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Best Community Colleges in Florida

Florida is home to some of the biggest and best universities in the country, and getting your education started at one of the top community colleges in Florida can be a smart way to earn your degree at a discount.

Whether you're hoping to enhance your skillset to advance your career or take care of your first two years of credits on the cheap before transferring to one of the hundreds of bachelor's degree programs at Florida universities, you'll find more than a few ways to get where you're going at one of the state's top two-year institutions.

To compile a ranking of the best community colleges in Florida, we gathered National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) data on the nearly 60 two-year schools in the state and looked at factors like affordability, flexibility and student success. Check out our list of the top ten Florida community colleges and find out how these elite two-year schools can help you chart a course to your future.

THE TOP 10 COMMUNITY COLLEGES IN FLORIDA

1

Hillsborough Community College (Tampa)

Hillsborough Community College operates five primary campuses and three satellite locations in the greater Tampa Bay region, so students in the area shouldn't have to travel too far to attend class. It's also one of the more prolific online colleges in Florida, offering nearly 20 degree and certificate programs entirely through online courses.

Students at HCC can choose from more than 160 technical diplomas, college credit certificates and degrees designed for transfer to the top four-year schools in Florida. Tech professionals can learn skills and earn credentials in special programs that take two weeks or less to complete.

HCC may also be one of the best Florida community colleges for students who want to get some practice navigating a high-enrollment institution. The Tampa school reports one of the largest enrollment figures of any school on our list, educating more than 27,000 students each year.

2

North Florida Community College (Madison)

Originally founded as a junior college in 1957, North Florida Community College merged with nearby Suwannee River Junior College in the 1960s and took its current name in 1995. The academic catalog here lists around 30 associate degree and certificate plans and includes several non-degree programs for training law enforcement and corrections officers.

The NFCC campus in Madison offers a lot of upside for nature lovers. Its crown jewel is a 20-acre nature center with picnic sites, marked trails and observation points, and examples of the state's rich array of natural flora and fauna can be seen all over campus.

What's more, students who like an intimate environment in which to study might feel right at home here. Fewer than 1,400 students attended courses at NFCC in the 2016-2017 academic year.

3

Florida Keys Community College (Key West)

If you like having professors who can help you one-on-one when you need it, then Florida Keys Community College might be the school for you. The Key West institution reported a student-faculty ratio of less than 12:1 -- better than most two-year schools in the state by a wide margin and ahead of the national university average by 25 percent.

Students here can choose from more than 30 associate degree and certificate programs in six distinct categories. Technical certificates for college credit make up the largest portion of the catalog, with Associate in Science (A.S.) and vocational certificate programs not far behind.

FKCC is also home to some rare or unique degree programs, thanks to the special environment of the Keys. Students can earn technical certificates in marine mammal behavior and training, commercial diving and professional research diving.

4

Immokalee Technical College (Immokalee)

Immokalee Technical College, known locally as iTECH, takes a unique approach to vocational and technical education that can help students prepare for the full scope of responsibilities expected of them in their future career. Multiple programs at this south-central Florida institution operate on-campus storefronts, so students can learn customer service and other soft skills while they train for their new career.

The iTECH campus features an automotive service center, a childcare center, a cosmetology center, a practicing medical office and other environments in which students can learn and work. The catalog here features close to 20 programs in total, most of which can lead to vocational certificates.

Students who prefer a small, close-knit campus might want to consider iTECH. Fewer than 400 students attended courses here in 2017, and an on-campus café provides a cozy place to study.

5

D. A. Dorsey Technical College (Miami)

Located in south Miami, D. A. Dorsey Technical College is named for a prominent landowner and businessman in the African-American community of Miami at the turn of the 20th century. Programs here focus on building technical skills through hands-on training and preparing students for the realities of the working world.

Tuition and fees here are posted for entire programs, not just per term or per credit hour. The entry-level automotive service technology program, for example, lasts four terms and cost just over $3,000 in 2018 -- more than $500 more affordable than the national average cost for a typical one-year program at a public community college.

DADTC also provides guidance through an orientation program called Career Pathways. The 12-hour program helps participants identify their strengths and weaknesses, explore career opportunities and create viable short- and long-term goals.

