Best Community Colleges in Michigan
Not every student wants to attend a four-year school. Even those who plan to eventually earn a bachelor's degree don't have to start at an expensive university or college. Community colleges are an affordable alternative that provide certificate programs and career training as well as degree programs that can be used as the foundation for further education at another institution.
There are 28 such colleges in Michigan and together, they enroll more than 365,000 students. Some serve as online colleges and offer programs specifically designed for distance learners. Others provide a more traditional, campus-based experience. However, even these often have some online courses.
While traditional students make up the majority of those enrolled at Michigan community colleges, the schools also have a significant number of adult and nontraditional learners. The average age of those attending these schools is 25.7, according to the Michigan Community College Association.
The top community colleges in Michigan are those that offer diverse education options. They have flexible scheduling arrangements, graduate a larger percentage of their students on time and help those who want to continue their education transfer to a four-year school. Whether you are a recent high school graduate or an adult returning to the classroom, keep reading to discover the top Michigan community colleges.
Washtenaw Community College (Ann Arbor)
If you're looking for the best colleges in Michigan, head to Ann Arbor. The city is not only home to the University of Michigan, but it also has one of the state's top community colleges.
Washtenaw Community College has been serving area students for more than 40 years. The school features an open-door policy, small class sizes and a diverse student body. Overall, more than 18,000 students enroll in credit courses each year, and they hail from more than 100 countries as well as the U.S.
WCC offers more than 100 learning programs, ranging from transfer degrees to apprenticeships. To make education more accessible, the school has online courses as well as night and weekend classes, and it offers more than 45 fully online programs. What's more, students can choose to study at one of four extension sites.
Lansing Community College (Lansing)
Located in the heart of the state's capital city, Lansing Community College is another of the best Michigan community colleges. It was established in 1957 and is a comprehensive institution. It offers classes ranging from general education to career development to personal enrichment.
LCC participates in the Michigan Career Pathways System that links high school studies to certificate and degree programs at the college. There are six Career Pathways that can be followed for those interested in working in fields such as the arts, health sciences and natural resources. Many programs, such LCC's business degrees can be completed online.
On campus, students have access to numerous organizations that relate to both personal interests and professional pursuits. There is also a school newspaper, a Student Leadership Academy and both men and women's athletic teams.
Monroe County Community College (Monroe)
Monroe County Community College was founded in 1964 and is situated between Toledo and Detroit. While its main campus is in Monroe, a second learning site can be found in Temperance.
Like other top Michigan community colleges, MCCC offers affordable tuition and diverse learning opportunities. Students can complete a certificate program or technical degree program if they want to enter the workforce within two years. Otherwise, transfer degrees are available for those planning to pursue a bachelor's degree. Students can even earn four-year degrees on the MCCC campus thanks to partnerships with Siena Heights University and Eastern Michigan University.
The academic programs at Monroe County Community College are broken down into five divisions: applied science and engineering technology, business, health sciences, humanities/social sciences and science/mathematics. Some online courses are available.
Muskegon Community College (Muskegon)
Head to the west side of the state to find Muskegon Community College. The school has the distinction of not only being one of the best colleges in Michigan but also one of the oldest community colleges. The school can trace its roots all the way back to 1926.
While MCC has its main campus in Muskegon, students can also take classes in four different locations. Available programs include certificates, three transfer degrees, continuing education and workforce development. As one of the online colleges in the state, the school has been offering online courses since 1998. It has a fully online degree in early childhood education as well as an online child development associate certificate.
MCC has several unique attributes which contribute to it being one of the top Michigan community colleges. It has a state-of-the-art planetarium, 15-acre outdoor learning laboratory and the state's only community college-owned golf course.
Bay de Noc Community College (Escanaba)
More commonly known as Bay College, this school is a top educational choice for students in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Bay de Noc Community College has its main campus and workforce training in Escanaba and maintains a second campus in Iron Mountain.
Bay College has dozens of degree and certificate programs that fall into eight career pathways. Among its programs are a number of pre-professional degrees that can serve as the foundation for higher education in fields such as medicine or dentistry. Hundreds of courses can be completed online and three degrees, include an associate in business administration can be earned entirely online.
On-campus housing is available, and Bay College supports more than 20 active student organizations and clubs. Approximately 550 high school students receive early college credit annually, thanks to a dual enrollment option.
