Best Community Colleges in New Hampshire
If there's a new career you want to train for, a college degree you want to earn or a subject you want to study for personal enrichment, the top New Hampshire community colleges can help.
The Community College System of New Hampshire offers more than 200 degree and certificate programs at 12 locations across the state. Its two-year schools enroll approximately 26,000 students in classes which include traditional programs, dual credit options for high school students and workforce training for adults. Community college students pay some of the lowest tuition rates in the state.
Numerous certificate programs can prepare you for skilled careers or help you expand knowledge of your interests, and several associate degree programs can build up your credits for transfer to bachelor's programs at New Hampshire universities.
We analyzed data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) in order to find out which institutions were the best community colleges in New Hampshire. Take a look at our list of schools below and find out what programs and amenities your local institution has to offer.
Manchester Community College (Manchester)
With a total student population of nearly 4,000 learners, Manchester Community College is the second-largest institution among our best New Hampshire community colleges. Approximately 58 percent of students here are under the age of 25, and 97 percent those enrolled are New Hampshire residents.
If you're on the lookout for online colleges that offer flexibility in terms of course scheduling, MCC should already be on your radar. Approximately a third of the student body is composed of online students, and more than 120 online courses were available across the numerous available subjects of study. Fully online degree and certificate programs are available in the areas of accounting and management.
MCC might be a great choice for students who enjoy the hustle and bustle of a busy city. The institution is located in the most heavily populated urban area in New Hampshire, reporting a population of over 110,000 residents to the U.S. Census.
Nashua Community College (Nashua)
Just shy of 1,800 students attend degree and certificate programs at Nashua Community College, along with close to 650 high school students participating in the Running Start program. The majority of those enrolled — around 68 percent — attend NCC on a part-time basis.
Advanced manufacturing and other subjects in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) claim a significant amount of space in the NCC academic catalog. Tech-savvy students can pursue associate degrees in computer networking, cybersecurity, data analytics, mechanical design technology and more.
Of the more than 60 programs of study available to NCC students, liberal arts and business studies are the most popular associate degree plans. On the certificate side, massage therapy, early childhood education and machine tool technology account for around 50 percent of enrollments.
NHTI - Concord's Community College (Concord)
In 1965, a new school called New Hampshire Technical Institute began offering a handful of engineering technology programs to students in the Concord area. It evolved into NHTI, Concord's Community College just over 40 years later, and it's now a comprehensive community college with a student body that numbers approximately 3,500.
The catalog here features more than 90 degree and certificate programs, split fairly evenly between associate degree plans and career-focused certificates. The campus even features three residence halls, for students who are looking for the full college experience.
NHTI is also one of the more robust online community colleges in the state, with over a dozen degree programs available through online courses. A criminal justice degree and medical coding certificate are among the fully online programs offered here. A child and family development center on campus provides day and afternoon kindergarten services and gives child care education students a chance for hands-on learning.
River Valley Community College (Claremont)
Founded in 1968 and located two miles north of the city of Claremont, River Valley Community College is a small school in western New Hampshire with a lot to offer. Tuition here is affordable, and area residents can start their college education before they're even done with high school.
Programs like Running Start and Bridge2College allow high school and home-schooled students to take college courses at RVCC. Bridge2College offers on-campus college credit courses for half price, and Running Start courses confer course credit toward both a high school diploma and a college degree program.
Students here can choose among more than 30 programs of study, including programs in education, tech and healthcare. The RVCC nursing program is one popular option, and the school reports that its students achieved a 100 percent pass rate on the NCLEX-RN exam in 2018 and 2019.
Great Bay Community College (Portsmouth)
Great Bay Community College has evolved in multiple ways since its founding in 1945 as the State Trade School of Portsmouth. More than 50 associate degree and certificate programs are available here, including some in rare and off-the-beaten-path fields like bioengineering and nondestructive testing.
Great Bay may also be one of the best New Hampshire community colleges for students looking to save some money on the first few semesters of their bachelor's degree. Resident tuition and fees for an academic year at the Portsmouth institution came in at less than half that charged by the state's public four-year universities.
A vast majority of the students enrolled at Great Bay are New Hampshire residents. Just over 2,000 students attend courses here each semester, and the median age of the student body is 22.
White Mountains Community College (Berlin)
Originally founded as New Hampshire Vocational Institute in 1966, White Mountains Community College has added quite a bit to its capacity to serve students since admitting its first class of just over 100 students. The northern New Hampshire school has expanded its classroom and laboratory facilities by nearly 90,000 square feet and opened two satellite learning centers in Littleton and North Conway.
Despite its growing mission, WMCC has remained true to its small-school roots. Just under 700 students attended courses here in 2018 and the student-faculty ratio is an enviable 7:1 — more than 50 percent better than the national university average.
Students here can choose from more than 50 degree and certificate programs in seven academic and career-based focus areas. The two focus areas with the most diverse array of study plans are industry and transportation and health science and services. They cover topics such as advanced welding technology, automotive technology and medical coding.
Lakes Region Community College (Laconia)
Fewer than 1,200 students attend Lakes Region Community College, but the academic opportunities here are anything but small. Around 65 degree and certificate programs are available for LRCC students, including transfer pathways to some of the top four-year schools in New Hampshire.
