Best Community Colleges in New Jersey
Whether you are a first-time college student, someone going back to school to tackle that degree you never finished, or looking to change careers with a new degree or field of study, community colleges can be a great starting point. New Jersey is home to a variety of students with diverse backgrounds, and these two-year schools could be just the spot to further your educational goals.
There are 18 public community colleges in the Garden State, all belonging to the New Jersey Council of County Colleges (NJCCC), a state association with the mission of providing leadership and resources to county and community institutions. These schools have more than 70 campus locations and offer more than 1,700 degree and certificate programs
The best New Jersey community colleges attract many students who are the looking for an affordable way to complete the general education requirements for a bachelor's degree. In fact, NJCCC notes 45 percent of students earning a four-year degree in the state have taken classes at community colleges. However, the schools also offer career technical education that can prepare students for many of the state's in-demand occupations.
We gathered data on affordability, flexibility, student success and more for NJCCC member schools and analyzed it to find out which campus-based and online colleges are the top community colleges in New Jersey. Check out our list of the best community colleges in New Jersey and learn how they can help you transfer into New Jersey universities or train you for the career you're aiming for.
Rowan College of South Jersey (Vineland)
As the state's newest regional college, Rowan College of South Jersey was created in 2019 with the merger of Cumberland County College and Rowan College at Gloucester County. The school consists of the Cumberland Campus in Vineland and the Gloucester Campus in Sewell. It offers more than 120 degree and certificate programs.
Associate degrees and career training aren't the only programs offered at this South Jersey institution, either. The Shirlee and Bernard Brown University Center makes a wide range of bachelor's and master's programs available through partnerships with four-year schools like Seton Hall University, Montclair State University and Wilmington University.
Rowan College at Burlington County (Pemberton Township)
At Rowan College in Burlington County, the concept of community college extends well beyond campuses and two-year programs. Formerly known as Burlington County College, RCBC changed its name in 2015 to signify a new partnership with Rowan University that brought RU faculty and degree programs to the Mount Laurel campus.
What's more, the distance education catalog at RCBC qualifies it for consideration among the best online community colleges in New Jersey. Over a dozen associate degree programs are available fully online, and many other programs can be at least partially completed through online courses.
RCBC also broke new ground in 2016 by offering a special program to transfer-bound students. The 3+1 option helps students cut costs by completing their junior years at RCBC before transferring to Rowan University or another 4-year school.
Raritan Valley Community College (Branchburg)
Raritan Valley Community College connects students with cutting-edge learning technology and some of the more unique degree and certificate programs in the state. Nearly 8,000 students attended courses here, pursuing their choice of the more than 90 college majors and career-focused certificate plans available.
The catalog at RVCC contains a number of specialized programs and transfer degrees that are suitable for a variety of career paths. Program options are diverse and include associate degrees in environmental control technology and psychosocial rehabilitation. More than 150 courses are offer online each semester, and the college has three fully online programs and a number of associate degrees that can be completed 85 percent online.
RVCC also hosts such distinguished cultural institutions as the Institute for Holocaust and Genocide Studies and the Paul Robeson Institute for Ethics, Leadership and Social Justice. These and other institutes on campus produce annual events and provide vital resources for cultural education.
Bergen Community College (Paramus)
Bergen Community College is one of the most highly attended NJCCC institutions. Attendance in its academic programs reaches nearly 17,000 annually, and the combined total enrollment in all degree, continuing education and adult education classes at its Paramus, Hackensack and Lyndhurst campuses tops out at more than 32,000 students.
BCC maintains four academic divisions: humanities; business, arts and social sciences; health professions; and mathematics, science and technology. More than 140 degree and certificate programs are available for students to choose from, including several Associate of Science (A.S.) and A.A. plans designed for university transfer.
Several online degrees, of which most serve to prepare students for transfer to a four-year program, are also available at BCC. The online catalog includes five A.S. concentrations in business administration, five A.A concentrations in the liberal arts and an A.A. with a general liberal arts curriculum.
Ocean County College (Toms River)
Named one of the top 150 community colleges in the nation by the Aspen Institute, Ocean County College offers academic excellence at an affordable price. The school has been educating New Jersey students for more than 40 years and offers approximately 60 majors in its degree and certificate programs.
