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Best Community Colleges in Nebraska

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Attending one of the best community colleges in Nebraska can help you get started on your journey to earning a bachelor's degree from one of the excellent universities in Nebraska. Or, it can help you gain the skills you need to thrive in today's high-tech workforce.

The institutions making up the Nebraska Community College System have 13 campus locations across the state. They also offer classes and training at more than 280 off-campus sites. All colleges have distance education options, and the state's community colleges have a strong track record of success. The system notes 94 percent of its graduates find employment or continue their education.

Whether you want to attend classes on a brick-and-mortar campus or prefer the flexibility of online courses, the top Nebraska community colleges should be able to give you the boost you need to get you where you want to go.

We ran the numbers on data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) to rank both Nebraska Community College System schools and independent institutions. Read on below to learn where you can find the best Nebraska community colleges for your educational goals.

BEST COMMUNITY COLLEGES IN NEBRASKA 2019-20

1

Southeast Community College (Lincoln)

Southeast Community College offers more than 40 Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree programs for students looking to complete a robust training program before they head out into the workforce. Numerous diploma and certificate programs are also available, in disciplines like small engine technology, geographic information systems (GIS), welding and more.

Three full-service SCC campuses and seven learning centers exist to serve students its namesake section of the state. An array of campus facilities can be found in Lincoln, Beatrice and Milford, while learners in Falls City, Nebraska City, Hebron and three other cities can attend more specialized centers.

Not every degree program offered at SCC is available at every campus, so make sure to consult with an adviser before deciding where to attend. Around 20 programs are provided entirely or mostly through online courses.

2

Metropolitan Community College (Omaha)

If you like the feel of a busy, bustling campus, then Metropolitan Community College might be worth a second look. The Omaha institution has a total enrollment of more than 45,000 students, of which around 25,000 were enrolled in for-credit degree and certificate programs.

Despite all those students, though, MCC's portfolio of ten campuses and learning centers helps keep its classes to a manageable size. Its distance education catalog of more than 40 degree and certificate programs earns it a mention among the best online community colleges in Nebraska. Online programs cover fields such as cyber security, bookkeeping and medical coding and billing.

It likely comes as no surprise to Nebraska residents that MCC has the largest student body among our top Nebraska community colleges. Omaha is far and away the largest city in the state, boasting a 2017 population of more than 466,000 residents.

3

Mid-Plains Community College (North Platte)

Mid-Plains Community College was created when three separately founded institutions were merged into one in 1975. One of those schools, McCook Junior College, was the oldest two-year school in Nebraska and contributed several historic buildings that are still in use today.

Community colleges in the Cornhusker State tend to have relatively inexpensive tuition costs, but MPCC is affordable even by Nebraska standards. In-state students here paid just over $3,200 in tuition and basic fees in 2018-19. What's more, the school offers a number of scholarship options to help make that number even lower.

Students here can choose among nearly 30 technical and occupational programs in subjects like emergency medical services (EMS) and classic car restoration. Those looking to transfer to a bachelor's program after graduation have around two dozen major subject areas available.

4

Western Nebraska Community College (Scottsbluff)

With a student population of just under 1,900, Western Nebraska Community College is one of the more close-knit institutions among our top Nebraska community colleges. Class sizes here are small enough that you won't feel like an anonymous face in the crowd, and the student-faculty ratio is an encouraging 13:1.

WNCC operates three full-service campuses in the panhandle of the state: its flagship location in Scottsbluff, another residential campus in Sidney and a non-residential location in Alliance. It's also one of the longest-lived community colleges in Nebraska, tracing its history back to the founding of Scottsbluff Junior College in 1926.

The degree catalog here consists of more than 70 subjects of study. A range of pre-professional and pre-academic majors, including biomedical research, dentistry, food science, physical therapy and veterinary medicine, can help you prepare for rewarding, high-skill careers.

5

Central Community College (Grand Island)

Students in Central Community College's 25-county service area can earn their brick-and-mortar degrees at three campus locations and four learning centers. The central administration facilities are located at the Grand Island campus, with the other two full-service locations serving the cities of Columbus and Hastings.

If you're looking into online community colleges in Nebraska, don't miss the wealth of distance education options available at CCC. Online students here have close to 30 diploma, certificate and degree programs to choose from, including Associate of Arts (A.A.) and Associate of Science (A.S) programs designed for university transfer.

