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Community Colleges by State

Whether you're getting ready to go to college for the first time or you're planning to go back to study for a career change, here are a few of the benefits of community college that might make it a good choice for you:

Open Admissions

Most community colleges offer open admissions, meaning that things like standardized test scores and GPA don't factor in to their application process.

Lower Tuition

Community college programs typically offer lower tuition than university programs, providing at least a 50 percent discount in most states.

Schedule Flexibility

Many institutions feature regional secondary campuses, courses held in the evening or on weekends and an array of online community college classes that you can attend from anywhere.

National Initiatives

Community college and career school students can also benefit from national initiatives designed to expand opportunities for higher education.

What's more, the best community colleges in the U.S. offer amenities like residence halls, tutoring centers, child care services and dedicated programs or facilities for military veterans and other adult students. You can also take classes online at many community colleges, which can reduce expenses on things like textbooks and transportation.

Online and on-campus schools by state
BEST COMMUNITY COLLEGES IN THE UNITED STATES

To calculate which ones are the top community colleges in a given state, we gather data from the U.S. Department of Education, state-based higher education commissions and other institutional sources. We rank each school according to a list of metrics that typically includes total attendance cost, student-faculty ratio, distance education enrollment, graduation rate, transfer rate to four-year institutions and other common quantitative measures of commitment to student success.

WHO ATTENDS COMMUNITY COLLEGES?

Community college isn't on everyone's academic radar, but it can be a great option for all different types of students. Community college student bodies are among some of the most diverse populations in all of higher education, representing students of all ages, ethnicities and walks of life. Check out this nationwide statistical breakdown of community college student demographics:

More than 40 percent of potential students between 18 and 24 years old are enrolled in college programs, with around 25 percent of that enrollment coming from two-year schools.

Out of the nearly 7 million people enrolled in community college in 2016, Hispanic students made up 21 percent of the total, black students comprised about 40 percent and around 44 percent were Caucasian.

Approximately 59 percent of community college students are under the age of 25, while close to 16 percent were over 35 and 25 percent were in the 25-34 age range.

Students with children are widely represented in community colleges, as well, with nearly 30 percent of all community college students -- approximately 2.1 million -- reporting at least one dependent child at home.

WHO SHOULD CONSIDER COMMUNITY COLLEGES?

Community college isn't on everyone's academic radar, but it can be a great option for all different types of students. Community college student bodies are among some of the most diverse populations in all of higher education, representing students of all ages, ethnicities and walks of life. Check out this nationwide statistical breakdown of community college student demographics:

First-year students
Who they are: Students with a high school diploma who have yet to earn college credit.
  • Lower tuition rates help you explore a range of subjects to find the one that interests you most, either one at a time or in an interdisciplinary major
  • Wide-ranging degree catalogs give you the option for career training as well as entry-level academic study
  • Smaller schools can let you get used to studying at the college level without the next-level social distractions of a university campus
Transfer students
Who they are: Students who have earned some college credit and are changing schools to finish their degree or get more training.
  • Many community colleges participate in agreements with other local schools and universities that can make transferring less complicated
  • Transfer advisers are common at two-year schools, so you may be able to get extra transfer help if you need it
  • Universities don't typically offer vocational programs, making it more likely that career training credits will have transfer value
Working adults
Who they are: Adults seeking continued education in their current profession or going back to school to train for a new career.
  • Continuing education material is often offered online at community colleges, giving busy adults the schedule flexibility they often need
  • Affordable programs allow students who can't get federal aid -- such as those who already hold bachelor's degrees -- to afford new career training
  • Community colleges tend to offer job placement services and other career-related perks for graduates
CTE students
Who they are: Students looking to complete a vocational or trade school program and enter the workforce with a specific set of job skills.
  • Associate degree programs can fully train you for your new career while leaving your academic options open
  • Some community colleges feature campus facilities, regional centers or entire satellite locations built to serve specific career programs
  • Cost savings mean that you're more likely to land a job that gives you a good ratio of income to student debt

TRANSFERRING CREDITS TO AND FROM COMMUNITY COLLEGES

Many community college hopefuls either have some form of college credit already on their record or plan to transfer out to a four-year institution and finish a bachelor's degree. If you're in either of these groups, understanding as much as you can about transfer credits before you enroll can help the whole process go more smoothly.

If you're thinking about transferring out, it's helpful to bear in mind that you don't have to complete your program before moving on. Nearly 95 percent of students transferring out of community college did so before earning their degree, and around half of them transferred from one two-year school to another.

It's also important to check for any articulation agreements between your origin school and your destination school. Articulation agreements are deals between individual institutions that establish equivalency guidelines for common courses and can simplify the transfer process.

Articulation agreements may include out-of-state schools, but you're more likely to find them when transferring between schools in the same state. We've also got state-specific transfer info on our community college state pages that can help you better plan your transfer approach.

