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Best Community Colleges in Idaho

More and more students are becoming aware of the great value available from a community college education, whether they're planning to train for a skilled spot in the workforce or build up some credits for a future transfer to one of the top universities in Idaho. The best Idaho community colleges offer both options, provide flexibility measures for non-traditional learners and work to help their students succeed.

We pulled together a mountain of data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and ranked Idaho's two-year schools according to a list of metrics that includes affordability, ease of access and other important features. Read on for our list of the best community colleges in Idaho and learn how they can help you take the next step forward in your career or academic life.

THE TOP COMMUNITY COLLEGES IN IDAHO

1

North Idaho College (Coeur d'Alene)

North Idaho College first opened its doors in 1933, to a total enrollment of just 55 students. In the more than 80 years since, it's grown into a robust institution with nearly 5,400 enrolled students and a total of seven campuses and learning centers in the Idaho Panhandle.

Close to 100 degree and certificate programs are available to NIC students, including both career-focused training programs and traditional academic majors. It's also one of the most prolific online colleges in the state, offering more than 200 online courses each semester.

With approximately 50,000 permanent residents. the city of Coeur d'Alene is the population center of northern Idaho. The urban amenities of the city and the nearby natural beauty of its namesake lake and national forest make it a great place to live and study.

2

College of Southern Idaho (Twin Falls)

In its first year, the College of Southern Idaho held classes in a local high school and ran its administration out of an old hospital annex. A purpose-built campus in Twin Falls began construction not long after that rough-and-tumble beginning, and today it serves the Magic Valley region with one main campus and four outreach centers.

Nearly 6,900 students attend classes at CSI every semester, but even with that sizeable student population you're not likely to feel lost in the crowd. The student-faculty ratio here remains a comfortable 15:1, so professors should have ample time to work closely with students.

Most two-year programs offered here take the form of Associate of Arts (A.A.), Associate of Science (A.S.) and Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degrees. More than 120 different study plans are available.

3

College of Western Idaho (Nampa)

The College of Western Idaho is the largest two-year school in the state, welcoming nearly 20,000 credit-seeking students and more than 12,000 learners in non-credit basic skills and workforce programs annually. More than 1,700 degrees and certificates were awarded here in 2017-18, including over 1,000 two-year degrees.

If you're a younger student who's looking for a community college where you're likely to fit in, CWI might have the environment you're after. More than 70 percent of students enrolled here in 2018 were under the age of 20, and dual credit enrollment makes up the largest portion of the student body.

Students here have nearly 150 degree and certificate programs to choose from. Nearly 10 fully online degrees are available, as well as around 25 highly flexible hybrid plans that combine online and traditional courses.

4

College of Eastern Idaho (Idaho Falls)

Known as Eastern Idaho Technical College until 2017, the College of Eastern Idaho is ready to embark on a new educational journey. Its recent name change signals a shift from a purely career-focused approach to a more comprehensive catalog, and the numbers suggest that it will be a welcome addition to the state's list of academic degree-granting institutions.

For one, the close-knit learning environment here can make it easy for students to get personalized help when they need it. Just over 1,100 degree-seeking students attend CEI each year, and the student-faculty ratio is the best in the state at 9:1.

CEI offers close to 20 career education programs in three main study areas: health professions, trades & industry and business, office & technology. Its first academic degrees can be earned in either A.A. or A.S. formats and focus their curricula on general education studies.

Resources for Transfer Students in Idaho

If you're hoping to transfer to one of the top four-year schools in Idaho after finishing your associate degree, you'll want to know about the options in place to help the process go as smoothly as possible. Here's a quick list of the most comprehensive policies and initiatives regarding easy college transfer in Idaho:

  • In 2015, the Idaho State Board of Education approved a Statewide General Education Policy that ensures that students who finish an A.A. or A.S. degree at one accredited Idaho college will be considered as having satisfied the general education requirements for an Idaho bachelor's degree.
  • Individual universities in Idaho feature transfer pathways or articulation agreements that enable seamless transitions for incoming transfer students. The University of Idaho, for example, has such agreements in place with all four of our top Idaho community colleges.

Transfer agreements may even be active between your community college and out-of-state universities, particularly those in neighboring states like Washington, Montana and Utah. Remember to meet with your adviser if you're planning a transfer -- there may be more ways to make it work than you realize.

Methodology

We ranked community colleges in Idaho 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
  • College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, accessed November 27, 2018, https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?s=ID&ct=1+2&ic=2
  • School pages, accessed November 27, 2018: History of NIC, North Idaho College, https://www.nic.edu/history/; NIC Maps, North Idaho College, https://www.nic.edu/about/maps/; NIC Instructional Programs, North Idaho College, https://www.nic.edu/programs/; Class Schedule - Spring 2019, all (Internet), North Idaho College, https://www.nic.edu/schedules/results.aspx?term=2019SP&subject=all&type=Internet; eLearning, North Idaho College, https://www.nic.edu/websites/default.aspx?dpt=25&pageId=; History and Mission, College of Southern Idaho, https://quondam.csi.edu/aboutCSI/history_mission.asp; Majors, College of Southern Idaho, http://csi.smartcatalogiq.com/2017-2018/Catalog/Degree-and-Certification-Requirements/Majors; Degrees/Certificates Offered, College of Southern Idaho, https://quondam.csi.edu/degrees/; Facts at a Glance, College of Western Idaho, https://cwidaho.cc/info/facts-glance; Program Search, College of Western Idaho, https://cwidaho.cc/program; Program Search, College of Western Idaho, https://cwidaho.cc/program/delivery/online-649; Prospective Student, College of Eastern Idaho, http://www.cei.edu/prospective-student; Fast Facts, College of Eastern Idaho, http://www.cei.edu/falcons/resources/about/fastfacts.pdf; Programs of Study, College of Eastern Idaho, http://www.cei.edu/programs-of-study; Associate Degrees, College of Eastern Idaho, http://www.cei.edu/programs-of-study/general-education/associate-degrees; Transfer Pathways, University of Idaho, https://www.uidaho.edu/registrar/transfer/transfer-pathways; Advising Transfer Center, North Idaho College, https://www.nic.edu/websites/default.aspx?dpt=123;
  • College of Eastern Idaho Holds First Board Meeting, Local News, KPVI, July 10, 2017, accessed November 27, 2018, https://www.kpvi.com/news/local_news/college-of-eastern-idaho-holds-first-board-meeting/article_acd3fd42-65f0-11e7-a2b3-63c269f2c66e.html
  • Coeur d'Alene city, Idaho, QuickFacts, U.S. Census Bureau, accessed November 27, 2018, https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/coeurdalenecityidaho/PST045217
  • III.V. - Articulation and Transfer, Idaho State Board of Education, accessed November 27, 2018, https://boardofed.idaho.gov/board-policies-rules/board-policies/higher-education-affairs-section-iii/iii-v-statewide-articulation-and-transfer/
  • Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/