Best Community Colleges in Missouri

When it comes to higher education, Missouri students have plenty of options. The Missouri Department of Higher Education notes more than 150 career schools operating in the state. They are joined by 11 specialized and technical schools, 14 public two-year colleges and dozens of public and private four-year colleges and universities. Each school designs its programs to mirror its local economy to ensure there is a trained workforce available to meet the needs of area employers.

Community colleges are often the first choice for many students. Not only do they typically have affordable tuition rates, but they also consolidate a number of educational programs in one place, such as transfer degree programs for those who would like to eventually earn a bachelor's degree, and technical degree or certificate programs for those planning to enter the workforce immediately. Online courses are also available through many of the best Missouri community colleges. The 12 institutions belonging to the Missouri Community College Association enroll a combined 90,000 students each year.

Whether you're interested in online colleges or traditional campus programs, keep reading to discover the best colleges in Missouri and decide which is right for you.



East Central College (Union)

Based in Union, East Central College nabs the top spot among the best Missouri community colleges. It seeks to create an environment that promotes values such as integrity, excellence and global citizenry.

There are dozens of programs available at ECC. These include those that result in certificates of achievement, certificates of specialization and associate degrees. Students can also enroll in adult education and online courses. Areas of study include the fine arts, humanities and nursing and allied health. To make these programs affordable, East Central College offers dozens of scholarships to eligible students hat can be combined with state and federal financial assistance.

ECC was founded as East Central Junior College in 1968. It took the name East Central College in 1980 to reflect the comprehensive nature of it available programs.


Moberly Area Community College (Moberly)

As one of the best community colleges in Missouri, Moberly Area Community College offers students multiple ways to start and complete their education. You can study at one of six campus or center locations, some of which provide the option to earn a four-year degree at MACC. There are also online courses, hybrid programs and virtual classes.

Overall, there are more than 40 degree and certificate paths available through MACC. These range from technical certificates to transfer degree programs. Options include a virtual/hybrid accelerated nursing degree and fire academy training. Academically gifted students can join the college's Honor Program while a semester abroad is available for those who are globally minded.

Moberly Area Community College also offers a number of services to help students succeed. These include financial aid, career placement and a New Traditions programs for students facing economic changes.


St. Charles Community College (Cottleville)

St. Charles Community College says your future awaits here. The two-year school provides a variety of educational programs that are suitable for high school students to senior citizens.

These include transfer degree plans, technical degree and certificate programs in fields such as graphic design, accounting and nursing. SCC prides itself on being student-centered, and it has specialized offerings for student-athletes, veterans, adult learners and those without a high school diploma. Once enrolled, students have access to dozens of clubs and organizations, study abroad opportunities and more.

More than 9,000 students take classes at SCC each year. As one of the best Missouri community colleges, the school says it enrolls 20 percent of St. Charles County high school graduates. Its campus is in Cottleville, to the west of St. Louis.


St. Louis Community College (St. Louis)

St. Louis Community College makes the list of top Missouri community colleges because of its affordable tuition and comprehensive degree catalog, among other factors. With six locations throughout St. Louis, it offers comprehensive education options to residents of Missouri's second-largest city.

SLCC offers technical programs in fields such as health sciences and skilled trades as well as those considered transfer degrees. According to the school, it sends more transfer students to public four-year institutions in Missouri than any other community college in the state. SLCC says transfer students can save thousands on the price of a bachelor's degree by completing their first two years on one of its St. Louis campuses.

St. Louis Community College has served 1.2 million students since it was founded in 1962.


Ozarks Technical Community College (Springfield)

Students with varied career dreams can pursue them at Ozarks Technical Community College. More than 160,000 students have attended this two-year school, which was founded in 1990. Its alumni network consists of nearly 20,000 graduates.

OTC provides both technical and general education programs. These include those that culminate in associate degrees or certificates, as well as more general adult education and customized training. Students have access to academic advising and career counseling services.

While Ozarks Technical Community College's main campus is in Springfield, there are also campuses and learning centers in four other locations. OTC Online offers students opportunities to pursue more than a dozen online degree and certificate programs in fields such as teaching and criminal justice as well as hybrid programs that combine online courses with on-campus learning.


Crowder College (Neosha)

Found in the southwest portion of the state, Crowder College is another of the top community colleges in Missouri. The school has its main campus in Neosho, but also offers classes on six other sites. Across its locations, Crowder College offers dozens of degree and certificate programs.

Educational options cover diverse subjects, including business, nursing, criminal justice and fire science. When not studying, students can participate in more than two dozen clubs and organizations offered on campus. There are study abroad options and athletic programs available as well.

Crowder is known for its affordable tuition rate, and more than 200 scholarships are offered to eligible students to offset costs. Upon graduation, the school's transfer and career services help students take the next step and put their education to good use.


Missouri State University-West Plains (West Plains)

An average class size of 17 and generous financial aid help make Missouri State University-West Plains another of the top community colleges in Missouri.

Part of the Missouri State University System, this two-year school enrolls approximately 2,000 students each year. You can choose from transfer and career programs that are offered in a number of formats. There are traditional classes, an evening college and online courses available. A fully online Associate of Arts in general studies is also available. Plus, students can take advantage of Missouri State University-Springfield programs that are offered on the West Plains campus. These can result in a bachelor's or master's degree being earned at the community college.

