Best Community Colleges in New York
New York has a rich history when it comes to higher education. With schools dating back to the earliest days of the nation, the state has developed a reputation for its noteworthy institutions. That reputation extends to community colleges as well, and students interested in a two-year degree or technical training have plenty of high-quality options available.
Unlike other states that have a statewide community college board, New York community colleges are overseen by the state's two main public university systems. The State University of New York, or SUNY, supervises 30 community colleges that are sponsored by local governments. Meanwhile, The City University of New York -- also known as CUNY -- maintains six community colleges.
The best community colleges in New York offer a mix of degree options, including transfer degrees, technical degrees and certificate programs. Many offer online courses, and those looking for online colleges shouldn't overlook the distance learning programs at the top New York community colleges.
Genesee Community College (Batavia)
SUNY Genesee Community College is one of the best New York community colleges. The school first opened its doors in 1967, and its alumni number more than 24,000. The student body at GCC is diverse, drawing from more than 20 countries.
Affordability is part of what makes GCC one of the best colleges in New York. In addition to having a low in-district tuition rate, the college offers the Genesee Promise Plus scholarship. That provides many students with the opportunity to take one or two summer session courses for free.
Overall, Genesee Community College offers more than 60 areas of study. While GCC has its main campus in Batavia, students can choose to attend classes at six other locations or take online courses.
Nassau Community College (Long Island)
Nassau Community College is another institution within the SUNY system. Located on Long Island, the school notes it's the largest single-campus community college in the state. As one of the best community colleges in New York, NCC enrolls about 20 percent of high school graduates from Nassau County.
At NCC, students can earn transfer degrees, which are intended for those planning to continue their education at a four-year school. There are also technical degrees and certificate programs that are designed to prepare students to go directly from the classroom to the workforce.
Nearly 30,000 students attend classes online or on-campus through NCC. These include day and evening students as well as those pursing professional or continuing education credits. Nassau Community College was founded in 1959.
Erie Community College (Buffalo)
Often called SUNY Erie, Erie Community College is another of the top community colleges in New York. It offers more than 100 education options that feature affordable tuition and flexible scheduling. Students may be able to complete their certificate or degree program online or at one of the school's three campus locations.
ECC is a top choice for high school graduates in Western New York and has the second largest enrollment in the area. Those enrolled get access to hundreds of internship opportunities which can enhance their educational experience. What's more, SUNY Erie is home to a number of student organizations and a winning athletic program.
Erie Community College has a history that dates back to 1946. It has its main campus in Buffalo.
Schenectady County Community College (Schenectady)
In upstate New York, Schenectady County Community College has been in the business of education since 1967. Like many of the other best colleges in New York, this school is part of the SUNY system.
Dozens of degree and certificate programs are offered at SUNY SCCC. Some offer a general education suitable for those planning to transfer credits and pursue a bachelor's degree at a four-year school. Others provide training for a specific career path. Fully online courses are available in many programs and that may make it easier for nontraditional students to complete their education.
Schenectady County Community College earns its spot among the top New York community colleges thanks to an affordable tuition rate, dynamic programs and flexible learning options. Its campus is in Schenectady.
Sullivan County Community College (Loch Sheldrake)
SUNY Sullivan says it's a great place to grow. Known more formally as Sullivan County Community College, the school has a residential campus, affordable tuition and champion sports teams.
One of the hallmarks of SUNY Sullivan is its commitment to helping students successfully transition to college. Through the First Year Experience, freshmen participate in an orientation and semester long course intended to support them as they begin their higher education. Other notable features of the school include an honors program and online classes.
Sullivan County Community College offers a small learning environment with fewer than 2,000 students enrolled. Its campus in Loch Sheldrake is located within the Catskill Mountains and is about two hours away from New York City and Albany.
Tompkins Cortland Community College (Dryden)
Whether you want to transfer credits or start a career, you may find the degree program you seek at Tompkins Cortland Community College. The institution, part of The State University of New York system, offers more than three dozen education options.
Tompkins Cortland also offers several unique internship and hands-on learning experiences to its students. There is the Disney College Program that includes a full-time paid internship at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida as well as a Farm to Bistro program for culinary students. Other internships, an honors college and study abroad opportunities further enhance the learning experience at Tompkins Cortland Community College.
As one of the state's online colleges, there are a number of fully online degrees available. Those looking for a more traditional college experience can study on the school's Dryden campus.
Herkimer County Community College (Herkimer)
Herkimer County Community College isn't just one of the top community colleges in New York. It's also one of the state's online colleges, with an extensive catalog of courses, degrees and certificates for distance learners.
Founded in 1966, Herkimer says it provides a premier experience both to online and on-campus learners. It draws students from approximately 30 states and 20 countries and boasts of solid graduation and placement rates. There are dozens of program options between those on-campus and those offered by the Herkimer Internet Academy.
The school is also notable for having a nationally ranked sports program, on-campus child care and fully furnished on-campus apartments. About two-thirds of students receive financial aid to help make their education more affordable.
Ulster County Community College (Stone Ridge)
You're most likely to hear Ulster County Community College called by its informal name of SUNY Ulster. Founded in 1963, the school says it's "old enough to know but still young enough to have fun."
Today, SUNY Ulster takes pride is its small, tight-knit community of learners. Although located in rural Stone Ridge, the school strives to provide students access to a cosmopolitan experience. It brings award-winning writers and performers to campus and offers study abroad options. Plus, it's near the artists' communities of Woodstock and New Paltz as well as within driving distance of New York City.
