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10 Top-Notch Community Colleges in Tennessee

Community colleges are a valuable, but too-often-overlooked driver for economic growth — a point even the White House has emphasized. Many states recognize how important these local resources can be for making higher education and career training accessible to all their residents, but perhaps none so much as Tennessee. In 2014, the Volunteer State announced its Tennessee Promise plan, an initiative that would give two years of free tuition at all Tennessee community colleges for all in-state residents. It was the first state to launch such a program, though The Tennessean newspaper notes that other states would be following it closely. Richard Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Century Foundation, told the newspaper that the plan would not just help the state produce a more highly educated workforce — it could serve as a social equalizer, too, providing "a welcome mat for students of all economic backgrounds." Of course, deciding to enroll in a community college is the first step toward advancing your education; choosing the right school is the second. Read on for a brief look at just 10 of the many stellar community colleges in Tennessee, in alphabetical order. Scroll to the end of the article for a full list of the state's two-year schools.

Chattanooga State Technical Community College (Chattanooga)

Chattanooga State, or "Chatt State" to locals, serves the region through several campus locations. Its main campus in Chattanooga proper adjoins the Tennessee Riverwalk not far from downtown. One need not stay on campus to learn: Chattanooga itself is a cultural treasure trove. Students can visit area Civil War battlefields, the Tennessee Aquarium and the Bluff View Art District downtown. Adventurous types (or geologists in the making) should not miss Ruby Falls, a nearly 150-foot waterfall deep within Lookout Mountain. Chatt State offers more than 50 career programs — including associate degrees and certificates designed specifically for workforce entry or transfer to other colleges in Tennessee or elsewhere — and hosts industry-affiliated training centers, like the Volkswagen Academy and the Wacker Institute.

Cleveland State Community College (Cleveland)

In 2010, CNN Money ranked Cleveland State Community College among the top five Tennessee community colleges based on its student success rating. The school's high-tech facilities, innovative programming and goal of "engaging every student" likely contributed to that honor, but its highly trained faculty — 94 percent of whom hold a master's degree or higher — probably played a role, too. CSCC offers classes, certificates and degrees in a plethora of subjects, including several Tennessee Transfer Pathways (TTP) programs. Students who successfully complete TTP programs are guaranteed entry into select four-year institutions, and at the junior class level. CSCC serves the community, too: In 2014, for instance, the school hosted science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) enrichment camps for kid (complete with robotic Legos projects) designed to help address what the college calls a national STEM knowledge gap.

Columbia State Community College (Columbia)

In 2010, CNN ranked Columbia State Community College second among all Tennessee community colleges in terms of student success, and according to CollegeMeasures.org, the school ranked near the top for overall student completion and first year retention rates in 2013. Perhaps what sets CSCC apart from most schools on this list, however, is its booming arts program; the school is home to both the Cherry Theater and the Pryor Art Gallery. CSCC students can enroll in more than 50 areas of study — including online and campus-based classes — and thanks to partnerships with four-year institutions, can complete select bachelor's and master's degrees on campus.

Dyersburg State Community College (Dyersburg)

Dyersburg State Community College's official website says it is one of the fastest-growing community colleges in Tennessee, and it's no mystery why: It's reputation for affordability and student achievement precede it. Case in point: CollegeMeasures.org ranks the institution first in the state for lowest per-student cost, and in 2013, The Wall Street Journal featured its nursing program as an example of a successful, accelerated program that results in higher-than-average earnings (even when compared to area four-year institutions). DSCC students can enroll in dozens of disciplines, both online and off, not to mention several student clubs, organizations and intramural sports teams. Potential students who want to learn more about the school can swing by one of the institution's handy (and aptly named) One Stop Centers for information on admissions, financial aid, student advising services and more.

Motlow State Community College (Tullahoma)

All Tennessee community colleges strive to help students succeed, but Motlow State has the numbers to back up its achievements. Not only did MSCC earn the CNN's highest student success rating in the state in 2010, but, according to College Measures, also boasted one of the highest graduation and transfer rates in the state in 2013. Other accolades, according to MSCC's official website: ranking among the top 50 community colleges in the nation in education (College Week), being recognized as one of the fastest growing schools (also College Week), and consistently having a near perfect National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) pass rate among its nursing students, and at both the state and federal levels. In addition to offering more than 40 certificate and associate degree programs, MSCC hosts what are called 2+2 programs. These innovative programs allow students to earn four-year degrees from institutions like Tennessee Technological University and Trevecca Nazarene University in as little as 13 months, and all from the MSCC campus.

