Best Community Colleges in the United States
Everything you need to know about community colleges is in the name. From the start, they were established to serve their communities.
And some of them have been doing this at a high level for a long time, bringing affordable education to the people who need it the most.
These are the best community colleges in the United States.
30. Holyoke Community College
Location: Holyoke, Massachusetts
President/chancellor: Christina Royal
Bottom line: The first community college established in Massachusetts is still thriving. Of the 15 community colleges in the state, Holyoke has the highest percentage of graduates with either an associate's degree or a trade certification.
The campus is directly connected to the Holyoke Water Works plant and the western part of the campus is all forest, which is a good place for the school's cutting-edge cannabis education program.
29. De Anza College
Location: Cupertino, California
President/chancellor: Lloyd A. Holmes
Bottom line: De Anza College offers a course of study called the Puente Project. Puente means "bridge" in Spanish, and the scope of the Puente Project is to help students from underserved communities make the leap from two-year to four-year schools.
It's a successful program. Sixty-one percent of Puente students transfer within six years compared to 54 percent of non-Puente students at De Anza and 39 percent statewide in California.
The Flint Center for the Performing Arts, which closed in 2019, has a large chunk of history attached to it as well. It's where Steve Jobs introduced the Apple Macintosh in 1988 and the iMac in 1988.
28. Western Piedmont Community College
Location: Morganton, North Carolina
Enrollment: 7,000 (est.)
President/chancellor: Dr. Joel D. Welch
Bottom line: One of the great things about community colleges is the indispensable way in which they serve their communities. Western Piedmont Community College has been a perfect example of this in North Carolina since the early 1960s.
WPCC hasn't just sat on its laurels, either. More recently, they've begun to offer programs in virtual reality simulation and game development.
One notable link to American history on the WPCC campus is the library, which is named after former U.S. Senator Sam J. Ervin, who chaired the Watergate hearings in 1973.
27. Cloud County Community College
Location: Concordia, Kansas
President/chancellor: Amber Knoettgen
Bottom line: It's saying something that Concordia, Kansas, where Cloud County Community College is located, is considered one of the more remote parts of the state.
Once you get past that, it's easy to see why CCCC continually shows up on the "best of" lists for community colleges across the U.S. Its campus is designed with "pod" buildings that blend seamlessly into the landscape of rolling hills.
They're also great at sports, with four NJCAA national championships in four different sports in the last 20 years.
26. Community College of Beaver County
Location: Monaca, Pennsylvania
President/chancellor: Dr. Roger Davis
Bottom line: While the Community College of Beaver County serves 3,600 full-time students, it also serves another 3,200 through non-credit programs — an amazing reach for a school in an area that size.
CCBC is mostly known for the Golden Dome, a funky, geodesic facility that houses the school's athletic programs and also hosts a myriad of community events. It also has an acclaimed aviation program that's housed in a building off-campus in Beaver County.
25. County College of Morris
Location: Randolph, New Jersey
President/chancellor: Dr. Anthony J. Iacono
Bottom line: It's not hard to explain why County College of Morris has been so successful over the years — amazing leadership.
Since its opening in 1968, the school has only had three presidents. Dr. Sherman H. Masten, who the library is named after, was the president from the school's opening through 1986. Then, Dr. Edward J. Yaw took over and was the president until he retired in 1986, and Dr. Anthony J. Iacono was hired.
That's the kind of consistency that builds trust in a local community, where any community college draws most of its students.
24. Mayland Community College
Location: Spruce Pine, North Carolina
President/chancellor: Dr. John C. Boyd
Bottom line: How did a community college located in Spruce Pine, North Carolina, end up named Mayland? Well it's an amalgamation of the names of the three counties that MCC draws most of its students from — Mitchell, Avery and Yancey.
We've already talked about how much we appreciate community colleges that take pains to serve their community, and MCC does that really well, with specialized education and certification programs that serve industries in the area.
23. Valencia College
Location: Orlando, Florida
President/chancellor: Sanford Shugart
Bottom line: Blink once, blink twice. That is actually the enrollment of Valencia College, which reportedly has the largest enrollment and transfer rate of any community college in the United States.
According to Valencia, since incorporating a streamlined transfer program with the University of Central Florida in 2006, 45,000 students have gone from Valencia to UCF.
