Best Community Colleges in Maryland
The 16 community colleges in Maryland are all members of the Maryland Association of Community Colleges (MACC), which was founded in 1992 to improve the effectiveness of the state's two-year schools. Each of the institutions on the MACC membership list offers both academic degrees and career-focused training, and open-admission policies ensure that past academic performance can't have an undue effect on your chances of enrollment.
Half a million Marylanders take classes at the state's community colleges each year. While 150,000 are enrolled in credit programs, the majority turn to these two-year schools for continuing education, workforce training and other non-credit learning options. Thanks to their diverse programs, community colleges are well-equipped to meet the needs of learners from high school students seeking a head start on college to adults who need to brush up basic skills.
The best community colleges in Maryland stand out from the pack in a variety of ways, whether it's providing far-reaching schedule flexibility or guiding students successfully to bachelor's programs at Maryland universities. We ranked the top ten Maryland community colleges according to an analysis of their data on affordability, student success and more — read on below to learn more about what they have to offer.
Frederick Community College (Frederick)
A total of around 85 degree, certificate and continuing education programs are available at Frederick Community College, where the student body consists of nearly 30 percent first-generation college students. Programs in STEM and cybersecurity are among the top five areas of study at this central Maryland school.
FCC began its existence in 1957 with a total student body of just 77 people, but it's grown into one of the largest institutions among the best community colleges in Maryland. Total enrollment here is just short of 16,000 students, with a for-credit headcount of nearly 9,000.
Frederick County, where FCC is located, features indoor and outdoor recreation galore for students to enjoy in their downtime. The county is full of scenic drives, museums, trail cycling, wineries, festivals, Civil War History sites and more.
Howard Community College (Columbia)
More than 30,000 students take classes at Howard Community College each year. The school points to its affordable tuition, quality programs and record of student success as reasons why many Maryland residents choose HCC.
The degrees and certificates at HCC are spread across eight academic divisions. Flexible learning options allow students to take classes on-campus, online or at an accelerated pace. The college's popular nursing program, for example, includes the opportunity to earn an associate degree in as little as 14 months.
HCC offers a number of unique learning communities as well. These include the Silas Craft Collegians and STEM Learning Community and bring together students of similar backgrounds and interests. Those who prefer hands-on learning may find HCC's apprenticeship programs and service learning options enhance their education.
Montgomery College (Rockville)
Montgomery College began its life offering evening classes at a local high school to fewer than 200 students, but much has changed since those humble beginnings. Today, the institution operates two satellite locations in Germantown and Takoma Park/Silver Spring, along with its main campus in Rockville, and it serves approximately 54,000 students each year through credit and non-credit programs.
Students can pursue any of around 100 areas of study at MC. The academic catalog contains more than 20 each of Associate of Arts (A.A.) and Associate of Science (A.S.) degrees, close to 40 Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) plans and more than 60 certificate programs.
MC has also entered the world of online colleges in Maryland, offering one A.A.S. and three A.A. plans fully online. Distance education students can study business, computer science, criminal justice or general studies.
Prince George's Community College (Largo)
Founded in 1958, Prince George's Community College has a long history of providing affordable and accessible education to area residents. Over the years, it has evolved to meet student needs and now offers programs for high school students, senior citizens, adult learners and traditional students.
The Culinary Arts Center is one of the newest facilities on the PGCC campus. It has three specialized kitchen labs and hosts classes for community members as well as culinary arts majors. The Center for Performing Arts is another state-of-the-art facility on campus. It houses the college's performing arts programs as well as offers public performances and events year-round.
Distance learners will find more than a dozen online degrees and certificates at Prince George's Community College. These cover fields such as business, criminal justice and accounting.
Hagerstown Community College (Hagerstown)
Hagerstown Community College was the first community college of any kind to be established in Maryland, first opening its doors in 1946 to a student body of mostly military veterans supported by the G.I. Bill. The school relocated to its current campus in 1966 and has expanded its academic efforts to include more than 100 degree and certificate programs.
