Best Community Colleges in New Mexico

Interested in a community college in the Southwest? New Mexico is a fairly large state, but its network of community colleges is robust enough to ensure that a large percentage of the population stays within reach of a quality education.

The more than 20 community colleges in the Land of Enchantment fall into three categories: schools sponsored by New Mexico universities, members of New Mexico Independent Community Colleges (NMICC) and federal or tribally controlled institutions.

If you're deciding where to earn your education, it can help a lot to know which schools are statistically the best community colleges in New Mexico. We've crunched the numbers and ranked the top New Mexico community colleges on a series of metrics that includes affordability, flexibility and student success -- check out the list below.



New Mexico Junior College (Hobbs)

Founded in 1965, New Mexico Junior College is an NMICC member institution in the southeastern corner of the state that educates approximately 3,200 students each year. As a comprehensive community college, NMJC offers academic majors as well as professional development training and career-focused certificates.

The catalog of associate degree programs at NMJC leans heavily toward Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) plans, but Associate of Arts (A.A.) and Associate of Science (A.S.) programs are also available. Certificate programs in subjects like accounting, criminal justice, welding and early childhood education can take anywhere from one to four full-time semesters to complete.

The city of Hobbs has a population of around 37,000 -- a great size for a college town. Gaming enthusiasts can place their bets at Zia Park Casino Hotel and Racetrack, which also features some of the area's top restaurants.


New Mexico State University Grants (Grants)

Fewer than 1,000 students attend classes at New Mexico State University Grants, and that small student body means that students who prefer an intimate learning environment are likely to feel at home here. The student-faculty ratio at NMSU Grants is just 14:1, so you should able to get personalized attention from professors when you need it.

Nearly 30 associate degree and certificate programs are available here, including an associate degree in social services and a certificate in Southwest heritage studies. It's also one of the top online community colleges in New Mexico, offering more than a dozen degrees and certificates entirely through distance education.

Students at NMSU Grants who enjoy hiking have a prime destination practically next door. El Malpais National Monument is located just a short drive down State Route 53.


San Juan College (Farmington)

San Juan College began its life as a small branch of New Mexico State University, serving just 25 students in its first year. It became an independent community college in 1981 and today educates more than 15,000 students annually -- the fifth-largest enrollment figure among all colleges and universities in the state.

The six academic divisions at this Farmington institution -- business, energy, trades and technology, humanities and science, health sciences and math and engineering -- provide students with nearly 60 degree and certificate programs to choose from. Select bachelor's degrees are also available, including a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (B.S.N.) offered in partnership with the University of New Mexico.

Online programs here focus primarily on health science professions, and not just for humans. Pet lovers can earn an A.A.S. in veterinary technology completely online.


Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell (Roswell)

Specialized facilities at Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell allow the institution to offer a few degree plans that can't be found at any other institution in the area. For one, ENMU-Roswell is home to the only Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-approved aviation maintenance technology associate program in all of southeastern New Mexico.

Health sciences students at ENMU-Roswell enjoy a few uncommon technological advantages as well. The Roswell campus is home to the only high-fidelity medical simulation center in the region, and the school's health science center is equipped with the latest in healthcare tech.

A total of more than 80 associate degree and certificate programs can be earned at ENMU-Roswell. Students who want to live on campus can do so here, as well -- the Sierra Vista Village apartment complex offers prospective resident students a variety of floor plans.


New Mexico State University at Alamogordo (Alamogordo)

New Mexico State University at Alamogordo has a history that goes back more than 60 years, opening its doors to its first class of students during the Eisenhower administration. Around 1,700 students attend classes at this relatively small school, and the student-faculty ratio was 16:1 in 2017.

Programs for veterans and military servicemenbers are a high-priority part of the student services portfolio at NMSU-A. A cushy veteran's lounge is available on campus, and several courses each semester are taught on base at nearby Holloman AFB.

Its focus on serving the military may have contributed to NMSU-A taking a spot among the best online community colleges in New Mexico. Students can earn close to ten degrees and certificates online, including a pre-business associate degree that can shift seamlessly into an online bachelor's program from NMSU's main Las Cruces campus.


University of New Mexico-Los Alamos (Los Alamos)

This offshoot of UNM was first established as a Center for Graduate Studies in 1956. It began offering undergraduate courses and degrees in the 1970s and has been operating at its current location and under its current configuration since 1980.

Enrollment numbers at the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos are some of the lowest among the best New Mexico community colleges, which can be great for students who prefer a close-knit campus and an interpersonal educational environment. Around 900 students attended UNM-LA in 2017, which allowed administrators to keep the average class size at 13 and maintain a student-faculty ratio of 9:1.

