Best Community Colleges in Massachusetts
Looking for an affordable way to complete general education requirements for a bachelor's degree? Planning to pursue a career that requires vocational training? If you answered yes to either question, then you'll want to learn more about the best community colleges in Massachusetts.
The state's 15 community colleges offer diverse educational programs that can meet the needs of students from all walks of life. There are short term certificate programs and technical degrees that can have you ready to enter the workforce immediately after graduation. For those who want to pursue a bachelor's degree, transfer degrees are available as well. What's more, students looking for online colleges can take distance education classes from top Massachusetts community colleges, thanks to participation in the Massachusetts Colleges Online consortium.
More than 155,000 students are enrolled in Massachusetts community colleges, and the 15 institutions in the system account for half of all undergraduate credit enrollments in the commonwealth. Overall, 43 percent of students in the Massachusetts public system of higher education take classes at a community college. Open enrollment, affordable tuition rates and convenient learning options are all reasons why many choose public two-year schools.
Ready to take the next step? Here's a closer look at the best Massachusetts community colleges. Which one is right for you?
Bristol Community College (Fall River)
Bristol Community College is one of the top community colleges in Massachusetts. The school enrolls more than 10,500 credit students each year in its 150 academic programs. Between its five campus locations and online courses, the school is a convenient choice for students south of Boston.
Chartered in 1965, Bristol Community College offers career-driven programs that lead graduates either directly into the workforce or to a four-year school where they can continue their education. For adult learners, the school offers a free, one-credit College Success Seminar that teaches about the resources available at BCC to help returning students be successful in the classroom.
Students can choose to learn at one of four BCC locations: Fall River, Attleboro, New Bedford and Taunton. Online courses and degrees are also available. Fully online programs include an associate degree in computer information systems and a certificate in cybersecurity.
Massachusetts Bay Community College (Wellesley Hills)
Known simply as MassBay to many, Massachusetts Bay Community College enrolls approximately 6,000 students in its academic and career technical education programs. The school was chartered in 1961 and now offers classes at three campus locations.
MassBay offers more than 70 degrees and certificates in seven academies. Each academy represents a different topic of study such as automotive technology, business and legal studies. Through MassBay Online, more than 100 courses, six associate degrees and two certificates are offered to distance learners. These include an online degree in business administration and a certificate in paralegal studies.
To help students successfully transition to college, Massachusetts Bay Community College offers support services through the Coaching Commons. Students on the Wellesley and Framingham campuses can also receive free tutoring and other services through Academic Achievement Centers.
Massasoit Community College (Brockton)
Taking its name from the Great Chief of the Wampanoag Tribe, Massasoit Community College offers transfer degrees, certificate programs, continuing education and corporate training. It opened its doors in 1966 and, two years later, its first class of 137 students graduated.
Like other top Massachusetts community colleges, Massasoit features affordable tuition and numerous education opportunities. Its campuses boast of vibrant atmospheres where students will find interest organizations, athletics and numerous events and activities. Distance learners can choose from a handful of fully online programs include an associate degree in business administration and a certificate in law enforcement.
To help students succeed, Massasoit Community College offers several support services. In addition to academic advising and counseling for all students, the school has an Ubuntu Scholars program for underrepresented male students. Through the program, participants are grouped into academies, assigned mentors and meet with peer leaders.
Quinsigamond Community College (Worcester)
If you're looking for the best Massachusetts community colleges in the central part of the state, consider Quinsigamond Community College. Founded in 1963, the school has grown from several hundred students to more than 13,000 today.
Students enroll in QCC for a variety of reasons. Among them are the more than 120 associate degree programs and short-term certificate programs offered at the school. Academic choices cover diverse fields such as manufacturing, health care and business. Quinsigamond Community College says it offers the lowest per-credit tuition in the region, and student support services are available to help both traditional and adult learners succeed.
QCC has campus locations in Worcester, Marlborough and Southbridge. The school has a number of degree programs than can be earned either fully or mostly via online courses.
Springfield Technical Community College (Springfield)
Springfield Technical Community College is the only technical community college in Massachusetts. Welcoming a diverse student population, it is designated a Hispanic Serving Institution and has been named an Achieving the Dream Leader College.
There are more than 90 degrees and certificates offered at STCC. These include options in fields such as architectural design, criminal justice and nursing. The school strives to make these programs accessible by offering flexible learning options. Day, night, weekend and online courses are available. What's more, accelerated 7-week Flex Term classes are offered in many fields.
