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Best Community Colleges In Ohio

Between a generally inexpensive cost of living and the considerable presence of online schools in Ohio, access to college and university education is widespread in the Buckeye State. The Ohio Association of Community Colleges (OACC) is a big part of the state's commitment to giving its residents access to higher education, and state programs that help students at its two-year institutions transfer into programs at regional universities are many and strong.

While it's true that high-quality educational programs can be found all over the state, some of the top Ohio community colleges perform better on certain statistical metrics than others. We gathered data on the following categories and then ran the numbers through our weighted analysis model:

  • Affordability
  • Schedule flexibility
  • Distance education participation
  • Retention rates
  • Student-to-faculty ratio
  • Graduation rates
  • Acceptance rates of transfer applicants into other institutions

When the dust settled, ten schools stood out above the rest. Below are the top ten Ohio community colleges, along with why they stand out among others on the top-10 list and some interesting detail about each one.

> Read our full ranking methodology here

vintage map of ohio

The top 10 Ohio community colleges

1. Lorain County Community College (Elyria, OH)

Metrics of student success topped the charts at Lorain County Community college, particularly in terms of retaining new students and moving them forward to the next step in their education. No other school we sampled had a higher retention rate, and the percentage of LCCC students who transferred successfully within three years of enrolling took the No. 1 spot among other schools in the state. It's also a relatively affordable school, coming in at No. 4 on our list of the ten top institutions, and more than one third of students were enrolled in at least some distance education courses.

  • Student enrollment, 2013­-14: 12,274
  • Entrepreneur booster: LCCC students and alumni have access to features of the Blackstone LaunchPad, an entrepreneurship model that helps members develop business or product concepts and take them to market. The campus also serves as a node on the Ohio's Small Business Development Center (SBDC) network.

2. Cuyahoga Community College (Cleveland, OH)

Accessibility and flexibility seem to be top priorities at Cuyahoga Community College — or Tri-C, for short — and it's resulted in the second-highest percentage of successful transfer students in the state. This Cleveland institution has the largest student body among the 10 top community colleges in Ohio, and its 62 percent distance education enrollment far outdistanced the rest of the top-10 schools on the list. Campus facilities are also equipped to offer weekend/evening degree plans and on-site day care, to help students manage education alongside existing career or family responsibilities.

  • Student enrollment, 2013­-14: 27,910
  • Sustainable practices: Eco-consciousness is a force of nature at Tri-C campuses, where initiatives for waste reduction, energy conservation, community garden partnerships and other sustainability programs are a firm part of organizational policy. The institution has also earned Gold or Silver LEED certification for buildings at four of its campus locations.

3. Lakeland Community College (Kirtland, OH)

Only our No. 1 school boasts a higher 3-year student success rate than Lakeland Community College, a medium-small campus, in terms of enrollment numbers, and with a community focus. Tuition and supplies cost less at Lakeland than at many other community colleges in Ohio, putting the Kirtland institution at the No. 3 spot in our affordability category, and available weekend/evening courses combine with a healthy percentage of distance education students to demonstrate the administration's seeming emphasis on accessible instruction.

  • Student enrollment, 2013­-14: 8,839
  • Serving servicemembers: G.I. Jobs magazine has named Lakeland Community College a Military Friendly School® every year from 2009 to 2015, and the school takes pride in the distinction. Support services for student veterans include academic and personal counseling, low-cost child care, extensive scheduling flexibility via weekend, evening and online classes and free mass transportation to residents of Lake County.

Pay attention to a school's student-faculty ratio: A good one can lead to a higher proportion of one-on-one or small group instruction and foster stronger relationships between teachers and students.


4. Sinclair Community College (Dayton, OH)

This institution in Ohio's southwestern quadrant holds the distinction of being the most affordable community college in the state, and by no small margin. The average tuition and fees at a two-year Ohio school cost the student $3,762 annually in 2014, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, and Sinclair Community College students paid just $2,304 in 2013-14. The institution also features a comparatively low ratio of students to faculty — just 16:1 in 2013 — which can lead to a higher proportion of one-on-one or small group instruction and foster stronger relationships between teachers and students.

  • Student enrollment, 2013­-14: 19,176
  • University partners: Students who enroll at Sinclair with the intention of going on to complete a four-year degree may be able to make a seamless transition to university study at the nearby Wright State University, with whom Sinclair has articulation agreements in nearly 50 subjects of study.

