges in the region, students here typically enjoy smooth transitions to bachelor’s degree programs at reputable institutions.
If you are in Kentucky, one of the best community colleges you can attend is the Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College. Here, students can participate in any of an exhaustive array of diploma and certificate programs across many disciplines. The fields of study available here even include peculiar offerings like surgical technology, radiography, funeral service, and pottery.
Furthermore, students here enjoy legal backing in a Kentucky state law that mandates the acceptance of their coursework and credits at any public four-year university in the state.
Garden City Community College is one of the top two-year colleges in Kansas, offering more than 30 associate transfer degree programs in fields like nursing and manufacturing technology. Here, interested applicants can also participate in a variety of career enhancement courses like sustainable energy, cybersecurity for business managers, or media strategies.
The junior college also partners with the Kansas Department of Commerce and the U.S. Small Business Administration to run a small business development center that offers training programs to small businesses in the local area.
Garden City Community College is renowned in Kansas for the high program completion rates of its students, with most of its programs averaging above 70% regularly.
Independence, Kansas, houses one of the best community colleges for residents of the region in Independence Community College. This dual-campus junior college serves cities and rural settlements in the surrounding area like Kansas City, Missouri, Joplin, Wichita, Tulsa, and Oklahoma.
At Independence, Community College students can participate in 22 different vocational certificate programs, including administrative office management, computer programming, theatre, and small business management. The junior college also hosts 46 associate degree programs in disciplines like management, liberal studies, theater, engineering technology, and nursing.
Students in Texas can enjoy a broad range of courses and associate programs at this college that sits about an hour outside of Houston. However, where Brazosport college truly shines is in its vocational and technical programs.
This junior college has secure connections with businesses in the community as well as several petrochemical companies in the region, allowing in to liaise with these organizations to provide students with excellent hands-on technical training.
Undergraduates at Brazosport College can earn an associate of applied science degree in 19 different areas.
Pierce College is a large junior college in Puyallup, Washington that serves the Pierce County college district out of its two campuses and three extended learning sites. Here, students can enter any of the 34 professional certificate programs and 34 associate degree programs on offer.
Some of the more popular study areas at Pierce College include criminal justice, early childhood education, pre-dental hygiene, and pre-nursing.
Furthermore, this two-year college stands out when it comes to diversity, with at least a third of its students identifying as ethnic minorities.
One of the best junior colleges for Iowa residents is Ellsworth Community College at Iowa Falls. The school has standing agreements with the University of Northern Iowa, Iowa State University, the University of Iowa, and many other local colleges that grant students of their programs access to smooth transitions to 4-year university programs.
Here, students can enter any of the college’s 55 associate and online programs that include ones in conservation technology, wildlife and forest management, physical therapy, and mortuary science.
The Pearl River Community College offers two-year associate degrees to inhabitants of the surrounding area in disciplines like truck driving, accounting, web development, and aerospace electronics.
Furthermore, Pearl River also provides convenient options like distance learning, part-time programs, and dual enrollment for high school students who want to earn college credits.
Pearl River Community College also has a pretty strong athletics program for a two-year college.
If you are in West Kentucky, one of the best junior colleges you should consider is the West Kentucky Community and Technical College, a sizable two-year college that serves ten different counties in and around Paducah.
Students here can earn associate degrees in everything from fire and rescue science, culinary arts, management technology to respiratory care. The school also houses a workforce solutions center that instructs local professionals and businesses in a variety of vocational programs.
At Rend Lake College, students can participate in the 100+ associate degree and professional certificates on offer in five different departments—applied science and technology, math and science, health and physical education, applied health, and liberal arts.
Popular programs at RLC include wireless communications technology, surveying technology, and early childhood education.
Itasca Community College offers associate programs in several disciplines as well as professional certificates, online programs, and diplomas to its 1,900 students. This junior college also provides a special needs office, computer labs, an academic resource center, and free tutoring to community members.