If you're transferring in as an out-of-state student, it may be necessary to go through the standard transfer process. That usually means obtaining sealed official transcripts and course information from any previous school you attended, so your transfer courses can be considered on a case-by-case basis. Each school has its own procedures, so remember to speak with an adviser or registrar at your destination school while you're putting your application together. Read our article about how to transfer colleges for more insight. 

INITIATIVES FOR COMMUNITY COLLEGE STUDENTS

Though university students outnumbered community college students nationwide by about 3,330,000 in 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the often overlooked benefits of community colleges have made them a point of policy among state and local governments in recent years. Agencies and associations all over the country have put forth initiatives to help raise awareness about the benefits of community college for a wide variety of students.

Vocational programs, also known as career and technical education or career technical education (CTE) -- are on the rise for their growing value on the job market, and national initiatives focus on CTE training as well as two-year academic plans. Students anywhere in the country may be able to reap the benefits of national community college initiatives like these:

Stackable credentials

The Perkins Collaborative Resource Network (PCRN) drives this initiative, which is designed to help two-year institutions embed industry-recognized credentials into vocational and technical degree programs.

Formalized apprenticeship

A U.S. Department of Labor initiative called the Registered Apprenticeship-College Consortium (RACC) works to align apprenticeship programs with relevant community college degree plans to provide an academic foundation and reinforce career skills.

Guided pathways

Promoted by the Community College Resource Center (CCRC) at Columbia University, guided pathways are a new style of college program that emphasizes dedicated student advising, broad-scope majors and intensive career exploration.

Community college initiatives at the state level are common as well, and can include significant cost savings for students who qualify. Here's a list of just a few programs offered by individual states:

    • California Promise Program

Students pursuing an Associate Degree for Transfer (ADT) from a participating California community college can gain access to priority registration and extended advising services by signing a California Promise pledge.

    • 21st Century Scholars

Established in 1990, Indiana's 21st Century Scholars program provides eligible students with academic support and up to four years of paid tuition at a community college or university in the state.

    • Work Ready Kentucky

Bluegrass State students who qualify can attend certain community and technical college programs tuition-free when majoring in specific career fields within advanced manufacturing, transportation and logistics, healthcare, construction and more.

FINANCIAL AID FOR COMMUNITY COLLEGE STUDENTS

If you're weighing the pros and cons of community college, financial aid is probably one of the things that come to mind. You'll be glad to know that students at the best community colleges have essentially the same access to scholarships, grants, student loans and other financial aid programs as university students. There's probably even a wider range of aid available than you thought.

Whatever type of aid works best for you, it's important to stay on top of the application process. Here's a good series of general steps to follow when you're seeking financial aid for community college:

  • Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
  • Search online at our scholarship database or check with your financial aid office to find eligible programs funded by state, private or institutional sources
  • Look over your list of scholarships, grants and other opportunities to find the ones that work best for you
  • Assemble any recommendation letters, essays or other materials requested by the programs you're seeking
  • Double-check that your applications are complete and submit them, either digitally or in hard copy

The community college path is not your only option for higher education. Take a look at four-year colleges by state and explore schools by type of program for additional ways to get enrolled.

Article Sources
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  • Academics, Mountwest Community & Technical College, Accessed October 2018, http://www.mctc.edu/academics/
  • Online Learning, Mountwest Community & Technical College, Accessed October 2018, http://www.mctc.edu/academics/online-learning
  • History of Southern, Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College, Accessed October 2018, http://www.southernwv.edu/?q=about/history-southern
  • About, West Virginia Northern Community College, Accessed October 2018, http://www.wvncc.edu/about/west-virginia-northern-community-college/28
  • College History, New River Community and Technical College, Accessed October 2018, https://www.newriver.edu/college-history/#
  • DegreeNow! Adult Completion Initiative, Eastern West Virginia Community & Technical College, October 2018, http://www.easternwv.edu
  • Pierpont Quick Facts, Pierpont Community & Technical College, Accessed October 2018, https://www.pierpont.edu/about/quick-facts
  • Financial Aid Facts & Information, Carver Career Center, Accessed October 2018, https://carvercareercenter.edu/financial-aid/
  • Adult Day Programs, Mercer County Technical Education Center, Accessed October 2018, http://mercer-k12.wvnet.edu/technicaled/adult-resources/
  • MCTEC Graduation Rates, Mercer County Technical Education Center, Accessed October 2018, http://mercer-k12.wvnet.edu/technicaled/graduation-rates/
  • About Blue Ridge, Blue Ridge Community and Technical College, Accessed October 2018, http://www.blueridgectc.edu/about-blue-ridge/
  • West Virginia makes it easier to transfer college credits, George Hohmann, February 26, 2016, West Virginia Press, Accessed October 2018, https://wvpress.org/wvpa-sharing/west-virginia-makes-easier-transfer-college-credits/
  • Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
  • Local students, school officials react to WV free community college bill signed into law, WTAP, accessed April 2019, https://www.wtap.com/content/news/Local-students-school-officials-react-to-WV-free-community-college-bill-signed-into-law-507865781.html