STCC offers its students a wide range of support services. These include on-campus child care, mental health counseling, career support and academic advising. There is also an Honors Program for academically gifted students.
Middlesex Community College (Bedford)
With two campuses in Lowell and Bedford, Middlesex Community College says it's where student success starts. As one of the top community colleges in Massachusetts, the schools offers a diverse degree catalog, flexible scheduling options and a number of student support services.
MCC first opened the doors of its Bedford campus in 1970. The Lowell location followed in 1987. Today, more than 12,000 students attend classes at the community college, and nearly half of those are the first in their family to pursue a higher education. Small class sizes and affordable tuition are part of what make Middlesex Community College an attractive educational choice.
The school has dozens of certificate and degree programs in diverse fields like biotechnology and early education. There is also an honors program, international study options and hundreds of online courses.
Bunker Hill Community College (Boston)
Bunker Hill Community College is not only one of the best Massachusetts community colleges, but it is also the largest. Enrolling more than 12,000 students on multiple campuses, the school is an affordable choice for those seeking vocational training or an associate degree.
Beyond that, BHCC is notable for its diversity. In fact, it is one of the most diverse colleges in the state, with more than 60 percent of its student population being people of color. Women make up half its enrollment. The school's diversity extends globally as students representing more than 100 countries attend class at Bunker Hill Community College each year.
BHCConline offers several online degrees and certificate programs including an Associate in Arts business transfer option and a computer support specialist certificate. For those who prefer a traditional environment, the Boston area college has two campuses and several satellite locations.
Northern Essex Community College (Haverhill)
Being affordable and accessible are two reasons Northern Essex Community College is one of the best community colleges in Massachusetts. More than 15,000 students take classes at the school which offers early credit for high school students, online classes for distance learners and career skills for adults.
NECC offers more than 60 programs on two campus locations as well as online. It has an American Sign Language Studies program and an EMT basic course among its many options. Plus, there are transfer degrees, technical degrees and certificates in popular fields such as business, health and computer and information sciences. Eleven programs are offered fully or mostly online.
Founded in 1961, NECC has its campuses in Haverhill and Lawrence. Both are home to a number of academic and special interest clubs.
Cape Cod Community College (West Barnstable)
Residents of Cape Cod have one of the top community colleges in Massachusetts right in the neighborhood. Cape Cod Community College was founded in 1961 and serves the area of Cape Cod, Plymouth, Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard.
Part of what makes Cape Cod Community College unique is the opportunity it affords to earn a bachelor's degree or a master's degree on its campus. Thanks to partnerships with several universities, students can enroll in an advanced studies program that results in a four-year or graduate degree. Meanwhile, the Hyannis Center offers free educational services to adults who want to improve basic academic skills.
CCCC enrolls nearly 3,000 credit students each year in its on-campus and online courses. There are also weekend, evening and quick term options to make classes convenient for nontraditional learners. Popular programs include a degree in nursing and a medical assisting certificate.
Holyoke Community College (Holyoke)
Holyoke Community College may be the right choice for anyone seeking online colleges in Massachusetts. The school has dozens of online courses as well as a number of fully online programs. There are also evening and Saturday classes that can make it convenient for nontraditional students to complete their education.
Founded in 1946, HCC was the first two-year school in the Commonwealth. Today, it is designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution and is committed to meeting the needs of students from diverse backgrounds. It promises student they can start at the college and get the skills to go anywhere.
An affordable tuition rate and vibrant campus community are other notable aspects of Holyoke Community College. Its campus is in Holyoke, and its programs cover five areas of studies and include departments such as deaf studies, accounting and biology.
CTE in Massachusetts
Top community colleges in Massachusetts can be a good place to take general education classes that can be applied toward a bachelor's degree. However, just as importantly, they provide career technical education. Known as CTE or career and technical education, this type of education is career-focused and helps prepare students to work in a specific occupation or industry. CTE programs often result in a technical degree or certificate.
Massachusetts has been recognized by organizations like the Thomas B. Fordham Institute as being a national leader in CTE. For instance, the commonwealth's Creating College and Career Pathways initiative is designed to help students find the right pathway to a high-paying, in-demand career even before they reach college.
The initiative has three components:
- Early College Programs rely on partnerships between high schools and colleges to give high school students access to college credit and experiential learning experiences before they graduate.
- Innovation Pathways provide a career-oriented education that exposes high school students to high-demand industries and sectors.