More than 15,000 students attend classes at HCC, with around 40 percent of that total seeking accredited degrees and certificates. The institution operates satellite centers in North Hagerstown and at the Valley Mall to serve students at a distance from the main campus.
HCC is also one of the top online community colleges in Maryland. The academic catalog here features more than 240 online or hybrid courses and around 30 programs of study that can be completed entirely online, including an associate degree in education and a management certificate.
Anne Arundel Community College (Arnold)
Anne Arundel Community College has one of the most comprehensive academic catalogs in the state, offering more than 225 programs of study and a total of 3,500+ individual courses. Standard college majors like math, engineering, music, psychology and more are available, as well as over 30 professional credentials for career-minded learners.
The institution's main Arnold campus measures 230 acres in area, making it what the school's website claims is the largest single-campus community college in Maryland. The Arnold campus features 10 academic buildings, an astronomy lab, two art galleries and a 389-seat performing arts center.
AACC may also hold special significance for Maryland residents hoping to study dance at the collegiate level. The dance program here has been ranked among the top in the nation and boasts a faculty that features a Tony-nominated choreographer.
Baltimore City Community College (Baltimore)
Baltimore City Community College reports nearly 14,000 students in its for-credit and non-credit courses each year. Degree plans are offered in five areas of study, and around a dozen programs can be completed mostly or entirely online, including a legal assistant degree and a coding specialist certificate.
Students taking between 12 and 18 credit hours at BCCC all pay the same total amount of tuition and fees for the semester, regardless of the number of credits on their schedules. That flattening of costs for full-time students can make it possible for you to take six extra credit hours each semester, or roughly two courses, for essentially no cost.
BCCC is an affordable choice for many students. What's more, the Mayor's Scholars Program allows new high school graduates who are residents of Baltimore City to attend BCCC tuition-free.
Harford Community College (Bel Air)
It's important that schools present prospective students with a clear path to an education they can afford, and the numbers show that Harford Community College may have made that approach a priority. Residents of Harford County pay an average of around $3,800 in tuition and fees for a 24-credit year, which is significantly less than that charged by other colleges and universities.
This Bel Air institution was founded in 1957 and occupies more than 350 acres of campus real estate. The total number of students here was more than 8,000 in 2018. The median age was just 21 and approximately 2,500 students were enrolled in college for the first time.
Carroll Community College (Westminster)
Carroll Community College might be one of the best Maryland community colleges for high school students and recent graduates looking to knock out a few college credits before enrolling in a bachelor's degree program at a four-year institution. Of the roughly 3,000 students enrolled for credit at this Westminster school, more than 1,400 — around 45 percent — are under the age of 20.
The close-knit learning environment at Carroll can help students find the help they need when they need it. The average class here contains fewer than 20 students, and the ratio of students to faculty members was 14:1 in 2018. Popular majors include business administration, nursing and teacher education.
Students hoping to travel abroad have opportunities to do so at Carroll, as well. Trips to such destinations as London, Paris, Athens and Rome are offered each year during spring break.
Cecil College (North East)
More than 7,000 students take classes at Cecil College, with 3,000 taking courses for credit. Students who don't need or want a degree can take non-credit courses to improve their job skills or explore a personal interest.
Cecil College offers more than 75 associate degrees and certificates across eight broad categories such as teacher education, health professions and computer science and cybersecurity. Online degrees include an Associate of Arts in general studies, an Associate of Applied Science in transportation logistics and management and a certificate in accounting. Accelerated learning options are available for some programs.
The school says it's committed to academic excellence and maintains an 18:1 student-to-faculty ratio. Founded in 1968, Cecil College has its main campus in North East.