Furthermore, the college is one of the only two-year colleges in the country that has student housing on campus, making the school an excellent choice for anyone in the region.
Alexandria Technical & Community College serves the surrounding rural Alexandria with over 50 programs, including degree, associate degrees of arts, associate degrees of science, and associate of applied science degrees.
Here, programs on offer are career-oriented and in disciplines that are relevant to local inhabitants like farm and ranch management, nursing, hospitality administration, computer and voice networking, fashion management, and web design.
Alexandria Technical & Community College also has an associate of applied science in law enforcement that is extremely popular amongst locals.
The Colorado Mountain College is a massive community college that encompasses a network of eleven campuses spread out across Glenwood Springs and serving nine different counties.
The junior college sees a yearly enrollment of 24,000 students, entering both a wide variety of associate programs and four-year bachelor’s programs in sustainable studies and business administration.
The school also houses one of the most active Ski sectors in the country, and many of Colorado Mountain College’s graduates go on to work in Colorado’s skiing and other tourism-oriented industries.
South Dakota residents can enjoy some of the best career-building programs anywhere in the country at any of Mitchell Technical Institute’s two campus locations. Here, students can earn associate degrees of applied science as well as seven online certificate programs in a variety of disciplines.
Courses on offer stem from sectors like business and service industries, construction and manufacturing technologies, engineering technologies, agricultural and transportation technologies, and health sciences.
MTI also operates adult, industrial, and business training programs for members of the surrounding communities.
If you are in North Iowa, your best choice for nearby junior colleges is hands down the North Iowa Area Community College. Since it was founded in 1918, this school is the oldest public community college in the state and arguably one of the best too.
The school has a yearly enrollment of around 3700 students with 44% in vocational and career-focused programs, while the other 56% enter transfer programs. Plus, transfer students here get choice pickings, as North Iowa Area Community College has standing transfer agreements with more than 40 different 4-year degree institutions.
Residents of Northeast Alabama have one of the best junior colleges in the country on their turf in the Northeast Alabama Community College. At this school, students can bag associate degrees of science or arts in the over 130 disciplines on offer.
Alternatively, career-minded applicants can join several associates of applied science programs in courses like salon and spa management, emergency medical services, drafting and design technology, or industrial electronics.
Furthermore, this two-year college also provides continuing education—including GED and ESL, workplace education, and distance learning.
Kingsborough Community College is a satellite school run by the City University of New York that provides varied higher education to aspiring undergraduates as well as unique segments of the population like high school students and the elderly. Here, participants can earn associate degrees in several career education and liberal art programs.
This junior college features small, close-knit classes and the application of hands-on learning, group discussions, and video conferences. Thanks to its rigorous curriculum from the City University of New York, Kingsborough Community College consistently ranks as one of the top two-year colleges in the country.
Wyoming residents can enjoy the robust assortment of associate programs available at Western Wyoming Community College. Here, students can earn associate degrees of science, applied science, arts, fine arts, and nursing across a wide range of disciplines.
Here, advancing education is the in thing, as almost 70% of the school’s enrollment enter transfer programs. Furthermore, Western Wyoming Community College also offers a handful of full four-year bachelor’s degree programs courtesy of its partnership with the University of Wyoming in Laramie.
Also, the college runs an active international student program that includes host family support.
Enjoy a taste of Silicon Valley college life at DeAnza College, a junior that seats in the heart of the region and acts as a quasi cultural hub for the surrounding area. The college houses the famous Flint Center for the Performing, the California History Center, the Euphrat Museum of Art, and the Fujitsu Planetarium.
DeAnza College has 90+ university transfer and associate degrees on offer, with some of the most popular programs in broadcasting, animation, biological science, health and environmental science, computer graphics, and graphics design.
The school’s international studies program is also world-famous, attracting students from at least 50 different countries.
Are you looking to get into the military? Few junior colleges will offer you a better start than Marion Military Institute in Alabama. Since it was created in 1842, this two-year college is the oldest military junior college in the United States and also one of the most prestigious.