6

George Stone Technical College (Pensacola)

George Stone Technical College held its first classes in 1968, and it has been a pillar of vocational education at the western end of the Panhandle ever since. It became fully accredited in the 1980s and added a high school completion program in 2012.

Students at GSTC can choose from a list of more than 20 career-focused study plans in business, health, public service and industry. Programs here are designed in such a way that students should be able to build valuable abstract skills like reasoning and problem solving as well as develop occupation-specific technical competencies.

Different types of programs here come with different tuition and fee schedules. A year of full-time study in most subjects cost less than $2,600 for Florida residents in 2018, although welding and aviation programs come with some additional course fees.

7

Lindsey Hopkins Technical College (Miami)

As the first career and technical center built in Miami-Dade County, Lindsey Hopkins Technical College has a rich history of providing occupational education near bustling downtown Miami. It earned accreditation from the Council on Occupational Education (COE) in 1972 and offers a catalog of degree programs both common and specialized.

The list of programs available at LHTC includes vocational school standards -- dental assisting, culinary arts, automotive technology and nursing, to name a few -- alongside somewhat rare subjects like commercial art, fashion technology, marine service technologies and nutritional services.

Programs here are provided on an open-entry basis, meaning that students may register at any time during a term if there's an open seat for them to take. Students are expected to complete the study plan at their own pace, and many programs have availability during both day and evening hours.

8

Emerald Coast Technical College (Defuniak Springs)

Emerald Coast Technical College is the smallest school among our top community colleges in Florida. This Panhandle school about 90 minutes northwest of Panama City reported a total 2017 enrollment of fewer than 200 students and a student-faculty ratio of 15:1.

Program offerings at change to reflect the demands of the career market, so students can expect a vocational education that's in step with the times. Current offerings include cyber security, computer information systems, cosmetology, electricity and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC).

If the subject you want to study doesn't appear in the ECTC catalog, however, don't give up hope -- you can add your voice to the conversation about which programs the school should offer. The institution encourages students to send emails with suggestions for new programs that would be wise to add to its portfolio.

9

Tom P. Haney Technical Center (Panama City)

The NCES reports a 2017 total enrollment of just over 400 students at Tom P. Haney Technical Center, which sits on a suburban campus in Panama City. The student-faculty ratio here was a comfortable 14:1 the same year, so students who need extra help outside of class time should be able to find it.

Programs here are designed to prepare students for the workforce with a combination of hands-on training and classroom learning. [[The school's website has been down every time I've tried to check it, however, so details about the subjects offered are unfortunately in short supply.]]

HTC's hometown of Panama City has a population of around 37,000 residents, which is a great size for an oceanfront town. Shops, restaurants, beaches and other attractions are fairly plentiful, so you'll have plenty to do on the weekends and between semesters, but the area isn't so big or busy that it's likely to distract you when you're trying to study.

10

Miami Lakes Educational Center and Technical College (Miami)

Miami Lakes Educational Center and Technical College offers both daytime and evening classes for a healthy percentage of its programs, in order to make it possible for working adults to continue their education without taking an undue amount of time off from their current job. More than 600 students were enrolled here in 2017 and the student-faculty ratio is 15:1.

Close to 20 subjects of study are available here, including a wider range of technical programs than many of the other vocational schools on our list. Program costs vary significantly from one subject to the next, so make sure to discuss fees with an advisor before diving in.

MLEC&TC maintains three locations in the outer Miami area: one full-service campus in Miami Lakes, one educational complex in Miami Gardens and a Toyota-specific automotive technology center in Miami proper.

Resources for Transfer Students in Florida

Administrators in the Florida College System (FCS) understand that many community college students hope to transfer their credits into a four-year university study plan once they graduate with their associate degree. As such, the state provides a pathway for guaranteed transfer of credits from FCS colleges into relevant university programs.

This approach to completing a bachelor's degree is known as 2+2. The statewide 2+2 agreement guarantees the transfer of credit to most public universities in Florida, as well as certain private institutions that are members of Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida (ICUF).