The academic programs at OCC are spread across four schools: arts and humanities, business and social science, nursing and health sciences and science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Twenty programs are offered entirely online including an associate degree in business and a legal secretary certificate.
OCC has a Center for Student Success which has a focus on helping first-year students have a positive college experience. The center offers tutoring, mentoring and academic coaching, and students can also take a three-credit College Success Seminar.
Camden County College (Blackwood)
Camden County College is one of the larger institutions among the best New Jersey community colleges, boasting total enrollment of nearly 10,000 students annually. Along with its main campus in Blackwood, CCC maintains satellite campus locations in Camden and Cherry Hill and trains police, fire and corrections personnel at its Regional Emergency Training Center.
More than 120 individual programs of study in over a dozen areas of interest are available at CCC, including numerous career-based certificate plans in business, manufacturing, automotive technology and healthcare. Exploratory programs in liberal arts and science are available for aspiring transfer students.
CCC also has options for students looking for online colleges. Three associate degrees — business administration, psychology and a general Associate of Arts (A.A.) plan — can be earned entirely online, and more than 30 programs require five or fewer brick-and-mortar courses.
Middlesex County College (Edison)
Small classes, affordable tuition and in-demand programs help make Middlesex County College one of the best community colleges in New Jersey. More than 11,000 students are enrolled at the college, and they have an average age of 23. Diversity is embraced at MCC with minority students making up more than 60 percent of those enrolled.
MCC offers 90 associate degrees and certificates, and its most popular majors include STEM, business and liberal arts fields of study. Specific options include an accounting certificate of achievement, an associate degree in automotive technology and transfer degrees in majors ranging from cinema studies to criminal justice. Some courses are available online.
Founded in 1964, MCC has its campus in Edison and centers in New Brunswick and Perth Amboy.
Mercer County Community College (West Windsor)
Mercer County Community College serves an international corps of more than 11,000 students each year, with nearly 70 countries represented in its student body. Students here share their college experience with peers of diverse backgrounds and perspectives, which tends to provide a richer and more well-rounded learning environment.
Campus-based students at MCCC can attend courses at the institution's 292-acre West Windsor Campus or its newly expanded James Kerney campus in downtown Trenton. It's also entered the world of online colleges in New Jersey, offering three fully online associate degree programs and close to 100 individual online courses.
On top of that, the MCCC University Center lets students earn advanced degrees without transferring their credits to four-year institutions. Baccalaureate and graduate degrees are available on-site from Fairleigh Dickinson University, Rutgers University, New Jersey Institute of Technology and more.
Atlantic Cape Community College (Mays Landing)
Atlantic Cape Community College likes to say it's where excellence meets affordability. With a history that dates to 1964, it was the second community college founded in the state. Today, it enrolls 8,000 credit students in more than 45 transfer and career programs.
The college is known for its Academy of Culinary Arts which offers three associate degrees, two certificates and an entry-level baking and pastry training program. Atlantic Cape also has a nationally recognized Casino Career Institute that provides training for anyone who want to work in the gaming industry as a Certified Surveillance Professional.
As the first community college in New Jersey to offer a fully online degree program, Atlantic Cape offers more than ten online associate degrees today. These cover majors such as business administration, education and psychology.
County College of Morris (Randolph)
County College of Morris first opened its doors in 1968 to an initial class of fewer than 1,300 learners. Today, more than 7,500 students attend this North Jersey school, and more than 1,000 associate degrees and certificates are awarded each year.
The 17:1 student-faculty ratio at CCM is among the lowest at top New Jersey community colleges, providing a learning environment in which professors are usually able to spend personalized time with students who need it. The academic catalog here lists more than 80 degree and certificate programs, ranging from mathematics and dance to grounds maintenance and computer science.
Students looking for a little extra challenge in their college courses may appreciate the Honors Study program at CCM. Courses in the program are smaller, have a higher level of difficulty and qualify students for select academic excellence scholarships.
CTE in New Jersey
Two-year schools typically offer academic programs for transfer students as well as occupational programs for those who want to enter the workforce quickly. These occupational programs fall under the umbrella of career technical education, also known as career and technical education or CTE, and may include apprenticeships, certificates and technical degrees.