Ulster County Community College offers dozens of transfer and technical degrees as well as certificate programs. Online courses are also available along with an accelerated degree option for adult learners.
Stella and Charles Guttman Community College (Manhattan)
The Stella and Charles Guttman Community College wasted no time in becoming one of the top New York community colleges. The school opened its doors in 2012 as part of The City University of New York and quickly became known for its commitment to making higher education accessible to students from diverse backgrounds.
Currently, only about 500 students are enrolled at Guttman College, making it a good choice for those seeking an intimate learning environment. All students participate in a First Year Experience in which they complete a core curriculum that emphasizes hands-on learning. Then, they can focus their studies on one of five majors: business administration, human services, information technology, liberal arts and sciences or urban studies.
The college's campus is located in midtown Manhattan.
Niagara County Community College (Sanborn)
Located near the Canadian border, Niagara County Community College educates almost 6,000 students each year. While they study on a rural campus in Sanborn, they are close to both Buffalo and Niagara Falls.
Niagara Falls was actually the original location of NCCC. It was founded there in 1962 but outgrew its facilities by the early 1970s. The school today sits on 250 acres and hosts dozens of degree and certificate programs. The Niagara Falls Culinary Institute is also part of NCCC.
Like many of the other best community colleges in New York, Niagara County Community College is part of SUNY. It offers a special First Year Experience and maintains an Educational Opportunity Program to help students successfully transition into the college and complete their degree program.
Transferring Credits in New York
While some people attend community colleges for career training, others use it as a starting point for a bachelor's degree. In many cases, credits from an Associate of Arts or Associate of Science degree can be transferred to a four-year school to fulfill general education requirements.
New York students benefit from the fact that community colleges operate as part of the SUNY and CUNY systems. Both universities have made it relatively easy to move between institutions within the same system.
For example, SUNY guarantees admission at its four-year schools for any student transferring from a SUNY community college with an AS or AA degree. At CUNY, students with an AS or AA who transfer to one of the system's four-year schools should automatically be deemed to have their common core requirements filled.
However, you can transfer credits from the best New York community colleges to other institutions as well. Many community colleges have articulation agreements with specific colleges and universities that outline when and how credits will transfer.
Ready to plan out the next step of your education? Or want to read more about the best colleges in the state? Click here to find out which institutions are the top four-year schools in New York.
We ranked 35 community colleges in New York, all of which were affiliated with either the City University of New York or the State University of New York systems. The schools were ranked on multiple factors related to educational opportunity, student performance and student services.
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.
- The Structure of Higher Education, Office of College and University Evaluation, Accessed June 2018, http://www.highered.nysed.gov/ocue/he/structureofhe.html
- Campus Centers, Genesee Community College, Accessed June 2018, https://www.genesee.edu/home/about/campuses/
- Timeline, Genesee Community College, Accessed June 2018, http://sunygcc50.genesee.edu/timeline/
- Fast Facts, Genesee Community College, Accessed June 2018, https://www.genesee.edu/home/about/administration/glance/fast-facts/
- Genesee Promise Plus Summer Scholarship Program Celebrates its Ten Year Anniversary, March 12, 2018, Genesee Community College, http://news.genesee.edu/news/2018/03/12/genesee-promise-plus-summer-scholarship-program-celebrates-its-ten-year-anniversary
- Fast Facts, Nassau Community College, Accessed June 2018, http://www.ncc.edu/aboutncc/fastfacts.shtml
- About NCC, Nassau Community College, Accessed June 2018, http://www.ncc.edu/aboutncc/
- Why Choose ECC? Erie Community College, Accessed June 2018, https://www.ecc.edu/about/
- Empowering Your Next Step, Schenectady County Community College, Accessed June 2018, http://sunysccc.edu/Admissions
- About Sullivan, Sullivan County Community College, Accessed June 2018, https://sunysullivan.edu/about/
- Freshman Year Experience, Sullivan County Community College, Accessed June 2018, https://sunysullivan.edu/academics/freshman-year-experience/
- Online Learning, Tompkins Cortland Community College, Accessed June 2018, https://catalog.tompkinscortland.edu/academics/online-learning#degrees
- Academic Catalog 2018-2019, Tompkins Cortland Community College, Accessed June 2018, https://catalog.tompkinscortland.edu/
- Herkimer College Quick Facts, Herkimer County Community College, Accessed June 2018, https://www.herkimer.edu/explore/quick-facts/
- Explore, Herkimer County Community College, Accessed June 2018, https://www.herkimer.edu/explore/
- Online Learning, Ulster County Community College, Accessed June 2018, https://www.sunyulster.edu/academics/online_learning/index.php
- About Us, Ulster County Community College, Accessed June 2018, https://www.sunyulster.edu/campus_and_culture/about_us/
- Our History, Ulster County Community College, Accessed June 2018, https://www.sunyulster.edu/campus_and_culture/about_us/our_history.php
- First-Year Experience, Stella and Charles Guttman Community College, Accessed June 2018, http://guttman.cuny.edu/academics/first-year-experience/
- Fast Facts, Stella and Charles Guttman Community College, Accessed June 2018, http://guttman.cuny.edu/about/fast-facts/
- About NCCC, Niagara County Community College, Accessed June 2018, http://niagaracc.suny.edu/about/
- SUNY Transfer Policies, The State University of New York, Accessed June 2018, https://www.suny.edu/attend/get-started/transfer-students/suny-transfer-policies/
- How Credits Transfer, The City University of New York, Accessed June 2018, http://www2.cuny.edu/about/administration/offices/undergraduate-studies/pathways/credits-tranfer/#1455656176551-21ca18e5-941b
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/