The student body headcount is more than 21,000 total students enrolled in on-campus or online courses. Roughly one quarter of the students enrolled were pursuing their degree or other awards full time, and approximately 37 percent of all credits were delivered online.

6

Northeast Community College (Norfolk)

Total enrollment at Northeast Community College is more than 13,000 student, with just a little less than half of that number seeking college credit. More than 40 percent of credit-seeking students were taking a full-time schedule of courses, and the average age of the student body is approximately 25 years old.

The degree catalog here is loaded with degrees, certificates, diplomas and professional training programs, including some that may be difficult to find at other schools in the state. For example, students at NCC can follow one of nearly 20 different specialized study tracks in information technology or pursue either a degree or a diploma in the fast-growing job field of wind energy.

If you're hoping for some help with the cost of college, NCC might be a solid choice for you: Students at the Norfolk-based institution are awarded more than $15.5 million in financial aid annually.

7

Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture (Curtis)

Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture offers a specialized portfolio of agricultural degree programs to students in the rural reaches of southwestern Nebraska. As an appendage of the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, it's the one school on our list of the best Nebraska community colleges to have direct affiliation with a four-year institution.

Programs here come from four main areas of study — agronomy and agricultural mechanics; animal science and agricultural education; agribusiness management systems; and veterinary technology systems. Each of these major subjects contains a range of sub-disciplines from which students can choose career-focused A.A.S. plans, academic A.S. programs and quick-draw certificate programs.

Despite the hands-on nature of most types of agricultural work, several of the programs offered at NTCA are compatible with certain online courses. Check with your advisor if your schedule could use a little extra flexibility.

CTE in Nebraska

If you don't want to wait to start a new job, consider career technical education. Known as CTE, these programs train people to work in specific occupations or industries. They don't usually require general education classes so you can focus exclusively on the skills and knowledge needed for your new career.

While skilled trades like plumbing and welding are most often associated with CTE, a variety of industries rely on workers with career technical education. To makes it easy to explore your options, occupations are broken down into 16 career clusters, such as energy and engineering and health science. Within each career cluster are pathways that lead to jobs that may require CTE.

Since many high-growth fields need CTE-trained workers, Nebraska is working in the following ways to encourage students to consider career technical education.

  • The Community College Gap Assistance Program provides financial aid to eligible students who train for in-demand occupations in fields such as biosciences, construction and health services.
  • Nebraska Career Academy Programs are offered by some high schools to help students consider and prepare for CTE careers.
  • Some Nebraska community colleges allow dual enrollment so high school students can earn college credit early in CTE and academic programs.

Each of the top community colleges in Nebraska has their own CTE programs. You can find the details on their websites. For more general information, Nebraska offers the following resources.

  • Nebraska Career Clusters - This website, sponsored by three different state departments, offers virtual industry tours for each career cluster.
  • Nebraska Career Connections - Offered by the Nebraska Department of Education, this site has career exploration tools for adults, students and parents.

Transferring Credits in Nebraska

Transferring from community college to one of the top four-year schools in Nebraska is a great way to move forward after you've finished your associate degree program, and there are multiple ways to help ensure that the transition goes as smoothly as possible. Here's a quick rundown of the types of transfer initiatives available:

  • Some two- and four-year schools in the state feature institution-wide articulation agreements that permit students to enter their destination university having completed all general education requirements. The University of Nebraska at Omaha, for example, has such agreements in place for Associate of Arts (A.A.) graduates at three top Nebraska community colleges.
  • Program-specific transfer agreements, also known as Associate-to-Bachelor (A-to-B) agreements, apply to students in certain Associate of Science (A.S.) programs as well as those seeing A.A. degrees. Students pursuing an A-to-B agreement must follow a specific schedule of courses to ensure that their credits will transfer.
  • Students who meet neither of the above sets of criteria can visit Transfer Nebraska, an information portal that provides a course-by-course transfer equivalency search tool for any students hoping to transfer to Nebraska colleges and universities.

When you're ready, explore the best four-year schools in Nebraska for more insight into education in the state. Plus, read our guide on how to transfer schools to learn more about the process of switching colleges.

Resources for Community College Students in Nebraska

Nebraska Community College Association -Five public community colleges are members of the NCCA.

Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education - This commission oversees higher education in the state and provides information on financial aid, state initiatives and other programs.

Nebraska Department of Labor - For more career and training information, head to the state's Department of Labor.

Methodology

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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