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Best Community Colleges in Alabama

Looking to start or finish a degree in Alabama? The best Alabama community colleges can train you for a new job, help you follow a personal passion or provide an inexpensive way to prepare for your transfer to one of the hundreds of bachelor's programs at universities in the state.

The Alabama Community College System (ACCS) comprises 25 community and technical colleges, a workforce development initiative called the Alabama Technology Network and the oldest military junior college in the U.S. Its wide selection of schools make it an ideal place for those looking to further or train for a career.

We collected a huge dataset from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and analyzed it to figure out which institutions were the best community colleges in Alabama. Check out our list of the top two-year schools in the state and find out if your local college made the grade.

THE TOP 10 COMMUNITY COLLEGES IN ALABAMA

1

Enterprise State Community College (Enterprise)

Close to 1,800 students attend courses at Enterprise State Community College each year, where learners are expected to develop a well-rounded general skillset no matter what subject they study. The general education curriculum is designed to promote competencies in writing, math, natural science, history, communication, computer literacy and the fine arts.

Academic students at ESCC typically declare a general studies major and personalize their degree path with the individual courses they choose. Around 20 career and technical programs are also available, including computer programming, 3D modeling, health information technology and child development.

There's also good news for students who want to earn their living in the exciting world of aviation technology. ESCC's Alabama Aviation College facilities in Ozark, Mobile, Andalusia and Albertville work to help students meet the demands of specialized, in-demand positions in the aircraft and air travel industries.

2

Snead State Community College (Boaz)

Founded in 1898, Snead State Community College stands as the oldest associate degree-granting institution in the state. Despite more than 125 years of history educating Alabama students, a focus on responding to the changing times has helped it keep up with the academic necessities of the 21st century.

For example, the numbers suggest that Snead State ranks among the best online colleges in Alabama. The Boaz institution makes most of its university transfer degree options available as fully online study plans, and offers online Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree programs in applied business, child development and more.

Although more than 50 percent of the credit hours earned at Snead State are delivered through online courses, campus-based students have plenty of opportunity. The traditional catalog features more than 80 associate degree plans and over 30 certificate programs.

3

Northeast Alabama Community College (Rainsville)

Northeast Alabama Community College is one of the more affordable institutions among the top Alabama community colleges. A 24-credit year of coursework at the Rainsville school is priced under $3,800 for in-state students -- an amount that's more than $500 less than the statewide average for public two-year schools.

NACC students planning to transfer to one of the top four-year schools in Alabama work toward an Associate of Arts (A.A.) or Associate of Science (A.S.) degree, working with their advisor to complete a specific schedule of general education courses designed to transfer easily. Career and technical students have more than 70 programs to choose from.

More than 25 extra-curricular clubs and activities are available for students at NACC. The list of options includes an art club, a fishing club, a campus ministry and multiple honor societies and musical ensembles.

4

John C. Calhoun State Community College (Tanner)

First established in 1947, John C. Calhoun State Community College, commonly known as Calhoun Community College, grew to become one of the largest two-year schools in the state. More than 1,400 degrees and certificates were awarded in the 2016-17 academic year, and total enrollment in Fall 2017 topped out at nearly 10,000 students.

Calhoun is also one of the more prolific online colleges in Alabama. Around a dozen degrees and certificates are available via distance education and the catalog of online courses includes just about every subject of study available, from business and art to technology and mathematics.

What's more, Calhoun may be one of the best Alabama community colleges for recent high school graduates hoping to transfer to a university program. Over half of the students here were under the age of 21 in 2017.

5

Gadsden State Community College (Gadsden)

Gadsden State Community College maintains its flagship campus in Gadsden and operates five additional campuses in the northeastern Alabama area. Degrees and courses here are offered through eight academic divisions, including math and engineering, social science and skills training.

The institution features more than 30 clubs and organizations to keep students engaged during their extra-curricular time. Academic stars can apply to join a chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, and those passionate about their major may be able to find groups dedicated to advancing their understanding of their main subject of study.

What's more, Gadsden State participates in Veterans Upward Bound, a federal program that works to help military veterans develop the skills and mentality necessary to succeed in college. Services include seminars and workshops, a book loan program, academic course assistance and career plan counseling.

6

Lurleen B. Wallace Community College (Andalusia)

Located in south central Alabama, Lurleen B. Wallace Community College is a multi-campus institution dedicated to teaching and service. The main location in Andalusia features a school-owned golf course, tennis courts and public greenspace. Students from other cities in the region can also attend classes at campuses in Greenville, Opp and Luverne.

Students looking for a low-cost alternative to the first two years of a university program may be in luck at LBWCC. Tuition and fees for a 24-credit year here came to just over $3,500 -- a figure that's nearly $1,000 more affordable than the statewide average.

LBWCC's commitment to education doesn't stop with the traditional college experience. Adult learners within reach of the college's facilities can take advantage of free adult education and literacy services including GED preparation, college preparation, English language acquisition classes and more.