Nashville State Community College (Nashville)

Nashville may be a musician's mecca, but its diverse economy attracts workers of all stripes and talents. According to the Nashville State Community College website, its graduates make a "significant contribution" to this booming workforce. Students can enroll in more than 80 direct-entry and transfer-oriented programs, and dozens of continuing education courses — a perk that earned the school a place among Nashville Scene's best schools for continuing education in 2012. Another feature unique to NSCC is its participation in what it calls the five-year Quality Enhancement Plan, which seeks to help student develop and apply strong critical thinking skills.

Pellissippi State Technical Community College (Knoxville)

Pellissippi State Technical Community College says it prides itself on its small class sizes, quality academics and hands-on, state-of-the-art technology, but its arts prowess deserves a nod, too. The Clayton Performing Arts Center features a proscenium theatre and several class and rehearsal rooms, and the Hardin Valley campus features a nearly 30,000- square-foot building that hosts artists, photographers and filmmakers from all across the globe. The budding Arts at Pellissippi State program introduces students to an array of cultural activities, including music, fine arts and multicultural events. However, students need not study art or drama to feel right at home at PSTCC: The school offers dozens of degree and certificate programs in areas like computer science, engineering, media technologies, business and health science.

Roane State Community College (Harriman)

Roane State Community College is known not just for its impressive catalog of certificate and degree programs — including on-campus bachelor's degrees via partnerships with area universities — but also its worker-geared programs and services. According to its website, RSCC boasts a 98 percent job placement rate for its graduates, and its students transfer to four-year institutions with higher GPAs on average than the students who enrolled in those schools from the beginning. RSCC offers programs in areas such as business, health care, law and education. In addition to traditional courses, RSCC students can enroll in evening, weekend and online programs — options that make higher education much more accessible to working students and full-time parents.

Southwest Tennessee Community College (Memphis)

Southwest Tennessee Community College is the largest community college in Tennessee, serving more than 650,000 students across several campuses and learning centers. It is also a diverse institution, and according to its website, ranked in the top 10 percent of associate degree producers for African Americans in business operations in 2012. Other achievements, per STCC's official website: Earning an "A" rating on the American School Search Safety Report; boasting 100 percent NCLEX pass rate among nursing students in 2009, 2010 and 2012; ranking among the nation's best Online Early Education Degree Programs; and reporting a 97 percent job placement rating, 90 percent of which were in graduates' fields of study. STCC offers online courses and additional programs designed to serve non-traditional students, such as those reserved for veterans, working professionals and parents.

Walters State Community College (Morristown)

Walters State Community College is the epitome of opportunity. Students can enroll in over 100 associate degrees and certificate programs, and several targeted workforce development and continuing education programs. It also has one of the top five first-year retention rates in the state, per CollegeMeasures.org. What's the secret? In a word: Accessibility. Walters State's online, evening and fast-track programs can make higher education doable for even the busiest students, and its innovative Retention Services program provides one-on-one mentorship to students grappling with issues that could interfere with their studies. Bonus: According to its website (as of 2014), WSCC is ranked not only among the safest community college in the country, but also the most tech savvy.

Tennessee community colleges list

The list of featured schools above provides a fairly solid introduction to some of the top community colleges in the Volunteer State, but it doesn't include everything that the state's educational system has to offer. Check out the list below for a full set of schools, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, and don't be shy about contacting schools that interest you to learn more about their opportunities and to speak with admissions counselors.