That underscores what the most important thing should be for any community college — turning students at two-year colleges into students at four-year colleges. Bravo.
22. Bossier Parish Community College
Location: Bossier City, Louisiana
President/chancellor: Dr. Rick Bateman
Bottom line: Bossier Parish Community College is something great that truly came from humble beginnings. When the school first opened its doors in 1967, it had just five full-time faculty and 101 students.
Within its first decade, BPCC made the deft move of adding non-academic training programs, most notably becoming home to the Northwest Louisiana Police Training Academy, which is now known as the Criminal Justice Institute.
In 2004, BPCC got its biggest upgrade with a new $55 million campus.
21. Hutchinson Community College
Location: Hutchinson, Kansas
President/chancellor: Carter File
Bottom line: Hutchinson Community College does a great job of offering a college experience that actually prepares its students for what it's going to be like at a four-year school. The school has extensive dorms, a well-kept campus, and (not to be the shallow one of the bunch) top-notch athletic facilities and programs.
To that last point, the Blue Dragons are very, very good at sports and have won NJCTAA Division I national championships in both men's basketball and football in the last five years. The school also hosts the NJCAA Division I National Tournament.
Oh, and did we mention they're located next door to the Cosmosphere?
20. Chabot College
Location: Hayward, California
President/chancellor: Dr. Susan Sperling
Bottom line: Chabot College serves one of the most populated areas in the United States — the East Bay area, which includes the suburbs south of Oakland.
Chabot's enrollment of almost 15,000 students reflects the responsibility it has to the community because any way you slice it, that's a massive enrollment.
What Chabot does really well and what's really unique about the school are the broadcasting programs for both radio/internet and television.
19. Bunker Hill Community College
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
President/chancellor: Pam Eddinger
Bottom line: Bunker Hill Community College is the largest community college in Massachusetts and will always have a special place in our hearts because of the role it played in one of the greatest movies of all time. It's the school where Robin Williams teaches in "Good Will Hunting" and where he conducts therapy sessions with the movie's title character, played by Matt Damon.
Movie stuff aside, Bunker Hill also stands out because of how it welcomes international students with open arms. You can count almost 1,000 enrolled there full-time in any given academic year.
18. Montgomery College
Location: Rockville, Maryland
President/chancellor: Dr. Charlene Mickens Dukes (interim)
Bottom line: Montgomery College is one of the biggest schools in the country by enrollment — for four-year or two-year colleges. That can be attributed to serving a county adjacent to Washington, D.C., with a population that just recently soared past 1 million.
Originally founded as the Bliss Electrical School in 1893, Montgomery College dug its heels in as an essential part of Maryland by teaming with the U.S. military in World War I and World War II for military-specific electronic engineering programs.
In the modern era, the school has been home to some pretty notable alumni, including singer Tori Amos, director Eduardo Sanchez ("The Blair Witch Project") and former soldier/activist/whistleblower Chelsea Manning.
17. Western Kentucky Community and Technical College
Location: Paducah, Kentucky
President/chancellor: Dr. Anton Reece
Bottom line: Originally founded as a teacher training school for Black students in 1918, Paducah Junior College and West Kentucky Tech combined in 1998 to form West Kentucky Community and Technical College.
WKCTC is notable for having a large percentage of female students. They have been consistently almost two-thirds of the enrollment for some time, due in large part to a focus on STEM training and programs for women.
16. Eastern Maine Community College
Location: Bangor, Maine
President/chancellor: Dr. Lisa Larson
Bottom line: Even with a relatively low enrollment compared to other community colleges, Eastern Maine Community College remains a beacon for students in the Bangor, Maine, area because of its longstanding commitment to shaping academics around what the community needs.
EMCC doesn't get the credit it deserves for serving its area's academic needs because it's right down the road (just 16 miles) from the University of Maine's main campus in Orono. EMCC isn't even listed among the town's "educational institutions" on the Bangor, Maine, Wikipedia page.
15. Saint Paul College
Location: Saint Paul, Minnesota
President/chancellor: Devinder Malhotra
Bottom line: With a student enrollment of almost 15,000, Saint Paul College has served the largely populated Minneapolis/St. Paul community for over 100 years.
The entire school was located in just one 500,000-square-foot building until 2017, when the Saint Paul College Health and Science Alliance Center opened with a focus specifically on STEM programs.
