10 community colleges in Virginia

State of Virginia welcome sign

Many historical visionaries have called Virginia home — including the likes of the great Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson was an outspoken advocate of lifelong learning, and the commonwealth's higher education system, including his own University of Virginia, is a testament to his legacy.

According to the Lumina Foundation, Virginia ranked 11th in the nation in 2010 for overall educational attainment, meaning the commonwealth produces far more college grads than most states. Many of those graduates launch their educations in one of the commonwealth's 23 community colleges, or might attend online colleges in Virginia. No two institutions are alike, but all strive to provide students with the know-how to succeed in an ever-evolving job market. Some schools have even earned national recognition for their efforts. It would be difficult to rank the best community colleges in Virginia, but the following (listed alphabetically) would certainly be contenders.

10 noteworthy community colleges in Virginia

  • Dabney S. Lancaster Community College (Clifton Forge): Dabney S. Lancaster Community College has the distinction of being one just three community colleges in Virginia eligible for the Aspen Institute's 2015 Aspen Award for Community College Excellence. DSLCC says its goal is to be academically and geographically accessible, and if its large, diverse course catalog and flexible programs (including online options) are any indication, it is succeeding. More proof: CollegeMeasures.org reports DSLCC had the second-highest combined graduation and transfer rate in the commonwealth in 2013. DSLCC is an ideal fit for students who prefer a more intimate learning experience: Its student-to-faculty ratio hovers around 10 to one.

  • Rappahannock Community College (Glenns, Warsaw): Rappahannock Community College primarily serves Virginia’s Middle Peninsula and the Northern Neck, but its hefty distance learning program, which features a number of 100 percent Web-based associate degrees, certificates and career studies certificates, extends its reach much further. RCC students have access to a number of student services and programs, including academic and career counseling, internship coordination, financial aid and veterans support; even the library offers home delivery and 24/7 research support. Student activities run the gamut from student ambassadorships and Greek life to gaming tournaments.

  • Blue Ridge Community College (Weyers Cave): Blue Ridge Community College is situated in the Shenandoah Valley, not far from the Shenandoah National Park, making it a solid candidate for prospective students with adventurous streaks. Students can earn associate degrees, diplomas, certificates and career studies certificates in dozens of disciplines, including less traditional fields like high tech crime investigation, funeral services and mechatronics. BRCC’s participation in the Northern Virginia Community College's Extended Learning Institute means students can enroll in online courses through a number of member institutions, expanding their learning options considerably. The school serves more than 6,000 students each year across through campuses and centers in Weyers Cave, Harrison and Fisherville.

  • John Tyler Community College (Chester and Midlothian): John Tyler Community College has two locations just outside the capital city of Richmond. Nearly 14,000 students attended JTCC during the 2013-14 academic year, making it one of the top five community colleges in Virginia. Students can pursue associate degrees and certificates in more than 50 academic programs, including its popular nursing program, which operates from the institution's Nursing Education Center inside the Johnston-Willis Campus of CJW Medical Center. JTCC's Student Success Centers connect students with key academic and career support services while a myriad of special interest, academic and professional club promote community.

  • Lord Fairfax Community College (Middletown): Lord Fairfax Community College says its No. 1 goal is to see its students succeed, and it has the accolades to prove its success. CollegeMeasures reports LFCC's combined graduation and transfer rate is one of the highest Virginia. A 2010 national community college ratings report from CNN Money placed LFCC third in the state, and a 2012 report from the Center of Digital education named it the most tech-savvy midsize community college in the nation. LFCC offers more than 75 associate degree and certificate programs, plus dozens of partnerships with colleges and universities that can simplify the process of transferring to a senior institution. Some of these partnerships even allow LFCC students to complete bachelor's, master's and even doctoral degrees on-site.

  • New River Community College (Dublin): New River Community College was among the three Virginia community colleges eligible for the prestigious Aspen Award for Community College Excellence in 2015, and according to CollegeMeasures, it sports one of the Commonwealth's highest combined graduate and transfer rates. NRCC's 100-acre campus in the New River Valley places it within skipping distance of Virginia Tech and Radford University, but its unique online learning partnership with Old Dominion University means students need not move to earn bachelor's, master's and even doctoral degrees. VCCS reports more than 7,000 attended NRCC during the 2013-14 academic year. These students enrolled in more than 40 associate degree and certificate programs in a multitude of disciplines.

