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 it could be just the spot to further your educational goals.
There are 19 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.
We gathered data on affordability, flexibility, student success and more for these NJCCC member schools and analyzed it to find out which campus-based and online colleges took the top spots in the state. 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.
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. More than 8,200 students attended courses here in 2017, 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 that may be difficult to find at other two-year colleges. Students can earn associate degrees in game development, environmental control technology and psychosocial rehabilitation, as well as complete the pre-professional portion of a degree in pharmacy or medicine.
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.
Warren County Community College (Washington)
Founded in 1981, Warren County Community College is one of the younger institutions among the top community colleges in New Jersey. It initially operated as a "College without Walls," offering classes in local high schools, until a temporary campus facility was leased in 1987.
The student body at WCCC is relatively small -- around 2,300 full- and part-time students are taught here each year -- which helps keep the learning environment close-knit and personalized. Courses here are small, and the student-faculty ratio rests at a comfortable 18:1.
The borough of Washington, where WCCC is located, has a total population of around 6,600 people and can provide peace and quiet for students who prioritize private study time. Outdoor recreation abounds in the surrounding Warren County, with apple orchards, riverside campgrounds, water recreation and more.
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.
Salem Community College (Carneys Point)
Salem Community College is one of the top New Jersey community colleges for students seeking a more personal learning experience. With fewer than 1,000 students counted on its 2017 rolls, SCC has one of the closest-knit academic environments in the state. The 17:1 student-faculty ratio here is one of the best among NJCCC schools.
Two types of flexible courses are available for SCC students unable to attend school on a traditional classroom schedule. Asynchronous online courses allow you to complete required work on your own time, and hybrid courses meet on campus once a week and assign additional instructional activities to be completed between meetings.
SCC also has a special cultural program for museum lovers. The Museum Pass Program gives students access to the Delaware Art Museum, the Penn Museum, and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, among others.
Camden County College (Blackwood)
Camden County College is one of the larger institutions among the best New Jersey community colleges, boasting total enrollment of more than 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.
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.
Bergen Community College (Paramus)
Bergen Community College is one of the most highly attended NJCCC institutions. Attendance at the main campus in Paramus reaches nearly 17,000 annually, and the combined total enrollment of 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.
Cumberland County College (Vineland)
Founded in 1966, Cumberland County College holds the distinction of being the first community college in New Jersey to open its own dedicated campus. Located on 100 acres in the Delaware Valley, the Vineland school educates nearly 4,000 students each year and 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.
If you're not yet sure what you want to study, CCC offers a tool that can help. TypeFocus Careers is an online assessment for students that helps you take stock of your natural strengths and match them up to the right career or degree plan.
Rowan College at Gloucester County (Sewell)
The former Gloucester County College became Rowan College at Gloucester County as part of a 2014 partnership with Rowan University that added bachelor's degree programs to the traditionally two-year school's catalog. More than 7,100 students attend courses here annually, with around 55 percent of those enrolled taking a full-time courseload.
More than 70 degrees and certificates can be earned at RCGC, including some that may be hard to find in other community college catalogs. Horse lovers can earn a certificate of achievement in equine science in just 14 credit hours, for example, and aspiring lawyers can earn a pre-law A.A. before transferring to pursue their bachelor's.
Career Coach is an online portal designed to help RCGC students plan their futures. Students can complete a career assessment, learn more about wages and employment rates or translate their military experience into qualifications for civilian jobs and degree programs.
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, around 8,000 students attend this North Jersey school, and more than 1,000 associate degrees and certificates are awarded each year.
The 19:1 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.
Initiatives for Transfer Students
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.
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.
Read on for information about the top 4-year schools in New Jersey, financial aid insight and more.
We ranked 19 community colleges in New Jersey on factors such as affordability, program availability, and flexibility. Each school was scored on a 10-point scale, using the following six data points:
- The percentage of students enrolled in distance education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
- Cost of attendance, based on the average net price for students receiving scholarship and grant aid, and the total cost of tuition, fees, books and supplies, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
- Student-to-faculty ratio, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
- The graduation rate in 150% time, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
- The transfer-out rate in 150% time, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
- Flexibility, based on the following data points from the National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
a. Whether the school offers credit for life experiences
b. Whether the school offers programs of study that can be completed entirely in the evenings and on weekends
c. Whether the school offers on-campus day care for students' children
d. Whether the school offers any kind of alternative tuition plan. These may include, but aren't limited to, payment plans or guaranteed rates.
- New Jersey Council of Community Colleges, accessed July 22, 2018: Chair's Welcome, http://www.njccc.org/about/chairs-welcome/; Member Colleges, http://www.njccc.org/contact-us/19-colleges/;
- 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
- Comprehensive State-Wide Transfer Agreement, New Jersey Presidents' Council, September 22, 2008, accessed July 22, 2018, https://www.state.nj.us/highereducation/PDFs/XferAgreementOct08.pdf
- About, NJ Transfer, accessed July 22, 2018, http://www.njtransfer.org/pages/about.asp
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/