5. Clark State Community College (Springfield, OH)

Not only does Clark State Community College offer one of the lowest costs of books and supplies among all schools we surveyed — the school tied for third among all the schools in Ohio we ranked — it's also home to some of the hottest degree programs on today's career market. Two of the top five majors at Clark State are physical therapist assisting and registered nursing, for which together employment is projected to grow by an average of 30 percent and add 575,000 new jobs to the national workforce between 2012 and 2022. On top of that, Clark State also takes part in the 3+1 Community College Partnership, helping students transfer easily to Ohio State University.

  • Student enrollment, 2013­-14: 5,653
  • Drone farming: Clark State is working to prepare students for employment in today's high-tech agriculture sector by featuring a GPS-enabled EH-4 quadcopter drone in its precision agriculture program. Students learn to operate the unmanned aircraft, gather data for GIS analysis and help farmers optimize their land use.

6. Columbus State Community College (Columbus, OH)

Columbus State Community College is another of the community colleges in Ohio that seems to place an emphasis on making education accessible to as many students as possible. It took the No. 3 spot for distance education enrollment and its percentage of successful transfers to other institutions placed it among the top five statewide. Nontraditional students may also take the school's Prior Learning Assessment (PLA), which allows them to submit a portfolio of documentation showing that the learning outcomes of a particular course have been gained on the job, during prior study or by other means.

  • Student enrollment, 2013­-14: 25,249
  • Preferred Pathway® pre-majors: Part of Columbus State's transfer student success is its Preferred Pathway program, which allows students to build their schedules around the curricular requirements for a bachelor's degree at eight universities in Ohio. Available schools include Ohio University, The Ohio State University, Franklin University and more.

7. Stark State College (North Canton, OH)

As the holder of the state's No. 3 rank for percentage of students who successfully enroll in a new institution within three years, Stark State College is a medium-sized college with a big focus on student achievement. One methodology that has helped the North Canton school produce its remarkable transfer success is the Ohio Transfer Module, which allows students to complete general education courses anywhere in the public postsecondary system and transfer them to the degree-granting school of their choice. Stark State also boasts the lowest aggregate cost of textbooks and other supplied students typically need, and the attendance expenses we included for it in our rankings placed it at No. 6 overall for affordability in 2013-14.

  • Student enrollment, 2013­-14: 15,450
  • High-tech degrees: The Information Technologies Division at Stark State offers cutting-edge associate degrees and certificates, some of which cover the technologies of such disciplines as commercial music, homeland security, computer forensics, digital video, web design, 3-D graphics and animation and management information systems.

Take data on graduation statistics at many community colleges with a grain of salt — students often complete a few semesters of general education credits and transfer to a university to where their official graduation takes place.


8. Cincinnati State Technical & Community College (Cincinnati, OH)

Graduation statistics at many community colleges can be deceptively low — students often complete a few semesters of general education credits and transfer to a university to where their official graduation takes place.Cincinnati State is one institution among the top Ohio community colleges where a healthy portion of students earn their degrees directly, placing it at No. 6 statewide for its graduation rate. A comfortable 16:1 student-to-faculty ratio helps students stay on task, and the array of options available for technical and vocational education can often help a student get started on a career without the need to earn a full bachelor's degree.

  • Student enrollment, 2013­-14: 11,167
  • Health career hub: The top degree programs at Cincinnati State come from the college's Health and Public Safety Division, according to enrollment numbers released by the school. Nursing topped the list of programs by number of graduates, but certificates in sonography, medical assisting, health information management and yoga teacher training are also available.

9. Edison Community College (Piqua, OH)

Only the top school on our list had a better student retention rate than Edison State Community College, and that's not all the Piqua-based school has going for it. The 3-year success rate for Edison students placed it among the top five Ohio community colleges for percentage of transfers and graduates, and around a quarter of students are enrolled in some type of distance education. Tuition and fees at Edison run a bit higher than many of the other schools on our list, but flexible learning options across the board might make up for those, depending on your needs.

  • Student enrollment, 2013­-14: 2,993
  • Credit for prior learning: Students at Edison can save some tuition money by submitting one of a range of applications for life experience credit. Documented business, government or military training may excuse students from certain courses, as well as those who pass subject exams or submit a work portfolio for evaluation by administrators.

10. North Central State College (Mansfield, OH)

The smallest school on our top-10 list in terms of enrollment figures appears last, although North Central State College is anything but small in terms of its commitment to its students. The north central Ohio school — located about halfway between Columbus and Cleveland — features a student-faculty ratio of just 14:1, lower than any of the other nine top schools. Plus, out of all the other community colleges in Ohio, NC State also has the most full-time undergraduates receiving student aid.

  • Student enrollment, 2013­-14: 2,958
  • Dozens of scholarships: Students who fill out the appropriate financial aid applications at NC State may be eligible for one or more scholarship and grant distributions to help defray tuition and supply costs. Between federal programs, independent organizations and the North Central State College Foundation, students have more than 100 opportunities for financial awards.

