Best Community Colleges in New York
New York is known for its dynamic population and all the jobs it attracts. Some perspective: New York's economy is the third-largest in the U.S. and the sixth-largest in the world, comparable in size to that of Iran. Many of the most lucrative and high-demand careers require at least some college education, which makes community colleges in New York incredibly valuable. Community colleges can reduce students' education bills by hundreds to thousands of dollars, and most offer online degrees, night and evening classes and other life-accommodating features. Naturally, some community colleges in New York perform better in certain areas than others. Some may have higher university transfer rates while others are more affordable, offer more financial aid or place a higher priority on accessibility. How do you know which one is the best?
We ran the numbers on 39 campus-based and online colleges in New York and ranked them based on metrics such as student-to-faculty ratio, distance education participation, affordability of tuition, flexibility, graduation rates, retention rates and transfer rates. You can check out the methodology we used at the bottom of this post, but for now, let's dive in.
Jefferson Community College (Watertown)
Watertown is a tourist destination in its own right: you can raft Black River's whitewater in the summer and ski the Adirondacks in the winter. For students attending Jefferson Community College, however, the locale is only part of its charm. One of the reasons this SUNY institution took our No. one spot is that it truly embodies the notion of college accessibility and affordability. For instance, it has one of the highest percentages of distance-learners for the colleges we looked at, and campus-based students can take advantage of on-site daycare and night and weekend programs. According to JCC's official website, more than 80 percent of its students receive financial aid, some of which comes from the College's more than 270 distinct scholarships. JCC's alternative tuition plans and credit-for-life-experience programs are icing on the figurative cake.
- Planting the seeds of opportunity: Jefferson Community College's Educational Opportunity Program offers traditionally under-served students academic, financial, personal and social support services that promote college retention, graduation and other student success measures.
Niagara County Community College
Niagara County Community College offers big learning opportunities at reasonable cost: it's one of the five most affordable community colleges in New York regarding tuition, fees, books and supplies costs. It offers nearly 75 degrees and certificates, including transfer- and career-focused programs. While all of them aim to prepare students for lifelong success, NCCC's culinary program is regarded particularly highly. Opened in 2012, the school's off-campus Niagara Falls Culinary Institute features a student-run fine dining restaurant, New York style delis, a wine boutique, a sponsored community education kitchen and an ice-sculpting lab. Celebrity chefs have been known to swing by from time to time.
- Hit the road: Niagara County Community College's 250-acre campus may be rural, but students can head to Buffalo, Niagara Falls or the Canadian border in a matter of minutes.
SUNY Broome Community College (Binghamton)
Broome Community College offers dozens of transfer and professional associate and certificate programs plus an on-site Applied Learning and Career Center for workforce-geared students. It also holds the distinction of being one of the five most affordable community colleges in the New York for average net price, and ties for the third-lowest student-faculty ratio. In 2014, Broome Community College launched an accelerated one-year Associate in Arts (AA1) degree for academically gifted students bound for four-year universities. Requiring four seminar courses, a capstone research project and an academic portfolio, this unique liberal arts program shaves a year and potentially thousands of dollars off one's education.
- Think bigger: SUNY Broome was one of the first six colleges to join Open SUNY, a program linking about 400 SUNY online degree programs in high-need areas.
Genesee Community College (Batavia)
Genesee Community College in a word: diverse. The majority of GCC's on-campus students commute from one of five counties and it hosts international students from nearly 20 countries. Genesee continues to find new and innovative ways to make college even more accessible. Perhaps its most successful initiative was the launch of more than a dozen fully-online degree programs. Today GCC is one of the leading two-year online schools in New York and ranks in the top five for online student participation and has the third-highest transfer rate in the state.
- Top-notch convenience: Multiple learning sites extend educational opportunities well beyond Genesee County. Additional sites are located in Medina, Warsaw, Lima, Arcade, Dansville and Albion.
Ulster County Community College (Stone Ridge)
Ulster County Community College is a relatively small school when it comes to enrollment. Small schools often come with cozier learning experiences, and UCCC is no exception: the College ranks No. 3 (a tie) among all New York community colleges for its low student-faculty ratio. Perhaps even more impressive, however, is its status as the second-most-affordable college in average net price in the state. Ulster County Community College offers dozens of transfer, career, certificate and diploma programs in a vast range of areas.
- Bringing jobs to you: In 2016, Ulster County Community College joined the Start-Up NY program, which offers companies a 10-year state and local tax reprieve for moving operations -- and jobs -- to college campuses.
Erie Community College (Buffalo)
Erie Community College in Buffalo is, by enrollment, the largest school featured in our Top 10 list, yet it manages to provide personalized learning experiences to students of all needs. This is especially apparent among busy students balancing school with career or family life. ECC is one of the most affordable community colleges in New York -- No. 3 in average net price -- and also one of the most accommodating. It offers online programs, credit for life experience, and night and weekend programs, not to mention its on-site daycare and alternate tuition plan.
