The 20 Best Community Colleges in America 2024

woman in yellow jacket holding books
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

As the costs of university education continue skyrocketing in the US, community colleges are offering a financially savvy alternative for millions of students every year. These highly accessible two-year institutions serve as an important launching pad for those seeking to complete general education prerequisites, earn industry-recognized certifications, or seamlessly transfer credits towards bachelor’s degrees.

While open-access and affordability remain their core strengths, many top community colleges now offer learning experiences and career outcomes on par with well-funded universities. Through innovative programs, strong industry partnerships and outstanding transfer agreements, they prepare graduates to hit the ground running in today’s rapidly evolving job market.

In this article, we analyze the top 20 community colleges that exemplify excellence through high standards of academic quality, student support services, and real-world learning opportunities. Our ranking methodology examines key criteria like graduation rates, employment outcomes, program offerings, cost of attendance and student satisfaction levels. The colleges featured here demonstrate how the community college system continues expanding opportunities for social mobility through inclusive and relevant higher education.

Methodology

To compile this list of the 20 best community colleges, I looked at institutional data from IPEDS, state higher education dashboards and college rating systems. Some of the key factors considered include:

  • Graduation & Transfer Rates
  • Graduate Employment & Salary Outcomes
  • Academic & Career Program Quality
  • Cost & Financial Aid
  • Student Reviews & Ratings

The 20 Best Community Colleges in America 2023

#1: Miami Dade College – Miami, FL

With over 165,000 students annually, MDC is the largest…(details as mentioned before)

#2: Tarrant County College – Fort Worth, TX

Ranked one of the top 3 large community colleges, TCC has 7 campuses serving around 60,000 credit students annually. Tuition is just $2,700 per year. Transfer rates above 70% to universities like UT-Arlington and Texas Christian University. Diverse array of 100+ associate degree and certificate options across top fields of study.

#3: San Jacinto College – Pasadena, TX

With 3 campuses and a central location near Houston, SJC provides affordable quality education to over 45,000 students annually. Known for its creative culinary, maritime and drone technology programs. Low annual costs of around $3,400 allow many low-income students to greatly reduce debts compared to 4-year schools. 88% graduates are employed or in further education within a year.

#4: Rio Hondo College – Whittier, CA

Conveniently located near L.A., Rio Hondo serves over 20,000 credit students per year. Tuition at only $1,110 a year is among the lowest in California. Seamless transfer pathways in place to top CSUs and UCs through collaborative programs. Top-rated science, engineering and allied health training prepares students for high-paying careers.

#5: Tulsa Community College – Tulsa, OK

With annual enrollment of over 31,000 credit students, TCC provides career training, university transfer and lifelong learning opportunities to Tulsa residents. Innovative health sciences center prepares nurses and respiratory therapists. Workforce development and continuing education programs reskill thousands. Annual costs average just $4,000 and close to 100% receive financial aid or scholarships.

#6: Gateway Technical College – Kenosha, WI

As the ninth largest community college in the nation, Gateway serves over 35,000 students annually across its campuses straddling Wisconsin-Illinois border. Known for hands-on career training in top programs like industrial maintenance, welding and mechatronics. Pathways also exist to complete bachelor’s in fields of study at nearby UW-Parkside.Tuition costs around $4,150 per year.

#7: Parkland College – Champaign, IL

Located near the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Parkland is considered one of the top transfer schools nationally. About 80% of credits easily transfer towards various bachelor’s programs. Low annual costs averaging $3,300 allow thousands of residents to get quality education at fractional price of a university. Over 25 career and university transfer associate degree options.

#8: Mesa Community College – Mesa, AZ

With annual enrollment of over 22,000 students across its three campuses in the Phoenix region, MCC is one of the largest and most respected community colleges. Wide array of over 70 programs for university transfer and career preparation. Strong community and industry partnerships enable seamless transfer, internships and job placements. Average tuition and fees of under $2,000.

#9: Monroe Community College – Rochester, NY

Part of the State University of New York system, MCC provides affordable quality education to over 16,000 matriculated credit students annually. Offers 38 associate degrees and certificates with focus on STEM, healthcare and business training. Over 80% of credits easily transfer to baccalaureate programs within SUNY universities. Low resident tuition at $170 per credit hour.