CTE in New Jersey is broken down into 16 career clusters that include 79 career pathways. Those numbers may sound overwhelming, but the clusters and pathways are actually designed to make it easier for students to determine which field to study.
It works this way: students first decide which of the career clusters matches their interests. For example, maybe hospitality and tourism is a field that sounds appealing. Within that career cluster, there are four pathways that can lead to jobs in lodging, recreation, restaurants or travel. If students aren't sure which pathway to follow, they may be able to take general classes within a career cluster before they settle on a specific pathway.
The following are a few of the initiatives designed to encourage students in New Jersey to consider career technical education.
- The New Jersey Community College Opportunity Grant lets students attend any of the state's 18 community colleges for free if they meet certain income and enrollment requirements.
- The New Jersey Department of Education has implemented a 21st Century Life and Careers standard into its K-12 curriculum to ensure students know 12 career ready practices.
- Many of the top community colleges in New Jersey have dual enrollment options that allow high school students to earn college credit early.
New Jersey community colleges often have information on their websites about career technical education, but you can also find information here:
- New Jersey Department of Education - To see all 16 career clusters and their associated pathways, visit the New Jersey Department of Education website.
- Office of Apprenticeship - Located within the Department of Labor & Workforce Development, this office provides information and resources for those seeking on-the-job career training.
Transferring Credits in New Jersey
If you're planning to start out at a community college and finish your degree at one of the top New Jersey universities, several resources exist to help you transfer your courses smoothly. For example, most two-year schools in New Jersey have transfer or articulation agreements in place with universities in the Garden State and nearby areas. Learn more about transferring between colleges here.
The State of New Jersey also put into practice a comprehensive statewide transfer agreement to help community college students move on to the next step. Here's a quick rundown of the terms of the agreement:
- A.A. or A.S. degrees earned from New Jersey community colleges will fully transfer as the first two years of a bachelor's degree program
- Associate degree holders will transfer in exactly half of the number of credits required in the bachelor's program
- Transfer students under this agreement will be understood as having completed all required lower-division general education courses
All prospective transfer students in New Jersey can turn to NJ Transfer, a website designed to assist community college students with their move to the university level. Users can search for transfer agreements, check course equivalencies and more.
Resources for Community College Students in New Jersey
- New Jersey Council on County Colleges - Visit the NJCCC for a list of all 18 community colleges in the state as well as details on the programs they offer.
- Office of the Secretary of Higher Education - For more information on higher education in New Jersey, stop by this government website.
- Higher Education Student Assistance Authority - HESAA has information on New Jersey financial aid programs, including the Community College Opportunity Grant.
Read on for information about the top four-year schools in New Jersey, financial aid insight and more. Our guide on How to Transfer Schools also provides general information on the transfer process.
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.
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- College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, accessed July 22, 2018, https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?s=SC&ct=1&ic=2
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- QuickFacts, U.S. Census Bureau, accessed July 22-23, 2018: Washington township, Warren County, New Jersey, https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/washingtontownshipwarrencountynewjersey/IPE120216;
- Family Fun, Explore Warren, accessed July 22, 2018, http://www.explorewarren.org/categories/family-fun
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- Welcome, New Jersey Council of County Colleges, Accessed November 2019, https://www.njccc.org/about
- President's Welcome, Rowan College of South Jersey, Accessed November 2019, https://www.rcsj.edu/CollegeOverview
- Center for Student Success, Ocean County College, Accessed November 2019, https://www.ocean.edu/student-services/center-for-student-success/
- College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, Accessed November 2019, https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
- About, Middlesex County College, Accessed November 2019, https://www.middlesexcc.edu/about/
- Fast Facts, Atlantic Cape Community College, Accessed November 2019, http://www.atlantic.edu/about/fast-facts.php
- New Jersey Student Learning Standards, New Jersey Department of Education, Accessed November 2019, https://www.state.nj.us/education/aps/cccs/career/
- Career Clusters, New Jersey Department of Education, Accessed November 2019, https://www.nj.gov/education/cte/career/
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/