Kirtland Community College (Roscommon)
From transfer degrees to professional trade preparation, Kirtland Community College offers education programs for diverse career paths. It is also one of the state's online colleges and has both degrees and certificates for distance learners. These programs may even allow students to complete lab work from home. An associate degree in cyber security and an entrepreneurship certificate are just two examples of Kirtland's online options.
As is the case with most of the best community colleges in Michigan, Kirtland Community College has affordable in-district tuition. Indeed, its cost is among the lowest in the state. What's more, there are a number of scholarship programs available to lower student costs even further.
Kirtland was founded in 1966 and has the largest community college district in the state. The school's main campus is in Roscommon. Additional learning centers can be found in Grayling, Gaylord and West Branch.
Kellogg Community College (Battle Creek)
Serving nearly 8,500 students each year, Kellogg Community College operates five learning sites is south central Michigan. Online courses are also available.
The college's academic catalog includes more than 100 education options. These include transfer degrees, technical degrees and certificates. Kellogg Community College has a police academy, honors program and the only nursing associate degree in the area that can be earned on a part-time basis. Students enrolled in manufacturing, skilled trades and applied technology programs learn in the college's Regional Manufacturing Technology Center which features state-of-the-art equipment.
KCC has a focus on service learning and maintains a number of community partnerships to help students gain experience in the field. In another innovative approach to learning, the KCC Writing Initiative seeks to foster a culture of writing among both students and faculty.
St. Clair County Community College (Port Huron)
Established in 1923, St. Clair County Community College has a long history of meeting the educational needs of students in its region. The school, which is known as S4C by many, enrolls nearly 3,500 students today, and its average class size is 19 students.
Students at S4C can choose from dozen of programs that span six divisions. These include a Humanities and Fine Arts Division that offers an Associate of Arts designed for those planning to transfer to a four-year school. Other divisions, such as Health and Human Services, offer programs intended to take students directly from the classroom to the workplace.
In addition to online courses, S4C has eight fully online associate degrees in majors such as business, computer information systems and accounting.
Kalamazoo Valley Community College (Kalamazoo)
Kalamazoo Valley Community College says it is as unique as you are. The school enrolls nearly 8,000 students, and almost 70 percent of those take classes on a part-time basis. KVCC is an affordable educational choice with an in-district tuition rate that is less than the average of all Michigan community colleges.
Through its Guided Pathways program, Kalamazoo Valley makes it simple for students to find the right certificate or degree for their career goals. The nine pathways offered by the school let students select an area of interest, such as health careers or industrial trades, and then explore occupations within that category.
In terms of specific degrees, KVCC has popular options such as a business administration and nursing as well as unique degrees in fields such as sustainable brewing.
West Shore Community College (Scottville)
Offering comprehensive academic programs in a scenic setting, West Shore Community College has been serving students in Mason County since 1967. The school's certificate programs, technical degrees and transfer degrees meet the needs of students planning to enter the workforce immediately as well as that of those expecting to pursue further education elsewhere.
WSCC offers a range of flexible learning options, including an electrical journeyman apprentice program. The college participates in Michigan Colleges Online to provide access to online courses. That's one of nine partnerships the college maintains with universities and other entities to provide additional learning opportunities to students.
West Shore Community College has its main campus in Scottville. There, seven state-of-the-art buildings house classrooms, a tech center, theater, art gallery and a recreation center. A second learning center can be found in Manistee.
CTE in Michigan
Providing career and technical education is core to the mission of Michigan community colleges. Commonly called CTE, career technical programs include apprenticeships, certificates and technical degrees. They are typically intended to provide practical skills that are used in specific occupations.
To help students select the right CTE program, some Michigan community colleges offer what are known as guided pathways. Each pathway groups similar degrees and certificates together so students can explore careers related to their interests. For instance, at Kalamazoo Valley Community College, students interested in public service will find that pathway includes American Sign Language, coaching, fire safety and law enforcement as possible career choices.
In addition to guided pathways, the Michigan Community College Association supports and encourages CTE in Michigan through three Centers of Excellence:
- The Michigan Center for Student Success has developed 20 initiatives including Guided Pathways and Degrees When Due, which seeks to help adults return to school and complete a degree program.
- Michigan Colleges Online allows community college students to take more than 1,200 courses online, including many career technical classes.
- The Michigan New Jobs Training Program allows community colleges to provide free workforce training to employers in their area.
You can find more information about school-specific career technical education programs on community college websites. Or visit the following websites to learn more about CTE in Michigan:
- Michigan Guided Pathways Institute - Although intended as a resource for community colleges, students can find examples of Guided Pathways here.
