Best Community Colleges in Colorado
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) counts a total of 23 two-year institutions in the state of Colorado. More than half of those schools belong to the Colorado Community College System (CCCS), which operates 13 individual colleges with nearly 40 campuses and learning centers distributed throughout the state.
Whether your goal is to take the next step forward in your career or save money on lower-division courses before transferring to one of the hundreds of bachelor's programs at Colorado universities, the best community colleges in Colorado can help you achieve it.
We looked at important factors like affordability, flexibility, student success and more to determine the top ten Colorado community colleges -- check out the list below.
Aims Community College (Greeley)
Close to 8,000 students attend classes each year at Aims Community College, with roughly 65 percent enrolled on a part-time basis. Along with the main location in Greeley, the institution maintains full-service secondary campuses in Loveland, Windsor and Fort Lupton.
Aims also may be one of the best Colorado community colleges for high school graduates looking to earn their first few semesters of college credit at a discount. In-district tuition and fees for a 30-credit year came to less than $2,400 in 2018, and around 55 percent of students are 21 years of age or younger.
This northern Colorado institution also stands tall among online colleges in Colorado, offering online academic workshops alongside its distance education courses and tests. Students seeking a general Associate of Arts (A.A.) degree can take some, most or all of their classes online.
Morgan Community College (Fort Morgan)
Morgan Community College was founded in 1970 with just one instructor and one available class, but it joined the state system just three years later and has since grown into an institution that serves close to 1,400 students each year.
The service area for MCC covers close to 11,500 square miles across eastern Colorado, but most students don't have to travel too far to get to class. The Fort Morgan-based institution has additional campuses and learning centers in four other cities in the region -- Bennet, Burlington, Limon and Wray -- and more than 200 online courses are available through Colorado Community Colleges Online (CCCOnline).
Area high school graduates looking for some assistance with their tuition bills may be eligible for MCC's Promise Award, which provides up to $4,000 in aid over two years. Full-time students typically receive more per semester than those attending part-time.
Pikes Peak Community College (Colorado Springs)
This institution in central Colorado is one of the largest schools among the best community colleges in Colorado, educating around 19,000 students each year, but that doesn't mean you'll be dealing with crowded classrooms. Despite its large student population, Pikes Peak Community College reported an average class size of just 16 students in 2017.
More than 180 degree and certificate programs are available for students at PPCC, including three types of Guaranteed Transfer degree: an Associate of Science (A.S.), an Associate of General Studies (A.G.S.) and an A.A. The certificate catalog consists of a wide range of subjects, including computer networking, radio and television production and outdoor recreation technology.
Students with young children might want to give PPCC extra consideration -- the campus features a child development center for little ones between six weeks and five years old.
Arapahoe Community College (Littleton)
Arapahoe Community College offers a total of more than 100 degree and certificate programs to students in the greater Denver area. More than 12,000 students attend courses each year at the three locations in the area.
Each ACC campus has a unique flavor and provides its own selection of opportunities to students. The flagship location in Littleton, for example, features an art and design center, a fitness center and a child development center. ACC Parker students can choose either A.A or A.S. degrees, and the Castle Rock campus has A.A. plans and career-focused coursework.
Once you graduate, you can connect with the ACC alumni association, which comes with benefits that stretch beyond the ability to stay connected with teachers and classmates. Members get one year of free career assistance on campus, access to local networking events and discounts on local goods and services.
Community College of Denver (Denver)
The roughly 9,000 students at the Community College of Denver had an average age of 24 in 2016, so non-traditional students might feel more at home here than at an institution that tends more toward recent high school graduates. Nearly half of those enrolled at CCD are the first in their families to attend college, and approximately three students out of four attend part time.
CCD has earned acknowledgements for its successful work in serving students from specific populations. It was recently designated a Military Friendly School, for example, and it's received federal recognition as a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI).
The degree catalog here contains a wide range of specific study plans in nearly 50 subjects of study. CCD is also one of the top online community colleges in Denver, offering close to 25 fully online degree and certificate programs.
Front Range Community College (Westminster)
Front Range Community College awarded more than 4,600 degrees and certificates in 2016. Students hoping to avoid big crowds on campus shouldn't worry, though -- the total enrollment of nearly 20,000 students is spread comfortably among four brick-and-mortar locations.