Finding the right college for you

It's important to note that we may have done the work to determine the top Ohio community colleges by the numbers, but students and their experiences of an institution amount to more than just columns of data. These rankings can be a good jumping-off point in your search for the right college, but make sure to do your own research into the campus-based and online colleges in Ohio to discover which one can best provide the educational experience you're looking for. The extra bit of effort may seem like more trouble than it's worth, but when you find the perfect school you'll be glad you spent the time.

Methodology

We ranked 22 schools in Ohio, based on the list of institutions maintained by the Ohio Association of Community Colleges. Each school was scored on a 5-point scale, using the following seven data points and the weighted values indicated in parentheses:

  1. Percentage of students enrolled in distance education (15%), National Center for Education Statistics, 2013
  2. Total cost of attendance (30%), including tuition & fees plus books & supplies, National Center for Education Statistics, 2013
  3. Student-to-faculty ratio (5%), National Center for Education Statistics, 2013
  4. The average retention rate for full- and part-time students (5%), National Center for Education Statistics, 2013
  5. The graduation rate as of FY 2013 for full-time, first time undergraduate students who enrolled in fall 2010 (5%), Ohio Board of Regents, 2014
  6. The transfer rate to another institution as of FY 2013 for full-time, first time undergraduate students who enrolled in fall 2010 (30%), Ohio Board of Regents, 2014
  7. Flexibility (10%), based on three data points* from the National Center for Education Statistics, 2013

*If school offers credit for life experiences, weekend or evening programs, and offers on-campus daycare.

> Return to top of Best community colleges in Ohio

Sources:
1. Cost of Living Data Series, First Quarter 2015, Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, accessed August 26, 2015, https://www.missourieconomy.org/indicators/cost_of_living/index.stm
2. Lakeland Community College, G.I. Jobs School Matchmaker, accessed August 26, 2015, http://www.gijobs.com/school/lakeland-community-college/
3. Tuition and Fees by Sector and State over Time, Trends in Higher Education, The College Board, accessed August 26, 2015, http://trends.collegeboard.org/college-pricing/figures-tables/tuition-fees-sector-state-time
4-5. Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statitsics, U.S. Department of Labor, accessed August 26, 2015: Registered Nurses, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Healthcare/Registered-nurses.htm; Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Healthcare/Physical-therapist-assistants-and-aides.htm
6. Ohio Transfer Module (OTM), Ohio Department of Higher Education, accessed August 26, 2015, https://www.ohiohighered.org/transfer/transfermodule
7-22. School websites: Edison Community College, http://catalog.edisonohio.edu/content.php?catoid=19&navoid=1279; North Central State College, http://www.ncstatecollege.edu/cms/financial-aid/types-of-aid/scholarships; Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, http://www.cincinnatistate.edu/real-world-academics/academics/academics; Stark State College, http://www.starkstate.edu/public/system/uploads/files/About/profile6.14.pdf, http://www.starkstate.edu/content/stark-state-college-facts; Clark State University, http://www.clarkstate.edu/precision-agriculture/, http://www.clarkstate.edu/about-clark-state/news/clark-state-community-college-begins-flying-uas-for-precision-agriculture/, http://www.clarkstate.edu/about-clark-state/fast-facts/; Columbus State Community College, http://www.cscc.edu/admissions/adultlearning/prior-learning-assessments.html; Wright State University, http://www.wright.edu/sinclair-double-degree/programs, http://www.wright.edu/transfer/academics/dayton-campus-articulation-transfer-agreements; Lakeland Community College, Annual Report 2013-14, http://lakelandcc.edu/c/document_library/get_file?uuid=5cb510b7-502d-458c-9601-3052d5d8df9a&groupId=347086#page=3; Cuyahoga Community College, Annual Report 2012-13, http://www.tri-c.edu/about/documents/tric-2012-13annualreport-singlepg.pdf#page=13, http://www.tri-c.edu/about/sustainability/index.html; Lorain County Community College, http://www.lorainccc.edu/Business+and+Industry/Entrepreneurial+Support/Small+Business+Development+Center.htm, http://www.lorainccc.edu/Employment+and+Career+Services/Blackstone+LaunchPad/
23. Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2013-14, National Center for Education Statistics, Accessed June 18, 2015, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
24. “Three Year Success Measures: Fall 2010 Cohort of First-Time, Full-Time, Degree-Seeking Undergraduate Students,” Ohio Board of Regents, University System of Ohio, Accessed June 29, 2015, https://www.ohiohighered.org/sites/ohiohighered.org/files/uploads/data/statistical-profiles/3_yr_success_public_2010.pdf