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 lives within reach of a quality education.
The 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 tribal controlled institutions. In total, more than 112,000 students are enrolled in credit courses at these schools. More than 60,000 credit students are enrolled at NMICC institutions alone, representing nearly 40 percent of all New Mexico college students.
Students choose these institutions for a variety of reasons from their comprehensive catalog of academic and technical programs to their affordable tuition rates. Many of the best New Mexico community colleges also offer classes online to make higher education more accessible to adult learners and working students.
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 2.250 students each year. As a comprehensive community college, NMJC offers academic majors as well as professional development training and career-focused certificate programs.
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.
Santa Fe Community College (Santa Fe)
Known for being a military-friendly school, Santa Fe Community College serves more than 15,000 students each year across all its credit, non-credit and adult education programs. These students come from diverse backgrounds, and the school provides them with quality academics and exceptional support services at an affordable tuition rate.
The degrees and certificates at SFCC cover more than 60 areas of interest. There are programs in popular subjects such as business, plumbing and teacher education in addition to more specialized fields of study. For instance, the college has an adobe construction program as well as an algae cultivation certificate.
Courses for some programs such as the business administration certificate and nutrition certificate are available online, in the evenings or on the weekends.
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 as well. Total enrollment at CNM was more than 23,500 students in 2018, with about three out of every five students coming from the standard college age range of younger than 25.
Distance education is a big part of the mission at CNM, and participation in online programs is on the rise. More than 40 percent of students at the Albuquerque institution take some or all of their classes online. The college has three fast-track associate degree programs that allow students to complete their education in 15 months by taking evening or online courses.
CNM offers more than 200 associate degree and certificate programs from nearly 90 areas of study. Recently added degree programs include electroneurodiagnostic technology, health services management and a pre-professional program in architecture.
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 degree programs 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.
Luna Community College (Las Vegas)
As the only community college in northeastern New Mexico, Luna Community College features affordable tuition, small class sizes and high-caliber faculty. With a student population of approximately 1,000 people, LCC is small enough to provide highly personalized instruction.
The college offers more than 35 degree and certificate programs in seven areas of study. These include transfer degree programs in the humanities as well as vocational education. Business, science, allied health, nursing and education round out the other fields covered by LCC programs. Online courses are available in many subjects, and the school has a fully online associate degree in business administration.
LCC was founded in 1969 and is named for Maximiliano Luna, a captain of the Rough Riders and the 1899 Speaker of the House for the Territory of New Mexico.
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, and the student-faculty ratio is 18:1.
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.
Eastern New Mexico University Ruidoso Branch Community College (Ruidoso)
With a name like Eastern New Mexico University Ruidoso Branch Community College, it's not surprisingly most people refer to this school simply as ENMU-Ruidoso. The school has been offering academic degree programs and vocational training to area residents since 1991.
ENMU-Ruidoso has associate degree programs in nearly 20 majors. There are also a dozen certificates of completion degrees and five certificate degrees of occupational training available. The school's Cybersecurity Center for Excellence has received accolades from government agencies and has degrees and certificates that can be earned entirely online.
Regardless of which program they choose, students at ENMU-Ruidoso receive personalized instruction thanks to the school's small, safe environment. Classes average only 20 students. What's more, ENMU-Ruidoso is an affordable education choice, boasting the second-lowest tuition rate among two-year schools in the state.
Eastern New Mexico University - Roswell (Roswell)
Specialized facilities at Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell allow the institution to offer a few degree programs 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.
University of New Mexico-Valencia County Campus (Los Lunas)
From general education degrees to pre-professional programs, the University of New Mexico - Valencia County Campus offers educational options for practically any career goal. Its location makes it accessible to students across the county, but for those who can't make it to campus, online courses are available as well.
The degree and certificate programs at UNM-Valencia are divided into six divisions. In addition to popular programs such as nursing and business, the school has more unique offerings in fields such as game design and simulation and 3D printing.
UNM-Valencia offers a number of support programs and resources to meet the needs of its students. For instance, Upward Bound is intended to help eligible high school students prepare for and successfully transition to college while the Adult Education Center caters to the needs for career changers.
New Mexico State University 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 is 18:1 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.
CTE in New Mexico
Many of the top community colleges in New Mexico are known for their quality career technical education programs, or CTE. Students who study CTE earn a technical degree or certificate that can land them a job immediately after graduation.
If that sounds appealing, you can identify the right CTE program for your goals by exploring career clusters. There are 16 career clusters that group similar occupations together. For instance, clusters cover areas of interest such as manufacturing, human services and law, public safety, corrections and security. Within each career cluster are pathways that explain exactly what training and skills are needed for specific jobs.
CTE in New Mexico can lead to in-demand jobs in fields such as health care and information technology, and students pursuing this level of education are supported through the following initiatives.
- GEAR UP New Mexico is a state program funded by the U.S. Department of Education. It provides support to encourage high school students to pursue higher education, including CTE programs, after graduation.
- Build New Mexico is a four-point plan unveiled in 2018 to help the state build an economy to meets the needs of the 21st Century. Among its proposals is rebooting the renewable energy program at San Juan College and training workers in key sectors such as cybersecurity, intelligent manufacturing and aerospace.
- Every New Mexico high school student can get a head start on their career preparation by earning college credit early through the state's Dual Credit Program.
Each of the best community colleges in New Mexico can help you learn more about CTE programs. Visit the websites listed in the rankings above for details. You can also learn more about career clusters and career pathways through these resources:
- Pathways 2 Careers - Discover your interests and explore career clusters on this website.
- New Mexico Career Clusters Guide - The state also offers this .pdf guide providing comprehensive information about career clusters and career pathways.
Transferring Credits in New Mexico
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. Plus, there is more about transfer agreements in our guide on how to transfer schools.
Resources for Community College Students in New Mexico
American Association of Community Colleges - This national organization provides links to community colleges in New Mexico as well as facts about two-year schools in the state.
New Mexico Higher Education Department - Students and their families will find information about schools and financial aid on this state department website.
New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions - Visit this state department for a wide variety of tools to help you plan a career as well as find details on internships and other training opportunities.
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 EMNU-Ruidoso, Eastern New Mexico University Ruidoso Branch Community College, Accessed December 2019, https://ruidoso.enmu.edu/about/why-attend/
- About GEAR UP NM, New Mexico Higher Education Department, Accessed December 2019, https://hed.state.nm.us/resources-for-schools/gear-up/about
- About Luna Community College, Luna Community College, Accessed December 2019, https://luna.edu/about
- About SFCC, Santa Fe Community College, Accessed December 2019, https://www.sfcc.edu/about/
- About Us, New Mexico University-Valencia County Campus, Accessed December 2019, https://valencia.unm.edu/about/index.html
- Build New Mexico, State of New Mexico, Accessed December 2019, https://webnew.ped.state.nm.us/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Build-NM.pdf
- College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, Accessed December 2019, https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator
- Dual Credit, New Mexico Higher Education Department, Accessed December 2019, https://hed.state.nm.us/resources-for-schools/public_schools/dual-credit
- Member Institutions in New Mexico, American Association of Community Colleges, Accessed December 2019, https://www.aacc.nche.edu/state/nm/
- New Mexico Independent Community Colleges, Santa Fe Community College, Accessed December 2019, https://www.sfcc.edu/offices/nmicc/