The flagship FRCC campus in Westminster serves more than 7,800 students, while the closer-knit advanced technology campus in Longmont had around 3,500 on its rolls in 2017. Fort Collins is home to the largest campus of the four, educating close to 8,500 students each year. FRCC also offers more than 350 online courses for students who need some extra flexibility.
Students here have a large selection of traditional college majors to choose from, including physics, sociology, political science, English, math and music. The catalog of technical subjects is vast as well, including veterinary technology, optics technology and emergency medical technician (EMT) programs.
Community College of Aurora (Aurora)
Founded in 1983, the Community College of Aurora educates more than 11,000 students each year. The 2017-18 headcount showed that high school students taking concurrent enrollment classes make up around 40 percent of that total, which may be a big part of why 88 percent of CCA students attend part time.
It may be due in part to that high rate of part-time attendance that the classrooms at CCA provide such an intimate learning environment. The average class size here is between 14 and 15 students, which can give professors more space to help those who need it.
This suburban institution in the Denver metro area is also one of the more diverse schools on our list. No single demographic group represents a majority of CCA students, and nearly 62 percent of those enrolled in 2017 came from non-European backgrounds.
Colorado Northwestern Community College (Rangely)
Colorado Northwestern Community College may not have the largest degree catalog among top Colorado community colleges, but some of its programs definitely stand out. Students at this small school near the Utah border can learn equine training and management or pursue associate degrees in flying and aviation, to name just two.
The CNCC campus in Rangely is the more robust of the institution's two locations, featuring residence halls, fitness facilities and NJCAA athletic teams in volleyball, basketball, softball, baseball and rodeo. The second campus in Craig is home to an active visual arts community and features a range of workforce training and technical programs.
Total enrollment at CNCC was reported to be just over 1,200 in 2017. That small student body allows for a student-faculty ratio of 13:1 -- one of the lowest among CCCS schools.
Lamar Community College (Lamar)
Founded in 1937, Lamar Community College is one of the oldest and member institutions of the CCCS. It's also the smallest, educating fewer than 1,000 students in 2017, so students who crave an intimate campus and close-knit learning environment may want to take a close look at their options here.
The associate degree catalog at LCC contains a variety of strong choices for today's students, including a wide range of modern agriculture programs and an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S) degree in renewable energy technologies. Around 25 career-focused certificates are available as well.
This southeastern Colorado institution participates in ten statewide transfer agreements, including business, economics, history, math, psychology and early childhood education. Students here also have access to online transfer plans that can allow them to earn a full-fledged bachelor's degree without relocating to their destination school.
Northeastern Junior College (Sterling)
Northeastern Junior College educated its first class of students way back in 1941, but the intervening decades haven't caused it to grow too big to handle. The once-named Sterling Junior College has remained a cozy rural institution, educating around 1,500 students each year in a town of fewer than 14,000 residents.
Nearly 130 degree and certificate programs are available at NJC, including several study plans in agricultural, environmental and animal science. Most of the associate degree plans available can be tailored for smooth transfer to four-year schools that offer the right bachelor's degree program.
Certain programs offered here may be somewhat difficult to find at other community colleges in Colorado, like the transfer-oriented degrees in philosophy, optometry and mortuary science. Online courses are available directly from NJC as well as through CCCOnline.
Initiatives for Colorado Transfer Students
The Colorado Department of Higher Education (CDHE) works to make it as easy as possible for students to transfer to Colorado universities once they've gotten all they can out of a community college education. Here's some info about some of the CDHE initiatives in place to help transfer students succeed:
- Guaranteed Transfer (GT) Pathways consist of courses that will always transfer between Colorado public institutions, provided you're seeking an eligible degree
- Many students may qualify for life experience credit through subject knowledge tests like CLEP and DSST, as well as their previous Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) exams
- A list of nearly 40 statewide transfer degrees that link numerous community colleges and universities through articulation agreements in specific subject areas
- A directory of transfer databases and tools available at community colleges and universities throughout the state
Your current school and your destination school both may have transfer-specific advising services available, as well. Even though the CDHE web portal provides a great deal of information, students are still encouraged to work with their advisers to make sure they choose the right courses for their intended major.
For more insight into education in the state, explore the top universities in Colorado.