  • Northern Virginia Community College (Washington, D.C., Metro): Looking for practical education near the nation's capital? Northern Virginia Community College, or NOVA, is not just the largest community college in Virginia — it is second-largest community college in the United States. Perhaps what really sets NOVA apart from other institutions, however, is its transfer network. Notable Virginia colleges — such as George Mason University, University of Virginia and Virginia Tech — recruit from NOVA, as do several prominent DC-area schools, like Georgetown and George Washington University. NOVA offers more than 160 academic programs, and, according to CollegeMeasures, its 2013 first-year retention rate was second highest in the state.

  • Germanna Community College (Fredericksburg, Locust Grove): Germanna Community College serves more than 10,000 students each year across several campuses and learning centers, though its main campus in Fredericksburg places students within 50 miles of Washington D.C.  GCC also happens to have one of the top three first-year retention rates in the commonwealth, as reported by CollegeMeasures.org. Students can pursue certificates and associate degrees in areas like the arts and sciences, professional and technical studies, and nursing and health technologies. Other helpful features and services include a myriad of online courses, a scholars program, and an Experiential Learning Center that links students with hands-on training through regional internships.

  • Tidewater Community College (Norfolk): With campuses throughout the Chesapeake Bay Region — including Norfolk, Portsmouth and Virginia Beach — Tidewater Community College offers an education with a view. This coastal locale means TCC students can take advantage of the perks of Atlantic living, but it also places the school near the largest navy base in the world. According to its website, about a third of TCC's nearly 45,000 students are active military, veterans or members of military families. Not surprisingly, TCC was awarded the Military Advanced Education's coveted "military-friendly" designation in 2013. Other TCC claims to fame include serving the second-largest undergraduate student body in the Virginia and being the 11th-largest community college in the nation. In 2013, TCC's innovative textbook-free business program was a finalist for the Community College Futures Assembly's national Bellwether Award.

  • Virginia Western Community College (Roanoke): As one of only three community colleges in Virginia eligible for the 2015 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, Virginia Western Community College is known for its commitment to its students. It is also known for its size: VCCS reports VWCC served nearly 13,000 students on its 70-acre campus in Southwest Roanoke during the 2013-14 academic year. The school offers associates degrees and certificates in more than 65 academic programs, plus a number of professional development courses. VWCC expanded its already hefty selection of online classes by joining the Northern Virginia Community College's Extended Learning Institute, which offers students access to dozens of shared distance learning courses.



1. "Quotations on Education," Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia, http://www.monticello.org/site/jefferson/quotations-education
2. "VCCS Annual Enrollment: 2013-2014," Virginia Community College System, http://www.vccs.edu/about/where-we-are/impact/vccs-annual-enrollment/
3. "2015 Eligible Community Colleges," College Excellence Program, The Aspen Institute, http://www.aspeninstitute.org/policy-work/college-excellence/2015-eligible-community-colleges
4. "Virginia Public Colleges," CollegeMeasures.org, 2013, http://collegemeasures.org/2-year_colleges/state/VA/compare-colleges/strategic-measures/
5. "How Does Your Community College Stack Up?" CNN Money, http://money.cnn.com/pf/college/community-colleges/
6. "Top Tech Community Colleges of 2012," Center for Digital Education, 18 October 2012, http://www.centerdigitaled.com/news/Top-Tech-Community-Colleges-of-2012.html
7. Community College Rankings 2010, Washington Monthly, http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/college_guide/rankings_2010/community_colleges.php
8. "John Champaign Memorial Award for for Outstanding Developmental Education Program," National Association for Developmental Education, http://www.nade.net/site/documents/policy_handbook/PPH%20Final%201-27-12/Appendix%20Y7%202012%20PPH.pdf
9. Visit Charlottesville, http://www.visitcharlottesville.org/
10. 2011 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, Aspen Institute, http://www.aspeninstitute.org/policy-work/aspen-prize/2011Prize