MMI’s varied and accomplished alumni include 200+ admirals and generals from the various branches of the U.S. military.
Cadets here can earn either an associate of arts or an associate of science in a variety of disciplines. Furthermore, participants also get to enjoy the several optional military training programs like the Army’s Early Commissioning Program that can elevate qualified students to Second Lieutenant status after just two years of a junior college education.
California residents can benefit from the broad assortments of programs available at Victor Valley College at Victorville. Here, students can take several online and traditional courses in disciplines like criminal justice, construction, welding, nursing, natural resources management, and agriculture.
The school also provides students with multiple vocational labs that facilitate hands-on learning in fields like agriculture, welding, construction, and engineering.
Furthermore, all of Victor Valley’s 13,000 enrolled students can enjoy the college’s dedicated center for institutional excellence that provides support and guidance for both participants of its academic and vocational programs.
If you are looking for a junior college that offers a reliable route into the military, few schools can do you better than Georgia Military college. Graduates of the school automatically gain officer status and receive a commiserate commission from the United States Army.
Furthermore, on finishing this program, you gain access to a 4-year degree program at North Georgia College and State University, which results in a promotion to 1st Lieutenant on completion.
Georgia Military College offers associate degrees of science, arts, and applied science in a wide range of disciplines, including communication, international affairs, logistics management, psychology, and criminal justice.
Northwest Iowa Community College offers some of the best introductory education programs to the surrounding rural area. This junior college offers 43 different programs, many of which are vocational-technical programs, and a few others in the sciences and arts.
Course available to students here includes photography, engineering design, paralegal training, natural resources management and conservation, and early childhood education.
Furthermore, Northwest Iowa Community College provides students with exciting prospects thanks to its 98% student placement rate average and a 100% employment rate for its specialist skill-building programs.
The school also has standing transfer agreements with several midwestern universities like the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, and South Dakota State University.
Southeast Community College is one of the larger junior colleges with more than 20 learning centers, and three dedicated campuses spread across 15 Lincoln counties. Furthermore, the school currently offers 300+ courses and 12 online study programs.
Here, students can earn associate degrees of applied science, arts, and science in a wide range of disciplines. The school also offers diplomas and certificate programs. Plus, thanks to its partnerships with state institutions, students can easily enjoy a stable path to further education.
One area where Southeast Community College maintains national prominence is in precision production fields like machine tool technology and computer-aided design drafting, an area where the school has produced more graduates than any other U.S. school.
Saint Paul College offers interested students a stable pathway into a robust education for their future. Here, students can join 39 associate degree programs or any of their 60+ diplomas and career certificate programs.
One of the most significant advantages of studying at this college is that you can enjoy may transfer benefits that you won’t get elsewhere. Saint Paul has standing transfer agreements with several universities and colleges that provide robust academic advancement options to its graduates.
Furthermore, Saint Paul College also hosts an exciting scholarship program that grants free tuition to qualified graduates of its programs.
Courses on offer here include culinary arts, business, American Sign Language transliterator and interpreter, computer graphics and programming, health information technology, and medical laboratory technology.
North Carolina residents are privy to one of the best community colleges in the country in Mayland Community College. Here, students can participate in any of the school’s 35 programs, while taking advantage of its partnerships with universities and colleges in the area for academic advancement.
Courses on offer here include subjects like arts, science, business, engineering, public service technologies, and other necessary skills. Besides, students can also take classes for college credit, skill development, or just personal enjoyment.
For people in Florida, one of the best junior colleges where you can test out that university life is Valencia College in Orlando. The school offers 12 pre-major alternatives, 30 different transfer plans, and an associate degree that comes with a guarantee of admission into all of the Floridan state universities.
Unsurprisingly, this college is quite popular with the populace as the school supports a large enrollment of over 70,000 students. Furthermore, Valencia College’s extensive program portfolio ranks it in the top percentile in the country for total programs offered. Valencia College also houses one of the most diverse student bases of any community college in the country.