- Take a break: Buffalo is a true college town, and has the food crawls, live entertainment and cultural highlights to prove it. Students looking for a more peaceful getaway can explore the city's parks and garden walks or make a quick trip to Niagara Falls.
Clinton Community College (Plattsburgh)
Clinton Community College in Plattsburgh overlooks Lake Champlain, about an hour's drive from Quebec. In contrast to ECC, CCC posts the smallest enrollment figure on this list. While the learning environment is small, it's effective: CCC has the third-highest graduation rate in the state. Personalized attention, credit for life experience, night and weekend programs and on-site childcare likely make it attractive to a wide variety of students. Its place as one of the top five New York community colleges for its average cost of tuition, fees, books and supplies does not hurt either.
- Friend to the Forces: In 2016, CCC earned Victory Media's Military Friendly Schools designation for the seventh year in a row. The College has more than 100 military-affiliated students each semester, including veterans and active servicemembers.
Herkimer County Community College (Herkimer)
Herkimer County Community College's record of student success is well known. It has, for instance, one of the lowest student-faculty ratios and some of the highest graduation and transfer rates of all New York community colleges. The College also invests heavily in distance education. According to HCCC, its Internet Academy offers nearly two dozen degrees and certificates, about 150 online courses and a full list of web-based support services. When comparing all two-year online colleges in New York, HCCC ranks No. 2 for distance education learners.
- An unconventional beginning: Herkimer County Community College did not settle in its current permanent campus location until several years following its founding. Before that, students reported to classes on the top floors of the Remington Arms Company.
Cayuga Community College (Auburn)
There are many factors that can push a New York community college into the top ten. For Cayuga Community College, that nudge comes from its stellar academic support. Students have access to drop-in math and writing support, peer tutoring groups, online tutoring through NetTutor and several college-organized study groups. Students can also take advantage of CCC initiatives that improve college accessibility, like its new University Center, which lets them earn bachelor's degrees from several universities on the CCC campus. Of all community colleges in New York, Cayuga Community College has the lowest student-faculty ratio, the third most-active online student population and one of the top five graduation rates.
- Healthy stats: Cayuga Community College's nursing program is no stranger to success. In 2016, CCCC announced its nursing classes got a 100 percent pass rate on the National Licensure Exam, beating state and national averages by 17 and 15 points, respectively.
Hudson Valley Community College (Troy)
Hudson Valley Community College shows what it takes to become one of the top 10 community colleges in a competitive state like New York. While ranked No. 10 here, it ranks No. 1 in the state for online education participation and No. 3 in student-faculty ratio. HVCC also offers credit for life experience, weekend and evening programs and an on-campus daycare. The Hudson Valley Honors Advisement Track HonorScholar program offers HVCC students a specialized curriculum to prepare them for transfer to four-year universities with Completion of Honors Study documentation.
- It's art: HVCC's campus features two pieces by noted American sculptor Antoni Milkowski.
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. Each school was scored on a 10-point scale, using the following seven data points.
- The percentage of students enrolled in distance education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2014
- 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, 2014 and 2015
- Student-to-faculty ratio, National Center for Education Statistics, 2014
- Retention rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2014
- Graduation rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2014
- The transfer-out rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2014, and the 4-year graduation rate of students who transferred to a 4-year college, College Scorecard, 2014
- Flexibility, based on four data points* from the National Center for Education Statistics, 2014
*Whether the school offers credit for life experiences, programs of study that can be completed entirely in the evenings and on weekends, on-campus day care for students’ children or any kind of alternative tuition plan. These may include, but aren’t limited to, payment plans or guaranteed rates.
- Colleges & Schools, The City University of New York, Accessed Nov. 7, 2016, http://www.cuny.edu/about/colleges.html
- Complete Campus List, The State University of New York, Accessed Nov. 7, 2016, http://www.suny.edu/attend/visit-us/complete-campus-list/
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2014-15 and 2015-16, National Center for Education Statistics, Accessed Nov. 7, 2016, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- "The New York College System, New York College System Students: Applied, Admitted, And Enrolled In The State University Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements), College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, Accessed Nov. 8, 2016, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
- Colleges & Schools, The City University of New York, Accessed Nov. 7, 2016, http://www.cuny.edu/about/colleges.html
- New York community college websites, Accessed November 7, 2016:
- Cayuga Community College, http://www.cayuga-cc.edu/
- Clinton Community College, http://www.clinton.edu/
- Erie Community College, https://www.ecc.edu/
- Herkimer County Community College, http://www.herkimer.edu
- Jefferson Community College, State University of New York, http://www.sunyjefferson.edu/
- Jefferson Community College, State University of New York, Quick Facts, http://www.sunyjefferson.edu/about-jcc/quick-facts
- Niagara County Community College, State University of New York, http://www.niagaracc.suny.edu/about/
- SUNY Broome Community College, http://www1.sunybroome.edu/
- SUNY Ulster Community College, https://www.sunyulster.edu/