Best Community Colleges in Florida
With 28 colleges serving 733,000 students on 72 campuses, The Florida College System offers programs for students from all walks of life. These institutions are joined by a number of private career colleges in preparing students for some of the state's fastest growing jobs.
Whether you're hoping to enhance your skillset to advance your career or finish your first two years of credits on the cheap before transferring to a bachelor's degree program, you'll likely find the right educational program at the state's top two-year schools.
The best community colleges in Florida offer both academic degrees and career technical education. What's more, public community colleges typically have a tuition rate that is significantly less than that charged by four-year schools or private institutions.
Keep reading to find out which are the best Florida community colleges, why CTE in Florida is important and how transfer agreements make it easy to continue your education at state colleges and universities.
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, including an associate degree in business administration and management and a computer programming specialist certificate.
Students at HCC can choose from more than 180 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 47,000 students each year.
City College-Altamonte Springs (Altamonte Springs)
City College was established in 1984 as a school of business. It has since grown to five campus locations in Florida, and these provide career-focused educational programs in business, health care and the legal/justice fields. City College also offers business administration and healthcare administration degrees online.
The Altamonte Springs location serves the Orlando area and is conveniently located near several bus stops, the highway and nearby shopping centers. The campus has accessible buildings and hands-on medical labs for its health care programs.
Seven programs are offered at City College-Altamonte Springs. They cover fields such as business administration, legal assisting and allied health fields. An associate degree in allied health, medical office administration is one of the school's most popular degrees, and it offers a track in insurance billing and coding.
Southeastern College-West Palm Beach (West Palm Beach)
Originally founded in 1988 as a career college for travel professionals, Southeastern College has evolved over the years to specialize in health and technology education programs. However, it hasn't wavered from its initial mission to provide a high-quality education that teaches practical skills.
West Palm Beach is home to Southeastern College's main campus, and the location houses more than a dozen diploma and degree programs. These include a popular medical assisting diploma and an associate degree in nursing. Cloud and information technologies, professional clinical massage therapy and pharmacy technology are among the other programs offered.
Some evening and online classes may be available. For fields with clinical requirements, students may complete an externship as part of their program.
City College-Hollywood (Hollywood)
The Hollywood campus is the newest location for City College and was established in 2011. It continues City College's tradition of specializing in high-quality career training. Students are taught in traditional and computer classrooms, and lab spaces are designed to simulate the working environment of medical professionals.
Six programs are offered at City College-Hollywood. They include an associate degree in veterinary technology and an emergency medical services program. Other degrees cover business administration, allied health and cardiovascular sonography. Students get hands-on training, and clinical requirements may be part of some degrees.
For those who prefer to learn online, City College has provided distance education options for more than ten years. It currently has online bachelor's degrees in business administration, management and health care administration.
CTE in Florida
Career technical education is central to the mission of many top community colleges in Florida. Also known as CTE, career technical education refers to programs that are designed to give students practical skills to be used in a specific occupation.
CTE in Florida falls into 17 different career clusters. These include architecture and construction, energy, health science and manufacturing. Two-year schools typically offer education pathways within each cluster. For instance, within the health sciences cluster, colleges may have pathways that lead to jobs in therapeutic services, diagnostic services, health informatics, support services or biotechnology research and development.
Students don't have to wait until college to begin preparing for a career either. CTE initiatives in Florida can begin in high school:
- Dual enrollment programs allow high school students to earn college credit early in both academic and CTE programs.
- SkillsUSA Florida brings together students and teachers to promote CTE in Florida through various activities and events.
- The School Board of Broward County received a grant from the U.S. Department of Education in 2017 for additional CTE teachers in the areas of computer science and information technology.
Visit the websites of the top community colleges in Florida to see what CTE programs they offer. You can also ask to be connected with an admissions counselor who may be able to provide additional information about career clusters and pathways. Or you can visit these links:
- Career Clusters - The Florida Department of Education lists all 17 career clusters here. Click on each cluster to see the pathways associated with it.
- Apprenticeships - Apprenticeships are another way to gain career skills in Florida, and this Florida Department of Education website provides details about registered apprenticeships.
Transferring Credits 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 adviser and discuss your transfer options.
For more insight into education in the state, be sure to explore the top four-year schools in Florida. Plus, our guide on How to Transfer Colleges goes into greater details about how to switch schools.
Resources for Community College Students in Florida
The Florida College System - Public community colleges belong to The Florida College System, and this site provides information about admissions, financial assistance and more.
Office of Student Financial Assistance - If you need help paying for college, OSFA has information on Florida scholarships and grants.
Florida College Access Network - Hosted by the University of South Florida System, this initiative is working to ensure all Floridians have access to higher education.
Using the National Center for Education Statistics' Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), we generated a list of colleges and universities that met the following criteria:
- Level of institution is either "At least 2 but less than 4 years" or " Less than 2 years (below associate)"
- Data is reported for all 14 ranking variables listed in the Methodology section
We ranked the resulting community colleges member schools on multiple factors related to educational opportunity, student performance and student services. Each school was scored on a 10-point scale, using the following data points:
- The published in-district tuition and fees, National Center for Education Statistics, 2018
- The published in-state tuition and fees, National Center for Education Statistics, 2018
- The in-district per credit hour charge for part-time undergraduates, National Center for Education Statistics, 2018
- The in-state per credit hour charge for part-time undergraduates, National Center for Education Statistics, 2018
- Percentage of students receiving financial aid, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
- Percent of students that transferred to a 4-year institution and completed within 8 years, College Scorecard, 2017
- The graduation rate in 150% time, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017
- Full-time student retention rate, National Center for Education Statistics, Fall 2017
- Student-to-faculty ratio, National Center for Education Statistics, Fall 2017
- Percentage of students enrolled in distance education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017
- Flexibility, based on the following data points from the National Center for Education Statistics, 2018
- Whether the school offers credit for life experiences
- Whether the school offers programs of study that can be completed entirely in the evenings and on weekends
- Whether the school offers on-campus day care for students’ children
- Whether the school offers any kind of alternative tuition plan. These may include, but aren’t limited to, payment plans or guaranteed rates.
- The Florida College System, Accessed October 2019, https://www.floridacollegesystem.com/home.aspx
- College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, Accessed October 2019, https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator
- Hollywood, City College, Accessed October 2019, https://www.citycollege.edu/locations/hollywood/
- Altamonte Springs (Orlando), City College, Accessed October 2019, https://www.citycollege.edu/locations/altamonte-springs-orlando/
- About Southeastern College, Southeastern College, Accessed October 2019, https://www.sec.edu/about/
- High School CTE Teacher Pathway, Perkins Collaborative Resource Network, Accessed October 2019, https://cte.ed.gov/initiatives/high-school-cte-teacher-pathway
- 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
- Panama City city, Florida, U.S. Census Bureau, accessed October 18, 2018, https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/panamacitycityflorida/PST045217
- 2017-18 In-District Tuition and Fees at Public Two-Year Institutions by State and Five-Year Percentage Change, The College Board, accessed October 18, 2018, https://trends.collegeboard.org/college-pricing/figures-tables/2017-18-district-tuition-and-fees-public-two-year-institutions-state-and-five-year
- Transfer, The Florida College System, accessed October 17, 2018, https://www.floridacollegesystem.com/students/transfer.aspx
- Transfer Students - General Overview, State University System of Florida, accessed October 17, 2018, https://www.flbog.edu/forstudents/ati/transfer.php
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/