Best Community Colleges in North Dakota

If you're hoping to advance in your career, find a new line of work or get started on the road to a college degree at one of the public or private North Dakota universities, the best community colleges in North Dakota are here to help. All of the two-year schools in the state are members of either the North Dakota Association of Tribal Colleges (NDATC) or the North Dakota Community Colleges (NDCC) system.

We gathered data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and calculated scores based on affordability, flexibility, student success and other factors in order to determine which institutions could truly be called the top North Dakota community colleges. Take a look at our list below and find out if one of these top schools can help you reach your personal goals.



Lake Region State College (Devils Lake)

In terms of size, Lake Region State College ranks right in the middle of the pack of NDCC schools. Just shy of 2,000 students attend courses here each term, of whom more than 70 percent are under the age of 21.

Close to 30 degree and certificate programs are available at LRSC. The most popular degrees are the Associate in Arts (A.A.) and Associate in Science (A.S.) plans in liberal arts, with practical nursing and law enforcement training programs filling out the top three. Approximately 26 percent of the credits earned in Fall 2017 were delivered through online courses.

LRSC has one of the more robust catalogs among online colleges in North Dakota. Its general A.A. and A.S. programs are available fully online, as well as study plans in business administration, early childhood education and more.


North Dakota State College of Science (Wahpeton)

Founded in 1903, North Dakota State College of Science is the second-oldest public two-year college in the U.S. This longstanding institution boasts a total enrollment of around 3,000 students annually, making it the largest school in the NDCC system, but it still manages to keep the student-faculty ratio to a comfortable 13:1.

Students at NDSCS have more than 80 degree and certificate programs to choose from, including associate-level study plans in agriculture, agribusiness and agronomy. Several of the available associate degrees, in such subjects as physical science, psychology, social work, pharmacy and law, are designed to transfer to bachelor's programs at the top four-year schools in North Dakota.

If you're looking for the residential college experience from your community college, NDSCS has got you covered. Nearly 50 percent of students at the Wahpeton location live on campus.


Dakota College of Bottineau (Bottineau)

Dakota College of Bottineau is another old-guard institution among the best community colleges in North Dakota, having first opened its doors in 1906. It's also the northernmost member institution of the NDCC system, located just a dozen miles south of the Canadian border.

Perhaps due to its remote location, DCB is the smallest NDCC school by enrollment -- just over 900 students attend courses here each semester. The student-faculty ratio is a best-in-system 12:1, as well, so students who prefer the intimate learning environment of a close-knit school should feel right at home here.

Nearly 60 programs are available to students at DCB, a total split fairly evenly between academic disciplines and career and technical fields. It's also one of the more comprehensive online colleges in the state, offering close to 20 study plans in the virtual classroom.


Williston State College (Williston)

Located near the upper reaches of the Missouri River in western North Dakota, Williston State College offers degree programs from five academic departments: arts & human sciences, business technology, health & wellness, math & sciences and trades technology.

WSC students working toward A.S. or A.A. degrees are typically expected to enroll in university programs as juniors after finishing their associate-level study. Those pursuing Associate of Applied Sciences (A.A.S.) degrees tend to take a more career-focused path, but they may also be able to continue their education at a four-year school at a later time.

Total enrollment at WSC is around 1,100 students per semester, of whom close to 60 percent take a full-time courseload. Roughly 20 percent of students are enrolled in all online courses. Four associate degree plans and one certificate can be earned entirely online.


Cankdeska Cikana Community College (Fort Totten)

Operated by the Spirit Lake Dakota Nation, Cankdeska Cikana Community College is a member school of the NDATC and dedicates itself to building a strong community through individual self-sufficiency and a sense of shared responsibility.

The Fort Totten institution takes its title from the Dakota name of tribe member Paul Yankton, Sr., a decorated World War II hero. The learning environment here is an intimate one -- the ratio of five students per faculty member is the best in the state -- and fewer than 250 total students attend classes here each term.

Close to 20 academic and career programs are available here, including an A.A.S. program in automotive technology offered in collaboration with LRSC, its neighbor across Devil's Lake. A.A. degree options include business administration, Dakota studies and early childhood education, and A.S. programs include pre-engineering and pre-nursing study plans.

Resources for Transfer Students in North Dakota

If you've got your sights set on a four-year degree program, it's important to be aware of the initiatives and resources that can help make your transfer journey go as smoothly as possible. The main tool used for seamless transfer in North Dakota is the articulation agreement, which provides clear and hassle-free pathways between community college programs and North Dakota universities.

Every one of our best North Dakota community colleges has some sort of articulation agreement in place, with most requiring a particular area of study and a set group of lower-division courses. If you're planning to make use of one of these agreements when you transfer to a four-year school, make sure to let the school advisers know as soon as possible so they can help you build a schedule that moves you effectively toward your goal.

Transfer scholarships can also be a big help in making the move to a university program. The University of North Dakota offers automatic scholarships to high-achieving transfer students, for one, and you may qualify for one or more of over 1,000 transfer scholarships statewide.

For more insight into education in the state, read about the top four-year schools in North Dakota.


We ranked community colleges in North Dakota 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:

  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. 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.

Article Sources
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