CTE in Maryland
Career technical education is offered by all the best Maryland community colleges. Also known as CTE, these programs teach job-specific skills that can be put to use immediately in the workforce. Welding, automotive technology and nursing are all examples of traditional CTE programs. However, career technical education can also encompass fields like accounting, business and computer science.
To help students explore their CTE options, Maryland divides occupations into 10 career clusters. Each cluster represents a group of similar occupations. For instance, there are career clusters for business management and finance, construction and development and arts, media and communication.
While career clusters can make it easy to explore your options, some of the top community colleges in Maryland also use career pathways to help students move from unskilled jobs into mid-skill and high-skill positions.
Here are a few other ways CTE in Maryland is supported:
- The Maryland Apprenticeship Ambassador program seeks to raise awareness of apprenticeship training opportunities.
- Maryland High School CTE Programs of Study are statewide model programs that seek to prepare high school students for both college and careers.
- Career and Technology Student Organizations such as SkillsUSA, FFA and Future Business Leaders of America promote CTE career options through competitions and other learning opportunities in the state.
To learn more about career technical education programs at a specific school, visit their website. Or to explore careers in general, check out the following resources:
- Maryland State Department of Education - All ten career clusters are listed on the Maryland State Department of Education website.
- Maryland CTE Works - Take a career interest survey, explore occupations and search for a college on this government sponsored site.
Transferring Credits in Maryland
The Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC) understands the importance of providing pathways to seamless transfer of college credits from one segment of the higher education system to another, and all public colleges and universities in Maryland abide by the policies put in place to facilitate such transfer. Here are just a few of the advantages that Maryland transfer students enjoy:
- Students who have completed an associate degree or earned at least 56 credit hours with a 2.0 GPA or better will not be denied direct transfer to public four-year schools in the state
- Courses taken as part of a recommended transfer program at Maryland community colleges will generally apply to the graduation requirements for a related bachelor's degree
- Credits earned in general education courses at one public institution can transfer to others regardless of whether or not the destination school offers the specific course
Maryland students seeking transfer guidance have a powerful information resource at their disposal, as well. The University System of Maryland's ARTSYS, an online portal for info and transfer assistance, can answer many of the questions a typical transfer student might have.
For more insight into higher education in the state, read about the top four-year colleges in Maryland. You can also read our guide on how to transfer schools to learn more about how transfer agreements work.
Resources for Community College Students in Maryland
- Maryland Association of Community Colleges - The MACC advocates on behalf of the state's community colleges and also provides information to students and their families about financial aid and program options.
- Maryland Higher Education Commission - This commission oversees policies for all public and private institutions of higher learning in the state.
- Maryland Department of Labor - Adult learners may find helpful information about workforce training, apprenticeships and veterans services at the Maryland Department of Labor.
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.
- Maryland Community Colleges, Maryland Association of Community Colleges, Accessed December 2019, https://mdacc.org/
- Discover HCC, Howard Community College, Accessed December 2019, https://www.howardcc.edu/discover/
- Why PGCC, Prince George's Community College, Accessed December 2019, https://www.pgcc.edu/about-pgcc/why-pgcc/
- College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, Accessed December 2019, https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
