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.
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.
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 $3,700 in tuition and fees for a 24-credit year, which comes in at more than $800 more affordable than the 2017-18 statewide average.
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 just shy of 9,000 in 2016. The median age was just 21 and around 25 percent of those attending were first-time college students.
The degree catalog here contains more than 80 degree and certificate programs. General studies, nursing, business administration and psychology make up the lion's share of declared majors.
Garrett College (McHenry)
Students looking for an intimate learning environment might feel right at home at Garrett College. The McHenry school reported a total headcount of just 750 for-credit students in 2016, which has allowed administrators to keep the student-faculty ratio to a very comfortable 13:1.
A total of 35 academic and workforce training programs are available at GC, with the largest portion of the catalog dedicated to education, health care and information technology programs. Students looking for help with the cost of a college education tend to find it here, as well -- approximately 94 percent of the student body receives some form of financial aid.
What's more, lovers of the outdoors will have plenty to do and see in Garrett County. Residents can canoe, camp, hike, ski, hunt, fish, swim and sail in the county's many parks, lakes and forested spaces.
Chesapeake College (Wye Mills)
Chesapeake College is the oldest of Maryland's regional community colleges, founded more than 50 years ago to serve residents of the Eastern Shore region. The list of degree and certificate plans available here includes more than 70 college majors and close to 60 career-focused training programs.
Chesapeake is one of the more robust online community colleges in Maryland, offering students a range of web-based flexibility options. Along with full-semester online courses, students can take intensive fast-track sessions that allow full courses to be completed in just eight weeks.
For-credit enrollment at Chesapeake came in around 2,800 in 2017, but the total headcount of students taking classes at the Wye Mills school was nearly three times that number. Approximately 5,800 students pursue continuing education courses in such fields as tourism and hospitality, child care, real estate, fitness and more.
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 1,300 -- 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 2017.
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.
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 fell just short of 16,000 students in 2017, 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.
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.
College of Southern Maryland (La Plata)
Originally founded as Charles County Junior College in 1958, the College of Southern Maryland took its current name in the summer of 2000. Tuition and fees costs are relatively affordable here, with a 24-credit year coming in at around $700 less than the statewide average for public, two-year institutions.
Despite a total headcount of more than 23,000 students, of which nearly 11,000 were enrolled in for-credit programs, the average class size at CSM was just 18 in 2017. Admins here make a strong effort to serve veterans and servicemembers, providing an exclusive veterans' lounge and offering military-friendly resources through the career services department.
Students hoping to transfer into a bachelor's degree program may get extra benefit from a CSM education. The La Plata school maintains guaranteed transfer admission agreements with more than 60 universities in Maryland and elsewhere.
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 close to 60,000 students each year through credit and non-credit programs.
Students can pursue any of approximately 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.
Anne Arundel Community College (Arnold)
Anne Arundel Community College has one of the most comprehensive academic catalogs in the state, offering more than 220 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 approximately 7,000 students in its for-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.
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 also goes the extra mile to help the students in its career education programs. If a graduate hasn't found a job in their field within 90 days, the college offers additional coursework and support services at no charge to the student.
Initiatives for Transfer Students
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 4-year colleges in Maryland.
We ranked community colleges in Maryland 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:
- The percentage of students enrolled in distance education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
- 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
- Student-to-faculty ratio, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
- The graduation rate in 150% time, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
- The transfer-out rate in 150% time, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
- 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.
- College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, accessed August 17-20, 2018, https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?s=SC&ct=1&ic=2
- About MACC, Maryland Community Colleges, accessed August 17, 2018, https://mdacc.org/about-macc/
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- 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