SCHOOL

ADDRESS

Anthem Career College-Memphis

5865 Shelby Oaks Circle, Memphis, Tennessee 38134

Anthem Career College-Nashville

560 Royal Parkway, Nashville, Tennessee 37214

Aquinas College

4210 Harding Pike, Nashville, Tennessee 37205

Chattanooga College of Medical, Dental
and Technical Careers

3805 Brainerd Rd, Chattanooga, Tennessee 37411-3742

Chattanooga State Community College

4501 Amnicola Hwy, Chattanooga, Tennessee 37406-1097

Cleveland State Community College

3535 Adkisson Drive, Cleveland, Tennessee 37312

Columbia State Community College

1665 Hampshire Pike, Columbia, Tennessee 38401

Concorde Career College-Memphis

5100 Poplar Avenue, Suite 132, Memphis, Tennessee 38137-0132

Daymar Institute-Clarksville

2691 Trenton Road, Clarksville, Tennessee 37040

Daymar Institute-Murfreesboro

415 Golden Bear Court, Murfreesboro, Tennessee 37128

Daymar Institute-Nashville

340 Plus Park Blvd, Nashville, Tennessee 37217

Dyersburg State Community College

1510 Lake Rd, Dyersburg, Tennessee 38024-2411

Fortis Institute-Cookeville

1025 Highway 111, Cookeville, Tennessee 38501-4305

Fortis Institute-Nashville

3354 Perimeter Hill Drive, Suite 105, Nashville, Tennessee 37211

Fountainhead College of Technology

10208 Technology Drive, Knoxville, Tennessee 37932

Hiwassee College

225 Hiwassee College Drive, Madisonville, Tennessee 37354-4001

International Academy of Design and
Technology-Nashville

One Bridgestone Park, Nashville, Tennessee 37214

Jackson State Community College

2046 North Pky, Jackson, Tennessee 38301-3797

John A Gupton College

1616 Church St, Nashville, Tennessee 37203-2954

Kaplan Career Institute-Nashville

750 Envious Lane, Nashville, Tennessee 37217-5318

L'Ecole Culinaire-Memphis

1245 N. Georgetown Parkway, Cordova, Tennessee 38016

Lincoln College of Technology-Nashville

1524 Gallatin Rd, Nashville, Tennessee 37206

Miller-Motte Technical College-Chattanooga

6020 Shallowford Road Suite 100, Chattanooga, Tennessee 37421

Miller-Motte Technical College-Clarksville

1820 Business Park Dr, Clarksville, Tennessee 37040

Miller-Motte Technical College-Madison

1515 Gallatin Pike North, Madison, Tennessee 37115

Motlow State Community College

6015 Ledford Mill Road, Tullahoma, Tennessee 37388

Nashville State Community College

120 White Bridge Rd, Nashville, Tennessee 37209-4515

National College-Nashville

1638 Bell Road, Nashville, Tennessee 37211

North Central Institute

168 Jack Miller Blvd, Clarksville, Tennessee 37042

Northeast State Community College

2425 Hwy 75, Blountville, Tennessee 37617-0246

Nossi College of Art

590 Cheron Rd, Madison, Tennessee 37115

Pellissippi State Community College

10915 Hardin Valley Road, Knoxville, Tennessee 37933-0990

Remington College-Memphis Campus

2710 Nonconnah Blvd, Memphis, Tennessee 38132

Remington College-Nashville Campus

441 Donelson Pk Ste 150, Nashville, Tennessee 37214

Roane State Community College

276 Patton Lane, Harriman, Tennessee 37748

SAE Institute of Technology-Nashville

7 Music Circle N, Nashville, Tennessee 37203

Southwest Tennessee Community College

737 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee 38103

Tennessee College of Applied
Technology-Athens

1635 Vo Tech Dr, Athens, Tennessee 37371-0848

Tennessee College of Applied
Technology-Covington

1600 Hwy 51 South, Covington, Tennessee 38019

Tennessee College of Applied
Technology-Crossville

910 Miller Avenue, Crossville, Tennessee 38555

Tennessee College of Applied
Technology-Crump

3070 Hwy. 64 West, Crump, Tennessee 38327

Tennessee College of Applied
Technology-Dickson

740 Hwy 46, Dickson, Tennessee 37055

Tennessee College of Applied
Technology-Elizabethton

426 Highway 91, Elizabethton, Tennessee 37643

Tennessee College of Applied
Technology-Harriman

1745 Harriman Highway, Harriman, Tennessee 37748-5849

Tennessee College of Applied
Technology-Hartsville

716 McMurry Blvd East, Hartsville, Tennessee 37074-2028