Missouri State University-West Plains was founded in 1963 as the West Plains Residence Center. It gained the ability to grant its own one-year certificates and associate degrees in 1991.


Jefferson College (Hillsboro)

You'll find one of the top Missouri community colleges in Hillsboro. Jefferson College has a long history in the community, dating back to its approval by area voters in 1963. At that time, the college was only the second junior college district in the state to be created.

The school awards five types of associate degrees and a number of career and technical education certificates. Business, culinary arts, computer integrated manufacturing and nursing are a few of the programs available. JCOnline lets students take online courses to complete some program requirements.

Affordable tuition is part of what makes JC one of the best community colleges in Missouri. One innovative initiative at the school that can bring down student costs is the Credit for Prior Learning program. It lets students earn credit for work or life experience.


State Fair Community College (Sedalia)

State Fair Community College invites students to learn more and do more through its programs. The two-year college has dozens of degree programs and certificate paths and has graduated approximately 17,000 students.

SFCC makes the list of best community colleges in Missouri thanks to its flexible scheduling and affordable tuition. In addition to its main campus in Sedalia, students can study at six different locations. Online courses and degree plans are also an option for those who need a more flexible schedule. Fully online programs include an Associate of Arts for transfer students and an Associate of Applied Science in business management.

As for tuition, State Fair Community College says it has one of the most affordable rates in Missouri. About 75 percent of students receive financial aid, which can further reduce out-of-pocket costs for those enrolled.


Three Rivers College (Poplar Bluff)

Whether you want to update your job skills or eventually earn a bachelor's degree, Three Rivers College may be the right choice for you. The school offers flexible scheduling options and a tuition rate that it says is half that charged by four-year schools.

Three Rivers offers degree programs and certificate plans in eight areas of study including Associate of Arts transfer pathways, agriculture and forestry and emergency services. However, the most popular fields in terms of enrollment are health sciences, general education and elementary education. Nearly a third of students are enrolled in online learning.

The college, founded in 1966, opened with a class of 138 students in 1967. It now provides instruction on five full-service campuses as well as online and at other locations in Southeast Missouri.

CTE in Missouri

If the idea of spending years in school doesn't appeal to you, take a look at career technical education. Called CTE by many programs include hands-on training, and even better, some programs can be completed in as little as one semester.

You might be surprised at the number of programs that fall under the umbrella of CTE. In Missouri, career technical education pathways to dozens of careers can be found in fields such as agriculture, art, marketing, manufacturing and tourism. As early as middle school, many districts encourage students to consider pathways which can lead to high-paying, high-demand occupations.

The following are few examples of how Missouri encourages CTE at all levels.

  • The Fast Track Workforce Incentive Grant is a financial aid program that began in the 2019-20 academic year for those who choose to pursue a degree, certificate or industry-recognized credential in a high-need area.
  • Missouri Career Pathways helps school districts identify high-demand careers in their area and arrange for student externships or other work-based learning opportunities.
  • SkillUP is a program targeting those who receive government Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. It provides assistance so they can get the education and training needed to move into an in-demand career offering good wages.

The best community colleges in Missouri offer CTE programs, and you can read more about their specific degrees and certificates on their websites. However, for more general information on CTE, try these resources:

Transferring Credits in Missouri

Students enrolled in a certificate program or a technical degree program can expect to move directly into the workforce after graduating. However, those earning a transfer degree, such as an Associate of Arts or Associate of Science, may want to transfer credits to a four-year school where they can be applied toward a bachelor's degree.

The Missouri Department of Higher Education notes a number of two-year and four-year schools in the state have agreed to General Education and Credit Transfer Policy. These schools allow a 42-hour block of general education credits to be transferred between institutions. Many of the top Missouri community colleges also have articulation agreements with specific colleges and universities regarding how and when credits transfer.

Check the best four-year colleges in Missouri to see which one appeals to you. Then contact the admissions office for more details on that institution's specific credit transfer policies. You can also find additional general information on transfer agreements in our guide on how to transfer schools.

Resources for Community College Students in Missouri

Missouri Community College AssociationAll 12 public community colleges in Missouri are a part of this association. Although they are separate and independent local institutions, they have a history of working together to meet state and local needs.

Missouri Department of Higher Education & Workforce DevelopmentThis agency oversees higher education in the state and provides information on planning for college, paying for college and workforce development.

Missouri ConnectionsOffered on a complimentary basis to state residents, Missouri Connections is a career-planning service funded by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.


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:

  1. The published in-district tuition and fees, National Center for Education Statistics, 2018
  2. The published in-state tuition and fees, National Center for Education Statistics, 2018
  3. The in-district per credit hour charge for part-time undergraduates, National Center for Education Statistics, 2018
  4. The in-state per credit hour charge for part-time undergraduates, National Center for Education Statistics, 2018
  5. Percentage of students receiving financial aid, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
  6. Percent of students that transferred to a 4-year institution and completed within 8 years, College Scorecard, 2017
  7. The graduation rate in 150% time, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017
  8. Full-time student retention rate, National Center for Education Statistics, Fall 2017
  9. Student-to-faculty ratio, National Center for Education Statistics, Fall 2017
  10. Percentage of students enrolled in distance education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017
  11. 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.
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