One such transfer program is particularly unique. Students at LRCC can apply for dual admission to Southern New Hampshire University, which entitles them to personalized advising with a transfer admission counselor from the university and acceptance to a relevant bachelor's program if they finish their associate degree with a GPA of 2.0 or higher. Career technical education at the school covers fields such as fire protection, culinary arts and electrical technologies.
LRCC might also be one of the best community colleges in New Hampshire for students who prefer a close-knit educational environment. The average class size at the Laconia institution is one of the best in the state with just eight students per course.
CTE in New Hampshire
One reason to enroll in a community college is for career technical education, otherwise known as CTE. These programs are designed to move students quickly into a new career, and their curriculum typically includes only classes relevant to the field of study. As a result, they can be completed in anywhere from one semester to two years, depending on the program.
CTE in New Hampshire touches on virtually every industry in the state. There are programs in business, healthcare, skilled trades and the arts, among others. Nationally, many CTE organizations divide these occupations into 16 career clusters to make it easier for students to explore their options. The Community College System of New Hampshire, however, categorizes its programs into seven academic areas of focus. By using career clusters and academic areas of focus, CTE providers help students pinpoint the occupations that interest them and discover education pathways to those jobs.
Once you've decided what you'd like to study, the following initiatives can help you successfully complete your education.
- Not all CTE training happens on a college campus. ApprenticeshipNH helps people get on-the-job training in five sectors: advanced manufacturing, information technology, healthcare, hospitality and construction and infrastructure.
- WorkReady NH provides classes at no charge to help job seekers gain workplace skills such as graphic literacy, applied math and soft skills such as communication and problem resolution.
- High school students in New Hampshire can earn college credit early through four different programs: Running Start, Early College, eStart and Project Lead the Way.
Visit the websites of the top community colleges in New Hampshire for details on their CTE programs. Additional information about CTE in New Hampshire can also be found through the resources below:
- Career Clusters - New Hampshire Employment Security provides details on all 16 national career clusters.
- New Hampshire Colleges and Programs - The Community College System of New Hampshire lists all seven of its academic areas of focus and includes links for information on the programs listed above.
Transferring Credits in New Hampshire
If you're one of the thousands of students hoping to transfer your community college credits into bachelor's-level study at New Hampshire universities, there are initiatives in place to help you get there. All seven of the Community College System of New Hampshire (CCSNH) institutions participate in NH Transfer, a series of transfer programs and agreements between community colleges and the top four-year schools in New Hampshire.
The NH Transfer Connections Program (NHTCP) is one flexible statewide initiative that doesn't require that you finish your associate degree before making the jump. On top of that, the University of New Hampshire at Manchester features a far-reaching initiative — the Degree Pathways Program — that lays out a transfer-optimized course schedule designed to eliminate some of the red tape that can come with shifting credits from one school to another.
Many institutions also offer subject-dependent transfer programs with their own specific sets of guidelines and requirements. Finding the right approach for you might take a bit of research, so make sure to consult with an advisor before committing to a particular degree path.
For more details on the process of switching colleges, read our guide on how to transfer schools.
Resources for Community College Students in New Hampshire
- Community College System of New Hampshire - This system includes information about all the best New Hampshire community colleges.
- New Hampshire Department of Education - The Division of Educator Support and Higher Education has links to financial aid programs for New Hampshire students.
- New Hampshire Employment Security - For links to more career exploration resources, visit this state agency site.
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.
- About the Community College System of New Hampshire, Community College System of New Hampshire, Accessed December 2019, https://www.ccsnh.edu/about-ccsnh/
- ApprenticeshipNH, Community College System of New Hampshire, Accessed December 2019, https://apprenticeshipnh.com/
- Career Exploration & Training, New Hampshire Employment Security, Accessed December 2019, https://www.nhes.nh.gov/services/job-seekers/career.htm
- College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, Accessed December 2019, https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
- Great Bay Community College, Accessed December 2019, https://greatbay.edu/
- Earn as You Learn, ApprenticeshipNH, Accessed December 2019, https://apprenticeshipnh.com/
- Lakes Region Community College, Accessed December 2019, https://www.lrcc.edu/
- Manchester Community College, Accessed December 2019, https://www.mccnh.edu/
- Nashua Community College, Accessed December 2019, https://www.nashuacc.edu/
- New Hampshire Transfer Connections Program, NH Transfer, Accessed December 2019, https://www.nhtransfer.org/new-hampshire-transfer-connections-program
- NHTI-Concord's Community College, Accessed December 2019, https://www.nhti.edu/
- River Valley Community College, Accessed December 2019, https://www.rivervalley.edu/
- Transferring From a Community College, University of New Hampshire at Manchester, Accessed December 2019, https://manchester.unh.edu/admissions/transfer-students/transferring-community-college
- White Mountains Community College, Accessed December 2019, https://www.wmcc.edu/
- Work Ready NH, Community College System of New Hampshire, Accessed December 2019, https://www.ccsnh.edu/colleges-and-programs/workready-nh/