- Michigan Association for Career and Technical Education - Known as MI-ACTE, this is a professional organization for CTE professionals and provides information on both state and national initiatives.
Transferring Credits in Michigan
If you're planning to transfer credits from a community college to a university in Michigan, the Michigan Transfer Agreement helps simplify the process. The agreement allows students to transfer general education credits from one participating institution to another.
To be eligible for the MTA, students must complete at least 30 credits of coursework in six areas of study. This can be accomplished either by earning a transfer associate degree at a community college or some schools offer the credits as part of a stand-alone package. Dozens of schools, including many of the best colleges in Michigan, participate in the MTA.
Beyond the MTA, some community colleges have separate partnerships with universities to allow the transfer of credits for specific programs. However, four-year colleges and universities may accept credits for individual classes outside of these arrangements. The Michigan Transfer Network is an online service that lets students determine how individual courses at one school may be credited by another.
Our guide on How to Transfer Schools is another resource that may be helpful as you move from a two-year school to a four-year school. If you're planning to earn a transfer degree at a community college, you'll also want to check out the best four-year colleges in Michigan to determine where to take your education next.
Resources for Community College Students in Michigan
- Michigan Community College Association - The MCCA undertakes a variety of initiatives to support the mission of the state's 28 community colleges.
- Michigan Department of Education - The MDE has a section on its website dedicated to career technical education.
- Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity - Known as LEO, this department has resources for job seekers that may also be of interest to community college students.
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, Michigan Community College Association, Accessed November 2019, https://www.mcca.org/fast-facts
- The Bay College Difference, Bay College, Accessed November 2019, https://www.baycollege.edu/
- About KCC, Kellogg Community College, Accessed November 2019, http://www.kellogg.edu/about/
- College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, Accessed November 2019, https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
- About, St. Clair Community College, Accessed November 2019, https://sc4.edu/about/
- Facts at a Glance, Kalamazoo Valley Community College, Accessed November 2019, https://www.kvcc.edu/about/fastfacts.pdf
- Initiatives and Resources, Michigan Community College Association, Accessed November 2019, https://www.mcca.org/initiatives-and-resources
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- About Us, Washtenaw Community College, Accessed June 2018, http://www.wccnet.edu/about-us/
- About LCC, Lansing Community College, Accessed June 2018, https://www.lcc.edu/about/history/
- Career Pathways, Lansing Community College, Accessed June 2018, https://www.lcc.edu/academics/programs/pathways/
- Quick Facts, Muskegon Community College, Accessed June 2018, http://www.muskegoncc.edu/quick-facts/
- Facts & Figures, Delta College, Accessed June 2018, https://www.delta.edu/about-us/facts-figures.html
- The College, Monroe County Community College, Accessed June 2018, https://www.monroeccc.edu/about_us/college.htm
- Campus Locations, West Shore Community College, Accessed June 2018, https://www.westshore.edu/about/campus-locations/
- Our Story, West Shore Community College, Accessed June 2018, https://www.westshore.edu/about/
- Quick Facts, Glen Oaks Community College, Accessed June 2018, https://www.glenoaks.edu/quick-facts/
- Points of Pride, Glen Oaks Community College, Accessed June 2018, https://www.glenoaks.edu/quick-facts/
- North Central Michigan College University Center, North Central Michigan College, Accessed June 2018, http://www.ncmich.edu/academics/university-center/
- Academics, North Central Michigan College, Accessed June 2018, http://www.ncmich.edu/academics/
- About Us, North Central Michigan College, Accessed June 2018, http://www.ncmich.edu/about-us/
- Why Mid? Mid Michigan Community College, Accessed June 2018, https://www.midmich.edu/admissions/why-mmcc
- Online Learning at MMCC, Mid Michigan Community College, Accessed June 2018, https://www.midmich.edu/academics/online-learning
- Why Kirtland, Kirtland Community College, Accessed June 2018, https://www.kirtland.edu/why-kirtland
- Kirtland Community College Facts, Kirtland Community College, Accessed June 2018, https://www.kirtland.edu/about-kirtland/kirtland-community-college-facts
- Michigan Transfer Agreement (MTA) Frequently Asked Questions for Students, Michigan Transfer Agreement, Accessed June 2018, https://www.macrao.org/Publications/MTA%20Student%20FAQ.pdf
- Participating Institutions, Michigan Transfer Network, Accessed June 2018, https://www.michigantransfernetwork.org/Institutions.asp