dcsimg

10 Top Community Colleges in Maryland

Maryland has long prioritized education within its borders, a trend that earned it the No. 1 spot nationally on Education Week's 2013 Quality Counts assessment — for the fifth straight year. Although the report focused on the state's public education system, research suggests that the quality instruction and student-friendly policies that distinguish the state's K-12 schools carry over to colleges in Maryland, too. What makes these schools so special? Some have earned a reputation nationally for excellence; others offer especially unique program options. The proximity many share to mega-metros such as Washington, D.C., New York and Philadelphia surely doesn't hurt, either. Need further proof? Read about these 10 notable Maryland community colleges (listed alphabetically).

Allegany College of Maryland (Cumberland)

Allegany College of Maryland's main campus is situated in the mountains of Allegany County, but branch locations extend its reach well into Pennsylvania's Bedford and Somerset counties. It is also one of only two community colleges in Maryland to offer on-campus housing, providing students with the opportunity to experience the big campus lifestyle usually reserved for those attending four-year campuses. As of 2014, ACM offers more than 50 associate degrees and nearly 25 certificates, plus more than 20 letters of recognition. Both students and the community at large praise the quality of these programs: According to ACM's official website, 100 percent of area employers report being "likely" or "very likely" to hire ACM grads, and 94 percent of students rate their academic experiences as "good" or "very good."

Anne Arundel Community College (Arnold)

Anne Arundel Community College prides itself as one of the most student-oriented community colleges in Maryland — and it has the accolades to prove it. According to College Measures, AACC boasted the highest combined graduation and transfer rate in the state in 2013. Other key highlights: Once earning the title of "Community College of the Year" from National Business Alliance, being the first higher education institution in the state to earn a rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, and even being named a "Great College to Work For" for two straight years by The Chronicle of Higher Education. What makes AACC unique? Quality instruction and an institution-wide commitment to quality education is a start, though its AACC University Consortium program — which allows students to earn four-year degrees from partner universities without ever leaving campus — deserves a nod, too.

Chesapeake College (Wye Mills)

Chesapeake College defines itself as a truly small institution (it served just over 1,500 students total in 2013), but its campus — and its programs — are decidedly distinct. Nestled in the tiny town of Wye Mills near a finger of the Chesapeake, CC's 170-acre main campus features a 50-watt wind turbine, the Canglang Pavilion (a gift from the people of Suzhou and constructed by Chinese artisans), an Early Childhood Development Center, and much, much more. CC also calls itself the first regional community college in Maryland. More proof that CC's reputation extends far beyond its annual fact sheet: According to Maryland Association of Community Colleges, CC made up 23 percent of career degrees awarded in the entire state in 2012.

Frederick Community College (Frederick)

What draws more than 16,000 to Frederick Community College each year? Its beautiful campus centrally located between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., (and all those cities offer) may be reason enough, but one should not overlook its track record of success — including ranking among the top community colleges statewide for both combined graduation and transfer rate and first year retention rate, per College Measures. FCC is also the only community college in Maryland to be eligible for the Aspen Institute's Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence not once, but two times over. FCC hosts more than 70 different degree and certificate programs. It also offers more than 30 student clubs, several year-round cultural events and art shows, and a number of dramatic and musical productions, many of which are completely free to the public.

Garrett College (McHenry)

Do you prefer your education served with a side of adventure? Garrett College is situated near Deep Creek Lake, Wisp Ski Resort and Adventure Sports Center — a setting that inspired the institution to launch what is perhaps one of the state's most unusual associate degree programs: Adventure Sports. Garrett College is more than just a pretty campus, however: College Measures reports that the institution boasted the second-highest graduation and transfer rates in the state in 2013, and according to the school's official website, GC graduates who transfer to four-year colleges in Maryland statistically outperform students from all other community colleges statewide. Bonus: GC is one of the few Maryland community colleges to offer on-campus housing, including both suite- and apartment-style apartments — a feature that makes hitting the slopes between books all the easier.

Hagerstown Community College (Hagerstown)

What makes Hagerstown Community College shortlist-worthy in a state packed with highly regarded institutions? Let us count the ways. One: College Measures reports that HCC offered the highest combined graduation and transfer rate in the state in 2011. Two: CNN gave HCC the highest "student success rating" in the state in 2010. Three: HCC holds the distinction of being Maryland's very first community college. And four: HCC offers more than 100 — yes, 100 — certificate and degree programs. Did we mention that its 300-acre campus not only features a plethora of picturesque gardens, but a state-of-the-art STEM building, the Kepler Theater (complete with a Performing and Visual Arts center), and an outdoor amphitheater to boot? Its dozens of student clubs and organizations are just icing on the cake.