#10: Indian River State College – Fort Pierce, FL

Consistently ranked among top 10 large community colleges, IRSC serves over 25,000 credit students across 4 campuses in the Treasure Coast region. Known for its marine and coastal studies programs in partnerships with Smithsonian Environmental Research Center and NOAA. Offers over 83 associate degree and certificate options including top transfer pathways to Florida universities, averaging $104 per credit hour.

#11: Houston Community College – Houston, TX

As one of the largest single community college systems in the nation, HCC has nearly 80,000 students across its multiple campuses in the Greater Houston area. Known for its innovative manufacturing and petrochemical technology training. Affordable annual costs averaging $3,500 enable accessibility to career and academic pathways for local residents.

#12: Pima Community College – Tucson, AZ

Pima serves over 50,000 credit and non-credit students annually across its 4 campuses near Tucson. Specialized career programs in fields such as fire science, sonography and culinary arts. Near perfect transfer rates to University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University. Annual tuition of under $2,000.

#13: Los Angeles Valley College – Valley Glen, CA

As one of the largest colleges within the Los Angeles Community College District, LAVC serves over 20,000 students each year through its career training and transfer programs. Known for its film, animation and healthcare programs. Very affordable yearly in-state tuition of $1,220 and close proximity to popular Cal State and UC schools.

#14: Mount Wachusett Community College – Gardner, MA

MWCC serves north central MA communities through its campuses in Gardner and Devens. Popular programs include nursing, early childhood education and engineering science. Over 95% of credits transfer towards bachelor’s at nearby state universities keeping costs low. Yearly resident tuition $4,000 including fees.

#15: Valencia College – Orlando, FL

As one of the largest multi-campus colleges in Florida, Valencia enrolls over 70,000 students annually across its 5 campuses. Known for its internationally-ranked aeronautical and engineering technology training. Over 20 university transfer majors to UCF, UF and FSU. Annual tuition $2,000 for in-state students.

#16: Brookdale Community College – Lincroft, NJ

BCC is one of the largest community colleges on the East Coast serving over 15,000 credit students annually across 3 campuses. Cutting edge programs in cybersecurity, game design, green building and more. 98% of credits transfer to 4-year schools keeping pathways open. $175 per credit in-state tuition.

#17: Columbus State Community College – Columbus, OH

Central Ohio’s largest community college serving nearly 30,000 students each year through online and campus programs. Renowned for nursing, paralegal andculinary training. Over 30 university transfer pathways to flagship Ohio State University. Low annual tuition averaging $3,600.

#18: Colorado Mountain College – Glenwood Springs, CO

CMC operates across multiple mountain communities serving nearly 10,000 students annually. Offers hands-on career training and outdoor leadership programs unique to its locale. Affordable resident tuition starting from $94 per credit hour. Has transfer agreements to numerous Colorado universities.

#19: Bergen Community College – Paramus, NJ

BCC provides quality higher education to over 15,000 students in New Jersey’s largest county. Known for STEM programs and medical lab technician certification. Very low resident tuition of $140 per credit and close proximity to Rutgers, NJIT and Montclair State University campuses.

#20: Broward College – Fort Lauderdale, FL

Serving over 65,000 students annually across its 5 campuses in Broward county. Broward is Florida’s largest community college known for teaching hospitality, culinary arts and aviation maintenance. Average annual costs around $3,000 provide affordable pathways for local residents to universities, jobs and careers.

FAQs about Community Colleges

I’ve included the FAQs section from the previous article here:

Q. What are the benefits of attending a community college?

Some of the key benefits include affordable tuition costs which are roughly a third of public university costs on average. Smaller class sizes provide personalized attention. Many offer open enrollment with no prerequisites allowing students to explore interests. Flexible schedule and locations convenient for working adults. Strong transfer pathways to four-year universities exist.

Conclusion

Community colleges will remain the backbone of America’s higher education system by providing accessible, affordable and quality learning opportunities across diverse fields of study. The top 20 colleges highlighted here set the gold standard through innovative programs, affordable costs, excellent transfer rates and career outcomes for hundreds of thousands of students annually. With demand poised to rise further, community colleges are key to widening college participation and social mobility for all.

Leave a Reply
You May Also Like