Close to 30 degree programs are available on campus for UNM-LA students. The catalog here stands out for its tech offerings, such as a pre-engineering A.S., an A.A.S. in robotics and a certificate program in solar technology.


Central New Mexico Community College (Albuquerque)

Central New Mexico Community College isn't just the largest institution by enrollment among the best New Mexico community colleges, it's one of the largest two-year schools in the country. Total enrollment at CNMC was more than 24,000 students in 2017, with about two out of every five students coming from the standard college age range of 19 to 25.

Distance education is a big part of the mission at CNMC, and participation in online programs is on the rise. The Albuquerque institution reported that the 2016-17 academic year saw around 6,000 more students registered for online courses than the same period of time four years earlier.

CNMC offers more than 150 associate degree and certificate programs from nearly 90 areas of study. Recently added degree plans include electroneurodiagnostic technology, health services management and a pre-professional program in architecture.


New Mexico State University Carlsbad (Carlsbad)

With a student population around 2,000, New Mexico State University Carlsbad offers an education centered on the values of community, discovery, diversity and exploration. Ten academic departments provide degree and certificate programs here, and the campus is home to the regional Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and Manufacturing Sector Development Program (MSDP).

Students on the hunt for an affordable pathway to a degree might want to give NMSU Carlsbad a second look. The NMSU system reports that in-district students paid an average of just over $1,000 in tuition and fees for a full 24-credit year at the Carlsbad campus -- an average more than 70 percent more affordable than the national average of $3,570.

Close to 60 programs of study are on offer at NMSU Carlsbad. Industrial maintenance, business and social sciences are the departments with the widest variety of available degree plans.


Mesalands Community College (Tucumcari)

Mesalands Community College was originally established in 1979 as Tucumcari Area Vocational School. It began offering associate degrees in the 1990s and has used the Mesalands name since the fall semester of 2001.

Students at Mesalands can browse the school's selection of over 50 degree and certificate programs, which includes some fairly rare and specialized study plans. Certificates can be earned in artistic silversmithing and fine arts metal casting, and aspiring turbine techs can earn an A.A.S. or applied science certificate in wind energy technology.

Cowboys, cowgirls and patrons of the rodeo have some extra reasons to be interested in attending Mesalands. The institution fields a co-ed team in the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA) and offers degree and certificate plans in the horseshoeing and metalworking field of farrier science.


Clovis Community College (Clovis)

Founded in 1969 as a branch campus of Eastern New Mexico University, Clovis Community College separated from its parent institution and began offering courses independently in 1991. It's a medium-sized school, reporting total enrollment of just over 3,100 students in 2017, and the student-faculty ratio is 17:1.

Degree and certificate programs at CCC run the gamut, from academically oriented offerings to career-focused degree and certificate programs in health care, tech, education and trades. A group of nearly ten degrees can be earned through online courses, including an A.A. in liberal arts designed for transfer students.

CCC also reaches out to kids in the community to help encourage lifelong learning. Kids College is a summertime program during which children and families can take courses in creative arts, sports and fitness, business, astronomy and more.

Initiatives for Transfer Students

The most effective process for transferring your community college credits into your choice of bachelor's program at New Mexico universities depends on the specific institutions you're planning to work with. Each individual community college or university system has its own guidelines for transfer students -- here's a quick rundown of policies and programs at the state's three top universities.

  • New Mexico State University provides a simple online tool for students of its community colleges to make the switch to a university campus. Students are instructed to file a Change of Campus Request from the NMSU Community College Transition web page.
  • Eastern New Mexico University maintains transfer agreements with its three affiliated community colleges as well as Clovis Community College, Amarillo College and Pima Community College. Students transferring from two-year ENMU campuses can fill out an Intra-Campus Transfer Request online.
  • The University of New Mexico tends toward more subject-specific transfer programs, like the agriculture-centered agreement with its Valencia campus, and requires a minimum of 24 credit hours for general transfer admission. Check with your advisor for more details.

For additional insight into education in the state, and to get a better idea of where you transfer opportunities are at, check out the top 4-year universities in New Mexico.


We ranked the community colleges in New Mexico based on factors such as affordability, accessibility, and flexibility. Each school was scored on a 10-point scale, using the following six data points:

  1. The percentage of students enrolled in distance education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
  2. 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
  3. Student-to-faculty ratio, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
  4. The graduation rate in 150% time, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
  5. The transfer-out rate in 150% time, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
  6. Flexibility, based on the following data points from the National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
  • 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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