In the last few years, the faculty at SPC showed some serious backbone when they approached the Higher Learning Division about reports of "fear and intimidation" on behalf of President Rassoul Dastmozd that ultimately led to Dastmozd's resignation in 2019.
14. Mitchell Community College
Location: Statesville, North Carolina
President/chancellor: Dr. James T. Brewer
Bottom line: If we are going by direct predecessors (which we're not), Mitchell Community College likely would be the oldest school on this list since it opened in its first form as Concord Female College in 1856.
MCC is notable for pushing the envelope academically, especially when it comes to the sciences. In 2009, MCC became the first community college accepted to NASA's University Student Launch Initiative and repeated the feat in 2010.
MCC's place in sports culture is also cemented. It's where legendary NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. earned his degree in automotive technology.
13. Los Angeles City College
Location: Los Angeles, California
President/chancellor: Dr. Mary Gallagher
Bottom line: Known for its diverse student population, Los Angeles City College's campus is actually the original campus for UCLA, which moved to its current location in 1929 and left its former East Hollywood location to LACC.
One amazing thing about LACC is how affordable it has remained to in-state students, with tuition and fees sitting at around $1,500 per semester.
We're also fairly certain no community college can come close to matching LACC's who's who of alumni. They include Oscar-winners Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin.
12. Snow College
Location: Ephraim, Utah
President/chancellor: Brad Cook
Bottom line: Originally owned by the Mormon Church, Snow Junior College was transferred to the state of Utah in the early 1920s and changed its name to Snow College within one year. That's what we call good branding.
Snow College is pretty well known for its elite athletics programs, specifically football, which won the 1985 NJCAA national championship, and the program has routinely pumped out Division I players over the decades.
Snow also has an elite theatre arts program that is associated with the Juilliard Drama Division, puts up five large-scale productions each year and plays home to a summer program featuring Juilliard professors.
11. Lake Area Technical Institute
Location: Watertown, South Dakota
President/chancellor: Col. Michael Cartney (USAF, ret.)
Bottom line: Perhaps nowhere in the country do community colleges serve a better purpose than in the Midwest, and Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown, South Dakota, is a great example of this.
In an area where blue-collar jobs are in abundance, Lake Area Tech became the first certified tech school in South Dakota (there are now four of them) with a major focus on diesel, energy and welding. The college also includes a new Automotive and Health Science Facility, Student Center and Agriculture facility.
Why do they keep adding buildings? To keep up with ever-expanding student enrollment. The latest addition was the Prairie Lakes Healthcare Center of Learning in the fall of 2020.
10. New Mexico Military Institute
Location: Roswell, New Mexico
President/chancellor: Maj. General Jerry Grizzle (US Army, ret.)
Bottom line: New Mexico Military Institute is the only state-supported military college in the western half of the United States — a unique distinction in academia.
About 100 NMMI cadets enter one of the five U.S. service academies every year, which is a major testament to the academic standards imposed on the cadets at NMMI, which usually sees its enrollment hover around 1,000.
The most famous of those cadets to make his way to a service academy was quarterback Roger Staubach, who won a Heisman Trophy while playing for the Naval Academy, won two Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
9. Eastern Arizona College
Location: Thatcher, Arizona
President/chancellor: Todd Haynie
Bottom line: Eastern Arizona College isn't just the oldest community college in Arizona. It's one of the oldest community colleges in the United States.
Founded in 1888 as a one-room schoolhouse, EAC continued to expand until it came to serve as the primary community college for three counties. In 2012, it took another huge leap forward and became a satellite campus for Arizona State University.
The only community college in Arizona with a marching band, EAC has a distinguished list of alumni, including Academy Award nominee Nick Nolte, NFL Pro Bowler Mark Gastineau and legendary college basketball coach Nolan Richardson.
8. Lamar Institute of Technology
Location: Beaumont, Texas
Enrollment: 8,000 (est.)
President/chancellor: Lonnie L. Howard
Bottom line: Few community colleges have direct ties to a four-year college like Lamar Institute of Technology, which was the vocational arm of Lamar University until 1995. That's when it splintered off into its own two-year college as Lamar University was absorbed into the Texas State University System.