7

J. F. Drake State Community and Technical College (Huntsville)

Originally founded as Huntsville State Vocational Technical School in 1961, J. F. Drake State Community and Technical College admitted just 27 students in its first year and never got too big for its britches. Drake State has one of the closest-knit student bodies on our list, reporting a total student population of approximately 750 in 2017.

The academic catalog here contains close to 20 degree and certificate programs for students to choose from. The largest category of study plans is applied services technologies, which consists of career-focused programs in subjects such as heating and air conditioning, automotive service, welding and culinary arts.

Drake State has also kept pace with the rapid advancements in technology that have occurred in the last two decades. The Huntsville institution maintains 3D engineering and printing facilities and a satellite tracking station in partnership with NASA.

8

Reid State Technical College (Evergreen)

Reid State Technical College is the smallest institution among our top Alabama community colleges. Administrators report that fewer than 400 students attended classes at this Conecuh County institution in 2017, but a low student population has its upsides.

Student-faculty ratio, for example, can be a good predictor of how much time professors will have available to help learners who need some individual assistance with the material. The student-faculty ratio at RSTC was the lowest on our list by far -- 12:1 in 2017 -- and more than 25 percent better than the national university average.

If you're hoping for some financial aid in college, RSTC can help. Qualifying students here can apply for student aid through various institutional scholarship programs. Academic scholarships focus on classroom performance, while leadership scholarships focus mainly on service to college and community.

9

George C. Wallace State Community College (Hanceville)

George C. Wallace was a longtime Alabama politician who helped bring about the public community college presence in the state. The Hanceville school commonly known as Wallace State Community College is just one of the namesake institutions that honor his contribution to Alabama higher education.

Degrees at WSCC are earned through a Pathways system, which allows students to choose a general subject category -- liberal arts and general studies, applied technology, health science or science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) -- as well as a specific major. This approach can help students ensure that their general education courses are well-suited to their goals.

The number of degrees available online from WSCC, especially those grouped under the liberal arts and STEM pathways, earn it a mention among the best online colleges in Alabama. More than a dozen study plans feature online courses.

10

Coastal Alabama Community College (Bay Minette)

Coastal Alabama Community College was founded in 2017, when three smaller regional schools chose to combine their resources, making it the youngest community college in Alabama by a considerable margin. This new institution on the block maintains a total of 15 campuses and educates more than 10,000 students each year.

Coastal Alabama has a robust academic catalog that features over 100 degree and certificate programs, including A.S. plans in biological science, computer science and engineering. Allied health programs for emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and nursing assistants can help you break into the medical field.

If you're confident that nursing is the right career path for you, you may want to give Coastal Alabama's Bay Minette and Fairhope campuses some extra consideration. The registered nursing (RN) program offered at those two locations has been named the No. 1 such program statewide.

Resources for Alabama Transfer Students

The Alabama Community College System (ACCS) aims to make it possible for community college students to transfer to university programs with as little difficulty as possible. Students at any ACCS institution can obtain an official transfer guide that can help them chart a smooth course through their associate degree curriculum and into a related bachelor's program.

Students looking to transfer into public Alabama universities should make use of the guides available from the Statewide Transfer and Articulation Reporting System (STARS), while those hoping to enroll in a private institution for their bachelor's degree should be sure to use a transfer guide designed for Alabama Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (AAICU) schools. Quick links to the transfer guides can be found at the ACCS 2-to-4 Transfer hub.

Once you've decided where you'd like to earn your bachelor's degree, don't forget to look into the availability of transfer scholarships from your destination school. The University of Alabama, Auburn University and several other top four-year schools in Alabama provide special financial aid packages for in-state community college transfer students.

Methodology

We ranked community colleges in Alabama on multiple factors related to educational opportunity, student performance and student services.

Each school that reported the following data was scored on a 10-point scale, using the following six data points:

  1. The percentage of students enrolled in distance education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
  2. Cost of attendance, based on the average net price for students receiving scholarship and grant aid, and the total cost of tuition, fees, books and supplies, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
  3. Student-to-faculty ratio, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
  4. The graduation rate in 150% time, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
  5. The transfer-out rate in 150% time, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
  6. Flexibility, based on the following data points from the National Center for Education Statistics, 2016

                a) Whether the school offers credit for life experiences
                b) Whether the school offers programs of study that can be completed entirely in the evenings and on weekends
                c) Whether the school offers on-campus day care for students' children
                d) Whether the school offers any kind of alternative tuition plan.These may include, but aren't limited to, payment plans or guaranteed rates

Article Sources
  • College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, accessed October 15-16, 2018, https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?s=AL&ct=1+2&ic=2
  • Alabama Community College System, accessed October 15: About ACCS, https://www.accs.cc/index.cfm/about-accs/; 2015 Annual Report, https://www.accs.cc/default/assets/File/DPE_Stat/annualreport_2015.pdf#page=31; 2-to-4 Transfer, https://www.accs.cc/index.cfm/academics/2-to-4-transfer/;
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