The 2+2 agreement is designed for credits earned in pursuit of an Associate in Arts (A.A.) degree. Associate in Science (A.S.) degrees in Florida are most commonly used for workforce training programs, but many bachelor's programs in the state will also accept A.S. degrees for 2+2 transfer. It's important to note that not every two-year school in Florida is a member of the FCS, so don't forget to meet with your advisor and discuss your transfer options.

For more insight into education in the state, be sure to explore the top four-year schools in Florida.

Methodology

We ranked community colleges in Florida 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
  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
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  • Colleges, The Florida College System, accessed October 17, 2018, https://www.floridacollegesystem.com/colleges.aspx
  • School pages, accessed October 17-18, 2018: Campus Information, Hillsborough Community College, https://www.hccfl.edu/campus-information.aspx; Online Programs, Hillsborough Community College, https://www.hccfl.edu/distance-learning/online-programs.aspx; Campus Locations, Hillsborough Community College, https://www.hccfl.edu/campus-information/campus-locations.aspx; Information Technology, Hillsborough Community College, https://catalog.tampatraining.com/browse/infotech; About NFCC, North Florida Community College, https://www.nfcc.edu/about-nfcc/index; History, North Florida Community College, https://www.nfcc.edu/about-nfcc/history/index.html; Programs of Study, North Florida Community College, https://www.nfcc.edu/academics/programs-of-study/index.html; NFCC Campus, North Florida Community College, https://www.nfcc.edu/about-nfcc/nfcc-campus/index.html; Public Safety Academy, North Florida Community College, https://www.nfcc.edu/academics/public-safety-academy/index.html; Degrees & Certificates, Florida Keys Community College, https://www.fkcc.edu/degrees-certificates/; History of FKCC, Florida Keys Community College, https://www.fkcc.edu/about/history-of-fkcc/; Our Campus, Immokalee Technical College, http://www.itech.edu/our-campus/; Programs, Immokalee Technical College, http://www.itech.edu/programs/; Who was D. A. Dorsey?, D. A. Dorsey Technical College, https://www.dorseytechnicalcollege.com/who-was-d-a-dorsey/; Career and Technical Programs, D. A. Dorsey Technical College, https://www.dorseytechnicalcollege.com/about/programs/career-and-technical-programs/; Cost of Attendance, D. A. Dorsey Technical College, https://www.dorseytechnicalcollege.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Cost-of-Attendance-Revised.pdf; Career Pathways, D. A. Dorsey Technical College, https://www.dorseytechnicalcollege.com/about/programs/career-pathways/; Campus Security, D. A. Dorsey Technical College, https://www.dorseytechnicalcollege.com/about/campus-security/; History, George Stone Technical College, http://www.georgestonecenter.com/history; Programs, George Stone Technical College, http://gstc-ecsd-fl.schoolloop.com/programs; About Us, George Stone Technical College, http://www.georgestonecenter.com/Aboutus; 2017-2018 Resident Fee Schedule, George Stone Technical College, http://www1.escambia.k12.fl.us/schscnts/gstone/docs/currentfeeschedule.pdf; Lindsey Hopkins Technical College, https://www.lindseyhopkins.edu/; About, Lindsey Hopkins Technical College, https://www.lindseyhopkins.edu/about/; Career and Technical Programs, Lindsey Hopkins Technical College, https://www.lindseyhopkins.edu/career-and-technical-programs/; FAQ ECTC, Emerald Coast Technical College, http://www.ectc.edu/faq-ectc.html; Tom P. Haney Technical Center, http://www.bayschools.com/htc/; Frequently Asked Questions, Miami Lakes Educational Center & Technical College, http://www.miamilakes.edu/frequently-asked-questions-faqs/; Campuses, Miami Lakes Educational Center & Technical College, http://www.miamilakes.edu/about/campuses/; Career and Technical Programs, Miami Lakes Educational Center & Technical College, http://www.miamilakes.edu/about/programs/career-and-technical-programs/; Estimated Cost of Programs 2018-2019, Miami Lakes Educational Center & Technical College, http://miamilakes.edu/pdf/Estimated_Cost_of_Programs_2018-2019.pdf;
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