Lamar Tech has been a huge boon to the local area because of a diverse range of programs in health-related fields — most notably accredited programs in dental hygiene, respiratory therapy, sonography and radiology.
7. Roxbury Community College
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
President/chancellor: Dr. Valerie Roberson
Bottom line: Few community colleges in the U.S. serve as diverse a student population as Roxbury Community College. RCC is located in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston, and 80 percent of its students identify as Black, Latino or two or more races. And almost all the students are from Boston.
One of the great things about RCC is its wide array of transfer agreements with four-year colleges such as Northeastern University, Emerson College, Lesley University and Curry College, among others.
6. College of Marin
Location: Kentfield, California
President/chancellor: Dr. David Wain Coon
Bottom line: Community colleges always tend to be tied to the communities they serve, but for the College of Marin, that relationship is even more unique and important because the community funds the school itself via local property taxes. In most parts of California, the community colleges are funded out of the state budget.
What the College of Marin really excels at is theatre and the performing arts. They have the highest acceptance rate to Juilliard of any two-year institution in the country. One of those students that got accepted? None other than Academy Award winner Robin Williams.
5. Anne Arundel Community College
Location: Arnold, Maryland
Enrollment: 8,000 (est.)
President/chancellor: Dr. Dawn Lindsay
Bottom line: Anne Arundel Community College ranked at the top of Academic Influence's community college rankings in 2021 thanks in no small part to its diverse offerings of degree programs. AACC is no stranger to those types of honors. It was named the Community College of the Year by the National Business Alliance in 2000.
AACC has produced many notable Maryland politicians, but its most famous student, ever, has to be former NSA and CIA contractor Edward Snowden, who became perhaps the most famous whistleblower of all time in 2013.
4. Butler Community College
Location: El Dorado, Kansas
President/chancellor: Kimberly Krull
Bottom line: Look past the constant, confusing name changes, and it's not hard to see why Butler Community College has been such an inspiration to the community of El Dorado and surrounding areas for decades.
But first, that name. Over the last 50 years, it's gone from Butler County Junior College to Butler County Community Junior College to Butler County Community College before settling on Butler Community College. Which makes little sense because El Dorado is actually located in Butler County.
That's not just nitpicking because branding is important, but BCC (or whatever it calls itself) is actually a pretty cool place to be thanks in no small part to a welcoming campus environment, one of the best athletic junior college athletic programs in the nation, and the longtime leadership of former President Jackie Vietti, who led the school from 1995 to 2012.
3. Walla Walla Community College
Location: Walla Walla, Washington
Enrollment: 9,000 (est.)
President/chancellor: Chad Emerson Hickox
Bottom line: You can't exist in the Pacific Northwest in an educational setting and not be aware of Walla Walla Community College. The school has a whopping (for that section of the U.S.) enrollment of around 9,000 students and consistently filters students out to the myriad of four-year colleges in Washington and neighboring states.
On top of that, WWCC helped save the town of Walla Walla and the surrounding area during an economic downturn in the late 1990s. The school added an enological and viticulture program that spawned the massive, wine-industrial complex in the area and now sports over 175 separate wine vineyards.
2. Santa Barbara City College
Location: Santa Barbara, California
President/chancellor: Dr. Helen Benjamin
Bottom line: We'd be hard-pressed to think of a more perfect location to spend two years of community college than Santa Barbara City College, nestled perfectly between the Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean.
SBCC has held up its end academically as well, winning the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence in 2013. Its forward-thinking School of Media Arts was founded in 2001 with a focus on film studies, film production, photography, computer and multimedia arts.
All of that pairs perfectly with a celebrated music program that has seen, among others, David Crosby and Katy Perry come through its doors.
1. Northwest Florida State College
Location: Niceville, Florida
President/chancellor: Dr. Devin Stephenson
Bottom line: If it's possible to fall in love with a place, and that place is going to be a community college, it might as well be Northwest Florida State College. The campus sits on a luscious stretch of bayous, perched directly above and flowing into the Gulf of Mexico and its white-sand beaches just minutes away.
Northwest Florida has done its part to keep up the academic side of things since opening as Okaloosa-Walton Junior College in the early 1960s. It has added programs in the technical arts and created an elite aviation extension in 2019.
The $25 million Mattie Kelly Arts Center is also elite and includes a main theater with 1,650 seats.