Tennessee College of Applied
Technology-Hohenwald

813 West Main, Hohenwald, Tennessee 38462-2201

Tennessee College of Applied
Technology-Jacksboro

265 Elkins Rd, Jacksboro, Tennessee 37757

Tennessee College of Applied
Technology-Jackson

2468 Technology Center Drive, Jackson, Tennessee 38301

Tennessee College of Applied
Technology-Knoxville

1100 Liberty St, Knoxville, Tennessee 37919

Tennessee College of Applied
Technology-Livingston

740 Hi Tech Dr, Livingston, Tennessee 38570

Tennessee College of Applied
Technology-McKenzie

16940 Highland Dr, McKenzie, Tennessee 38201

Tennessee College of Applied
Technology-McMinnville

241 Vo Tech Dr, McMinnville, Tennessee 37110

Tennessee College of Applied
Technology-Memphis

550 Alabama Ave, Memphis, Tennessee 38105-3604

Tennessee College of Applied
Technology-Morristown

821 W Louise Ave, Morristown, Tennessee 37813-2094

Tennessee College of Applied
Technology-Murfreesboro

1303 Old Fort Pky, Murfreesboro, Tennessee 37129-3311

Tennessee College of Applied
Technology-Nashville

100 White Bridge Rd, Nashville, Tennessee 37209-4515

Tennessee College of Applied
Technology-Newbern

340 Washington St, Newbern, Tennessee 38059

Tennessee College of Applied
Technology-Oneida-Huntsville

355 Scott High Drive, Huntsville, Tennessee 37756-4149

Tennessee College of Applied
Technology-Paris

312 S Wilson Street, Paris, Tennessee 38242

Tennessee College of Applied
Technology-Pulaski

1233 E College St, Pulaski, Tennessee 38478-0614

Tennessee College of Applied
Technology-Ripley

127 Industrial Drive, Ripley, Tennessee 38063

Tennessee College of Applied
Technology-Shelbyville

1405 Madison St, Shelbyville, Tennessee 37160

Tennessee College of Applied
Technology-Whiteville

1685 Highway 64, Whiteville, Tennessee 38075-0489

Vatterott College-Appling Farms

6991 Appling Farms Parkway, Memphis, Tennessee 38133

Vatterott College-Dividend

2655 Dividend Drive, Memphis, Tennessee 38132

Virginia College-Knoxville

5003 North Broadway Street, Knoxville, Tennessee 37918-2472

Virginia College-School of Business
and Health-Chattanooga

721 Eastgate Loop Rd., Chattanooga, Tennessee 37411

Volunteer State Community College

1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, Tennessee 37066-3188

Walters State Community College

500 South Davy Crockett Parkway, Morristown, Tennessee 37813-6899

West Tennessee Business College

1186 Highway 45 Bypass, Jackson, Tennessee 38301

William Moore College of Technology

1200 Poplar  Ave, Memphis, Tennessee 38104-7240

Sources:

Chattanooga State Community College,
http://www.chattanoogastate.edu/

Cleveland State Community College,
http://www.clevelandstatecc.edu/

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

Columbia State Community College,
http://www.columbiastate.edu/

"How does your community college stack up?", CNN Money,
http://money.cnn.com/pf/college/community-colleges/

Dyersburg State Community College,
http://www.dscc.edu/

"DSCC in Wall Street Journal," Dyersburg State Community College, May 15, 2013,
http://www.dscc.edu/node/5125

"Eyes on Tennessee as it begins free community college plan," Duane W. Gang, The Tennessean, April 16, 2014,
http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/education/2014/04/16/tennessee-lawmakers-approve-free-community-college-plan/7772245/

"People & Places Readers' Poll: Best of Nashville 2012," Nashville Scene, Oct. 11, 2012,
http://www.nscc.edu/content/resources/BON-2012-Winners.pdf

Nashville State Community College,
http://www.nscc.edu/

Pellissppi State Community College,
http://www.pstcc.edu/

Roane State Community College,
http://www.roanestate.edu/

Southwest Tennessee Community College,
http://www.southwest.tn.edu/

"Building American Skills Through Community Colleges," WhiteHouse.gov,
http://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/education/higher-education/building-american-skills-through-community-colleges