We ranked community colleges in Colorado on multiple factors related to educational opportunity, student performance and student services.
Each school 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: 15%
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: 30%
3. Student-to-faculty ratio, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016: 5%
5. The transfer-out rate in 150% time, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016: 30%
6. Flexibility, based on the following data points from the National Center for Education Statistics, 2016: 10% (2.5% each)
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.
- College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, accessed September 10-12, 2018, https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?s=CO&ct=1+2&ic=2
- Colorado Community College System, accessed September 11, 2018: History, https://www.cccs.edu/about-cccs/history/; CCCS Colleges, https://www.cccs.edu/about-cccs/cccs-colleges/; CCCOnline, https://www.cccs.edu/about-cccs/ccconline/; All Course Listing, CCCOnline, https://www.ccconline.org/category/all-course-listing/page/5/;
- School pages, accessed August 11-12, 2018: About Aims, Aims Community College, https://www.aims.edu/about/index.php; Facts and Stats, Aims Community College, https://www.aims.edu/about/at-a-glance/text.php#fast-facts; Tuition and Fees, Aims Community College, https://www.aims.edu/student/cashier/tuition; Aims Campuses, Aims Community College, https://www.aims.edu/campus/index.php; Online Campus, Aims Community College, https://www.aims.edu/online/index.php; Degrees and Certificates, Morgan Community College, https://www.morgancc.edu/programs/degrees-certificates/#1506959779706-4e4ae847-9f64; MCC Promises Financial Help to Recent High School Grads, Morgan Community College, https://www.morgancc.edu/2018/06/13/mcc-promises-financial-help-to-recent-high-school-grads/; History, Morgan Community College, https://www.morgancc.edu/about-mcc/history/; Locations, Morgan Community College, http://www.morgancc.edu/about-mcc/locations/#main; About, Pikes Peak Community College, https://www.ppcc.edu/about; About ACC, Arapahoe Community College, https://www.arapahoe.edu/about-acc; A-Z Programs, Arapahoe Community College, https://www.arapahoe.edu/departments-and-programs/a-z-programs; Alumni Association, Arapahoe Community College, https://www.arapahoe.edu/about-acc/alumni-association; About CCD, Community College of Denver, https://www.ccd.edu/about-ccd/about-us; Programs, Community College of Denver, https://www.ccd.edu/programs; CCD Online, Community College of Denver, https://www.ccd.edu/org/ccd-online; Facts and Figures, Front Range Community College, https://www.frontrange.edu/about-frcc/facts-and-figures; Fast Facts, Front Range Community College, https://www.frontrange.edu/about-frcc/facts-and-figures/fast-facts; Campuses & Locations, Front Range Community College, https://www.frontrange.edu/campuses/campus-locations; Online Learning, Front Range Community College, https://www.frontrange.edu/programs-and-courses/online-learning; A-Z List of Academic Programs, Front Range Community College, https://www.frontrange.edu/programs-and-courses/a-z-program-list; Fact Sheet, Community College of Aurora, https://www.ccaurora.edu/about-cca/college-data/fact-sheet; Online Learning, Community College of Aurora, https://www.ccaurora.edu/programs-classes/online-learning; Degree and Certificate Programs, Community College of Aurora, https://www.ccaurora.edu/programs-classes/degrees-certificates; Locations, Colorado Northwestern Community College, http://www.cncc.edu/home/locations; About LCC, Lamar Community College, https://lamarcc.edu/about-lcc/; Transfer Options, Lamar Community College, https://lamarcc.edu/academics/transfer-options/; Degrees & Certificates, Lamar Community College, https://lamarcc.edu/academics/degrees-programs/; Certificates, Lamar Community College, https://lamarcc.edu/academics/degrees-programs/certificate-programs/; Degree Options, Northeastern Junior College, http://www.njc.edu/Academics/Degree-Options; Online Classes, Northeastern Junior College, http://www.njc.edu/Online-Classes;
- Sterling city, Colorado, QuickFacts, U.S. Census Bureau, accessed September 12, 2018, https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/sterlingcitycolorado
- Complete College Colorado, Colorado Department of Higher Education, accessed September 10, 2018, https://highered.colorado.gov/Academics/Transfers/Students.html
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/