Best Community Colleges in Indiana
Attending one of the best community colleges in Indiana can be a great way to save money on the first two years of a bachelor's degree or gain the knowledge and skills you need to start a new career. Whether you're planning to go straight to work after graduation or look for Indiana universities where you can finish your studies, studying at the state's top two-year schools is a good first step.
The public community college system in Indiana is unique. Rather than having multiple independent community colleges, the state is served by a single institution: Ivy Tech Community College. However, the college has dozens of campuses throughout the state and enrolls more than 72,000 undergraduate students annually. Other top institutions in the state are private two-year schools that offer vocational and career technical education.
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) publishes comprehensive data on learning institutions of all kinds, and we used those numbers to build scores for each of the best Indiana community colleges and rank them in order. Read on to find out which schools made the list and learn how they help students get the education they need.
Ivy Tech Community College (Indianapolis)
Indiana's public community colleges all operate from under the same umbrella: Ivy Tech Community College. This institution maintains more than 40 campuses throughout the state and teaches individual courses in nearly 80 Indiana communities, making Ivy Tech the largest singly accredited statewide college system in the country.
Ivy Tech is also one of the best online community colleges in Indiana, offering more than 1,000 individual online courses and featuring close to 20 degrees that can be earned without setting foot on campus. Online programs here include such popular subjects as business administration, criminal justice, computer science and the system's general education transfer core.
More than 100 campus-based degree and certificate programs are available across Ivy Tech's many locations, providing robust career and technical training alongside traditional college majors like engineering and chemistry.
Ancilla College (Donaldson)
Founded by the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ in 1937, Ancilla College is a private, Catholic liberal arts college in northern Indiana. Known formally as Ancilla Domini College, it expanded its liberal arts curriculum in the 1960s and today admits students of all faiths.
The student body here is fairly small, with fewer than 500 students each semester, but such a close-knit environment can be great for your academic focus. The average class size here is just 14 students — one of the best such figures among the top Indiana community colleges — so personalized attention from professors should be available when you need it.
More than 30 academic and career programs are available on campus at Ancilla, and business administration and registered nursing are among its more popular fields of study. The institution has begun to embrace the movement toward online colleges, and several fully online courses are available for students seeking some extra flexibility.
CTE in Indiana
Attending the top community colleges in Indiana can be an affordable way to finish the first two years of credits needed for a bachelor's degree. However, don't overlook the benefits of their career technical education — or CTE — programs as well.
CTE is also sometimes known as career and technical education and refers to degrees and certificates that prepare students for specific occupations. They are often short-term programs that are designed to provide practical hands-on skills. While liberal arts degrees provide an education that covers many subjects, CTE degrees are laser-focused on the skills and knowledge needed in the workforce.
Nationally, there are 16 career clusters that students can use to narrow down their education options. These clusters cover broad categories such as education and training, manufacturing and agriculture, food and natural resources. Within each cluster, there are numerous pathways that lead to specific occupations.
Career clusters and pathways are just two examples of how the government and schools are promoting CTE in Indiana. Here are a few other initiatives designed to get students thinking about career technical education.
- Next Level Jobs provides free job training for occupations in high-paying, in-demand industries.
- Adults who need to earn a high school equivalency or improve their academic skills may be able to do that and earn a professional certification through the WorkINdiana program.
- State Earn and Learn programs offer hands-on training such as apprenticeships or similar opportunities.
Want to learn more about CTE in Indiana? Visit the websites of the state's best community colleges to learn about their programs or read more at the following links:
- Indiana Career Clusters - Run by the State of Indiana, Indiana Career Ready lists all 16 career clusters and makes it easy to explore their pathways.
- Governor's Workforce Cabinet - The Governor's Workforce Cabinet is another government site offering information about CTE pathways and other resources.
Transferring Credits in Indiana
Depending on where you choose to earn your associate degree, you may have a wealth of opportunity when it comes to transferring your earned credits into bachelor's programs at the top four-year schools in Indiana.
Ivy Tech Community College, for example, offers more than 100 transfer programs with universities in Indiana and throughout the country. These programs, known as transfer single articulation pathways (TSAP) are designed to guide students through their associate degree curriculum and simplify the process of enrolling in a university program at the junior level.
Here are just a few of the nearly 20 subjects with available TSAP degrees at Ivy Tech:
- Computer science
- Elementary education
- Criminal justice
What's more, some universities in Indiana participate in unique regional transfer programs, and students at certain Ivy Tech locations may have access to direct transfer agreements between their specific location and one of the universities in the region.
If you're thinking about shifting into a bachelor's program after you finish community college, visit the Indiana Commission of Higher Education's TransferIN, take a look at the transfer opportunities portal on the Ivy Tech site or reach out to your adviser. We also have a guide about how to transfer schools that may also be helpful.
Resources for Community College Students in Indiana
- Indiana Commission for Higher Education - The CHE offers information on financial aid and state initiatives for students at two-year and four-year public institutions.
- Learn More Indiana - Everything you need to explore careers and plan for college — from a personality quiz to a list of all colleges in the state — can be found on the state government's Learn More Indiana website.
- Indiana Career Ready - Administered by the Department of Workforce Development, Indiana Career Ready offers information about the labor market, apprenticeships and other training opportunities.
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.
- Next Level Jobs Indiana, State of Indiana, Accessed December 2019, https://www.nextleveljobs.org/
- WorkINdiana, Department of Workforce Development, Accessed December 2019, https://www.in.gov/dwd/adulted_workin.htm
- About Ivy Tech Community College, Ivy Tech Community College, Accessed December 2019, https://www.ivytech.edu/about/index.html
- College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, Accessed December 2019, https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
- Transfer Your Credits, Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana, accessed November 26, 2018, https://www.ivytech.edu/transfer/index.html
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/