- Career Vocational Technical Education focuses on training for specific occupations. Programs cover 44 educational frameworks within 11 career clusters.
Each of the best Massachusetts community colleges has their own approach to CTE programs, and you can learn more by visiting each school's website. You can also learn about CTE in Massachusetts at these links:
- Creating College & Career Pathways - More information about this initiative and its components can be found on the Commonwealth of Massachusetts website.
- Office of College, Career and Technical Education - This office provides more details about how the Massachusetts government supports and encourages CTE.
Transferring Credits in Massachusetts
The top Massachusetts community colleges have made it possible for students to start their education at a two-year school and continue it at a state university. You may even get a discounted tuition rate thanks to an agreement between schools. Here are two ways Massachusetts Community Colleges make that happen:
- Commonwealth Commitment Program: If you earn an associate degree within 2.5 years at one of the Massachusetts community colleges, then you may be eligible to transfer credits to a state university under this program. Plus, you'll be eligible for a tuition rate freeze as well as a 10 percent rebate on tuition and mandatory fees. There are some stipulations though, such as earning your bachelor's degree within two years of transferring credits and maintaining a 3.0 GPA. Plus, not all academic programs qualify.
- MassTransfer Program: This program ensures a smooth transfer of core credits from a Massachusetts community college to one of the state's public four-year institutions. In addition, at least two private schools — Suffolk University and Dean College — will accept credits through the MassTransfer program.
For those planning to attend another private college or university, many of the best community colleges in Massachusetts have articulation agreements in place that guarantee the transfer of credits to certain programs.
Check out the best four-year colleges in Massachusetts, and then talk to your community college about if and how your credits will transfer to the school of your choice. Plus, read our guide on how to transfer schools for more about how to transfer credits between institutions.
Resources for Community College Students in Massachusetts
- Massachusetts Association of Community Colleges - For links to all 15 Massachusetts community colleges as well as information on financial aid and online learning options, visit MACC.
- Massachusetts Department of Higher Education - This government website is another place to go for information on financial aid and transfer agreements.
- Commonwealth of Massachusetts - The commonwealth maintains a higher education page that includes links to colleges and universities, financial aid, admissions standards and more.
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.
- Fast Facts, Massachusetts Association of Community Colleges, Accessed December 2019, https://www.masscc.org/about-mcceo/fast-facts
- About Us, Massachusetts Bay Community College, Accessed December 2019, https://www.massbay.edu/about
- About STCC, Springfield Technical Community College, Accessed December 2019, https://www.stcc.edu/about-stcc/
- College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, Accessed December 2019, https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
- NECC, Northern Essex Community College, Accessed December 2019, https://www.necc.mass.edu/discover/
- Massachusetts sets the bar again, this time in CTE, Jessica Poiner, March 23, 2018, Thomas B. Fordham Institute, Accessed December 2019, https://fordhaminstitute.org/national/commentary/massachusetts-sets-bar-again-time-cte
- Transfer & Joint Agreements, Massachusetts Community Colleges, Accessed August 2018, http://www.masscc.org/transfer%20
- Mass Colleges Online, Massachusetts Community Colleges, Accessed August 2018, http://www.masscc.org/student-resources/mass-colleges-online
- About Us, Middlesex Community College, Accessed August 2018, https://www.middlesex.mass.edu/about/
- Achieving the Dream, Roxbury Community College, Accessed August 2018, http://www.rcc.mass.edu/about-us/achieving-the-dream
- Why We Do What We Do, Achieving the Dream, Accessed August 2018, http://www.achievingthedream.org/about-us
- About, Bristol Community College, Accessed August 2018, http://www.bristolcc.edu/about/
- Vital Stats, Mount Wachusett Community College, Accessed August 2018, https://mwcc.edu/about-mwcc/vital-stats/
- Online Degrees & Courses, Quinsigamond Community College, Accessed August 2018, https://www.qcc.edu/academics/online-degrees-courses
- Ubuntu Scholars, Massasoit Community College, Accessed August 2018, https://www.massasoit.edu/students-and-parents/student-services/ubuntu-scholars/
- About Bunker Hill Community College, Bunker Hill Community College, Accessed August 2018, https://www.bhcc.edu/about/
- About Us, Cape Cod Community College, Accessed August 2018, https://www.capecod.edu/web/about-us
- NSCC Fast Facts, North Shore Community College, Accessed August 2018, http://www.northshore.edu/about/fast-facts.html
- About, Holyoke Community College, Accessed August 2018, https://www.hcc.edu/about
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/