- Quick Facts, Cecil Community College, Accessed December 2019, https://www.cecil.edu/about-us/quick-facts
- Maryland Apprenticeship Ambassador Program, Maryland Department of Labor, Accessed December 2019, https://www.dllr.state.md.us/employment/appr/apprambassador.shtml
- School pages, accessed August 17-20, 2018: About Harford, Harford Community College, https://www.harford.edu/about.aspx; Facts and Figures, Harford Community College, https://www.harford.edu/about/facts-and-figures.aspx; 2017 Quick Facts, Harford Community College, https://www.harford.edu/~/media/PDF/Institutional-Research/Quick%20Facts/CURRENT_QUICK_FACTS.ashx; Tuition and Fees, Harford Community College, https://www.harford.edu/student-services/paying-for-college/tuition-and-fees.aspx; Why GC, Garrett College, https://www.garrettcollege.edu/why-gc.php; Degrees and Programs, Garrett College, https://www.garrettcollege.edu/degrees-and-programs.php; About, Chesapeake College, https://www.chesapeake.edu/about; Online Learning, Chesapeake College, https://www.chesapeake.edu/academics/online; At A Glance, Chesapeake College, https://www.chesapeake.edu/about/at-glance; Continuing Education, Chesapeake College, https://www.chesapeake.edu/continuing-education; About, Carroll Community College, https://www.carrollcc.edu/About/; Programs and Courses, Carroll Community College, https://www.carrollcc.edu/Programs-and-Courses/; Travel Programs, Carroll Community College, https://www.carrollcc.edu/Student-Life/Travel-Programs/; About, Frederick Community College, https://www.frederick.edu/about-fcc.aspx?cid=about-us-top-link; Programs, Frederick Community College, https://www.frederick.edu/programs.aspx; About, Hagerstown Community College, http://www.hagerstowncc.edu/about-hcc; Fast Facts about HCC, Hagerstown Community College, http://www.hagerstowncc.edu/about-hcc/fast-facts; Online Education, Hagerstown Community College, http://www.hagerstowncc.edu/academics/distance-education; History, College of Southern Maryland, https://www.csmd.edu/about/history/; Tuition and Fees, College of Southern Maryland, https://www.csmd.edu/costs-aid/credit-costs-aid/tuition-and-fees/; Quick Facts, College of Southern Maryland, https://www.csmd.edu/about/quick-facts/; Resources for Veterans and Military, College of Southern Maryland, https://www.csmd.edu/student-services/veteran-military-support-services/resources-for-veterans-and-military/; About MC, Montgomery College, https://www.montgomerycollege.edu/about-mc/; Majors and Degrees, Montgomery College, https://www.montgomerycollege.edu/academics/majors-and-degrees.html; Campuses and Locations, Montgomery College, https://www.montgomerycollege.edu/about-mc/campuses-and-locations/index.html; MC History, Montgomery College, https://www.montgomerycollege.edu/about-mc/history.html; Fully Online Degrees at MC, Montgomery College, http://cms.montgomerycollege.edu/distance/before/online-degrees/; About, Anne Arundel Community College, http://www.aacc.edu/about/; Fast Facts, Anne Arundel Community College, http://www.aacc.edu/media/college/LegislativeFastFacts_S18_Final_WEB.pdf; Dance, Anne Arundel Community College, https://www.aacc.edu/programs-and-courses/credit-and-degree-seekers/dance/; Location & Maps, Anne Arundel Community College, https://www.aacc.edu/about/locations/; About BCCC, Baltimore City Community College, https://www.bccc.edu/domain/8; Degree & Certificate Programs, Baltimore City Community College, https://www.bccc.edu/domain/18; Online Programs and Degrees, Baltimore City Community College, https://www.bccc.edu/domain/1110; Tuition & Fees, Baltimore City Community College, https://www.bccc.edu/Page/26; 2017-2018 Catalog, Baltimore City Community College, https://www.bccc.edu/cms/lib/MD02000050/Centricity/Domain/40/2017-2018%20CATALOG%206-8-18.pdf#page=7;
- 2017-18 In-District Tuition and Fees at Public Two-Year Institutions by State and Five-Year Percentage Change, Trends in Higher Education, The College Board, accessed August 17-20, 2018, https://trends.collegeboard.org/college-pricing/figures-tables/2017-18-district-tuition-and-fees-public-two-year-institutions-state-and-five-year
- Student Guide to Transfer Among Maryland Colleges & Universities, Maryland Higher Education Commission, accessed August 16, 2018, https://mhec.maryland.gov/preparing/Pages/stuguide.aspx
- Frequently Asked Questions, ARTSYS, University System of Maryland, accessed August 16, 2018, http://artsys.usmd.edu/faq.html