Hartford Community College (Bel Air)

Students looking for a truly big campus feel, sports rivalry and all, might want to research Hartford Community College. Boasting more than 350 "beautifully landscaped" acres, the Bel Air campus serves more than 22,000 credit and non-credit students each year, yet still manages to offer small class sizes. It is home to dozens of clubs and several athletics teams, and its historic "Flight Night" event exercises a long-standing rivalry between its HCC fighting Owls and Hagerstown's Hawks. Students can opt to enroll in more than 70 academic programs, and an extensive catalog of articulation agreements with institutions like the University of Maryland, John Hopkins University and York College of Pennsylvania make transferring simpler. We should also note that according to College Measures, Hartford ranked among the top five community colleges in Maryland in both combined graduation and transfer rate and first-year retention in 2013.

Howard Community College (Columbia)

Howard Community College's home city of Columbia does not just offer easy access to the Baltimore and Washington D.C. metros, but, according to the school's official website, is frequently recognized as one of the "Best Places to Live" nationally by various publications. Its diverse student body includes more than 13,000 students from more than 30 countries, and was named one of the nation's "50 Fastest Growing Public Two-Year Colleges" in the country in 2011 by Community College Week. Howard offers more than 100 degree and certificate programs. Among the most popular programs, according to Howard: Arts & Sciences, General Studies, Nursing, Business Administration and Engineering. It also offers a number of occupational programs, like culinary management, radiologic technology and early childhood development. Students who cannot make courses at the main campus can study online, or report to satellite campuses in Mt. Airy, Laurel or East Columbia.

Montgomery College (Rockville)

Montgomery's main Rockville campus is a stone's throw from Washington DC and all the culture and history that defines it. It is also one of only three Maryland community colleges to ever be considered for the Aspen Institute's Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. MC offers hundreds of courses in dozens of majors to more than 60,000 students each year. While its Takoma Park/Silver Spring campus is known statewide for its nursing and allied health programs, its Germantown campus features a number of science and engineering programs. A number of famous alums once attended Montgomery College, including singer-songwriter Tori Amos, the creators of "The Blair Witch Project" and Tony Award nominated Broadway actress Barbara Walsh. It is likely no wonder it frequently reports the highest first year retention rate in the state, as reported by College Measures.

Wor-Wic Community College (Salisbury)

Wor-Wic Community College's official motto is, "Start here, go anywhere," but considering its position along Maryland's beautiful eastern shore, just west of Ocean City, and its day-trip-worthy proximity to New York, Washington and Philadelphia, it might be hard to leave. Maybe this is why many students do not go far: According to WWCC's official website, a large share of its students choose to transfer to nearby Salisbury University, known for its affordability. WWCC offers a diversity of degree and certificate programs, plus a hefty serving of non-credit courses. Its unique golf turf management and hospitality courses are headquartered in the Ocean Resorts Golf Club, a popular getaway for Marylanders. Bonus: in 2010, CNN ranked WWCC among the top five community colleges in Maryland for overall student success.

All information provided through this 10 Community Colleges in Maryland list is current as of November 2014. Certificate, degree and program offerings can and do change. Contact the school site or sites for more current details.

Sources:

"Awards at AACC," Anne Arundel Community College,
http://www.aacc.edu/aboutaacc/awards.cfm

Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, The Aspen Institute,
http://www.aspeninstitute.org/policy-work/college-excellence/overview

"How Does Your Community College Stack Up?" CNN Money,
http://money.cnn.com/pf/college/community-colleges/

"Maryland Public Colleges: Strategic Measures," CollegeMeasures.org,
http://collegemeasures.org/2-year_colleges/state/MD/compare-colleges/strategic-measures/

"State and National Grades Issued for Education Performance, Policy; U.S. Earns a C-plus, Maryland Ranks First for Fifth Straight Year," Education Week,
http://www.edweek.org/media/QualityCounts2013_Release.pdf

"MACC 2013 Databook," Maryland Association of Community Colleges,
http://www.mdacc.org/PDFs/Publications/Databook/FY2013/2013_Databook.pdf