Plus, a job placement rate of around 95% makes this school a no-brainer.
If you are interested in music and the arts, one of the best community colleges you can attend in the country is Snow College in Utah. The college plays host to some of the most renowned music camps in the country, including The Manhattan and the Juilliard Jazz Summer Workshop.
Furthermore, Snow College is one of the only three community colleges with full accreditation and membership of the National Association of Schools of Theater.
However, the school’s domain is not limited to the arts alone as you can find associate degrees and certificate programs here in courses like communication and new media, social and behavioral science, natural science and mathematics, and business and applied technology.
Snow College is also renowned for its athletic teams, the Badgers that consistently rank highly in regional and national competitions.
The New Mexico Military Institute is one of only six military junior colleges in the United States and a great place to get your first taste of higher education. NMMI runs a two-year junior college that prepares both students seeking transfers and those seeking army commission.
Here, undergraduates enjoy a comprehensive liberal arts curriculum that culminates in an associate of art degree. During their program, students can also niche down by concentrating in humanities, social sciences, and business, physical education, and recreation, or math and science.
The New Mexico Military Institute posts an impressive transfer success rate of 95%.
As many students attend community colleges to fast track their professional career, one of the most important factors to consider when choosing a school is graduate placement, and here, the North Central Kansas Technical College excels. With an average annual placement rate of more than 90%, NCK Tech consistently ranks as high as many 4-year universities.
The North Central Kansas Technical College offers many professional development certificates, degrees, certificate programs that prepare students for transfers or to kick start their careers. Here, you can sign up for up to 24 programs, including courses in nursing, agricultural technology, and automotive collision technology.
Low completion rates are a common problem across community colleges around the country. However, this widespread menace has nothing on Lake Area Technical Institute. With 76% of the school’s students going on to four-year college programs within three years, LATI posts the best student success rates of any community college in the country.
LATI hosts 29 study programs as well as 11 online degrees, the majority of which cover career-oriented courses like nursing, robotics, fabrication cosmetology, aviation maintenance, and Agri-Business.
Also, the school offers some of the lowest tuition rates anywhere to its 1,700+ enrolled students.
#3: East San Gabriel Valley Regional Occupational Program and Technical Center, West Covina, California
The East San Gabriel Valley Regional Occupational Program and Technical Center are one of the best schools in the country for students who want a technical education that can give them a quick start in the job market.
East San Gabriel focuses on providing students with hands-on instruction in career guidance and career preparation, as well as equipping them with technical skills that improve their employability at specific jobs.
Programs on offer here include courses in criminal justice, business management, management of green facilities, visual communication, health science, and child development. The center also partners with at least 300 business and support service agencies to help give its students comprehensive practical education.
At Walla Walla Community College, high school leavers can join a student base of more than 13,000 students at an upscale campus in the middle of a serene Washington city. The school acts as a cultural and educational hub for the surrounding region, providing students with an abundance of technical learning options.
Programs on offer here include courses in professional and technical education, extended learning, transitional studies, and programs with a focus on academic transfer education. Furthermore, the school also hosts running start programs that allow high school seniors and juniors to sign up for courses at the college.
Since it was established in 1909, Santa Barbara City College is up there amongst the oldest community colleges in the country, and coincidentally, it is also one of the most prominent. At SBCC, students can participate in any of its 80+ degrees and over 50 certificate programs while enjoying stunning views of the ocean from many points on campus.
Furthermore, the junior college has a sizable student enrollment of around 20,000 undergraduates, with about 40% of those enrolled in full-time programs. Plus, each student gets access to a variety of success-oriented programs like the college’s Express–to–Success and Transfer Achievement Programs.
Consequently, here, you get one of the more successful community colleges with almost 60% of its full-time students transferring to full-time bachelor’s programs and over half of those completed them.