Best Community Colleges in Ohio
Between a generally inexpensive cost of living and the considerable presence of online schools in Ohio, access to college and university education is widespread in the Buckeye State. The Ohio Association of Community Colleges (OACC) is a big part of the state's commitment to giving its residents access to higher education, and state programs that help students at its two-year institutions transfer into programs at regional universities are many and strong.
While it's true that high-quality educational programs can be found all over the state, some of the top Ohio community colleges perform better on certain statistical metrics than others. We gathered data on the following categories and then ran the numbers through our weighted analysis model:
- Schedule flexibility
- Distance education participation
- Retention rates
- Student-to-faculty ratio
- Graduation rates
- Acceptance rates of transfer applicants into other institutions
When the dust settled, ten schools stood out above the rest. Below are the top ten Ohio community colleges, along with why they stand out among others on the top-10 list and some interesting detail about each one.
Cincinnati State Technical and Community College (Cincinnati, OH)
A low student-faculty ratio means fewer students per faculty member, which typically leads to the availability of one-on-one instructional help for students who need a little extra boost. Cincinnati State Technical and Community College posted a student-faculty ratio of just 13:1 in 2016-17, better than the average ratio of 16:1 for national universities and good enough to tie for the No. 2 ranking among schools on our list. Perhaps as a result of that close-knit learning environment, its percentage of students who stuck with their programs past the first year -- commonly called retention rate -- landed in a tie for third among the ten best Ohio community colleges
- Student Enrollment, 2016-17: 9,056
- Cooperative education: Since its founding in 1969, Cincinnati State has fostered relationships with area employers that permit students to take on part-time employment positions that relate to their area of study. Prerequisites for these two-way opportunities vary based on your major, so check with an advisor for details.
Cuyahoga Community College (Cleveland, OH)
Accessibility and flexibility seem to be top priorities at Cuyahoga Community College, known as Tri-C for short, and it's resulted in the third-highest percentage of successful transfer students among schools that made our top ten. This Cleveland institution has the largest student body among the 10 top community colleges in Ohio, and its 50 percent distance education enrollment placed it at No. 3 statewide in the online education category. Campus facilities are also equipped to offer weekend/evening degree plans and on-site day care, in case students need help managing their college schedule alongside their career or family responsibilities.
- Student Enrollment, 2016-17: 23,987
- Sustainable practices: Eco-consciousness is a force of nature at Tri-C campuses, where recycling, bike sharing, energy conservation, community garden partnerships and other sustainability programs are a firm part of organizational policy. The institution has also earned Gold or Silver LEED certification for buildings at four of its campus locations.
Stark State College (North Canton, OH)
As a school of around 12,000 students with an average 2016-17 tuition that came in under $4,800, Stark State College is a medium-sized college with a big focus on providing accessible education. Students at the North Canton school can take advantage of the Ohio Transfer Module, which allows students to complete general education courses anywhere in the public postsecondary system and transfer them to the degree-granting school of their choice. Stark State also boasts the second-lowest aggregate cost of textbooks and other supplies, and about 41 percent of students take at least some of their courses online.
- Student Enrollment, 2016-17: 12,364
- High-tech degrees: The Information Technologies Division at Stark State offers a broad range of cutting-edge associate degrees and certificates, some of which cover the technologies of such diverse disciplines as music production, homeland security, management information systems, computer forensics, digital video, web design and 3-D graphics and animation.
Belmont College (St. Clairsville, OH)
It may have the lowest enrollment of any school to make our top ten, but Belmont College offers a range of benefits for students who prefer that small-school feel. First of all, the Dayton school ranked No. 3 statewide for its aggregate cost of attendance -- that is, how much students paid on average for books, supplies, tuition and fees -- and its student-faculty ratio of 12:1 ranked No. 1 in the state for 2016-17. Belmont also posted the second-best student success rate among schools on our list.
- Student Enrollment, 2016-17: 1,202
- Graduation station: It's often the case that community college students complete a few semesters of general education credits and transfer into a university degree program. According to the numbers, a healthy proportion of Belmont students earn their degrees directly from the college, taking the No. 1 spot statewide for its graduation rate.
Terra State Community College (Fremont, OH)
Retention rate is an important statistic for the top community colleges in Ohio, particularly in that it shows an institution's commitment to guiding its students successfully from year to year. Terra State Community College boasts a retention rate that ranks No. 2 among schools that made our top ten and placed in the top five statewide, which may be due in part to a comfortable student-faculty ratio of 14:1 and select campus-based degree plans that can be completed entirely through weekend and evening courses.
- Student Enrollment, 2016-17: 2,640
- Live on campus: Not every one of the top community colleges in Ohio has a residence hall available for serious students who want to live on campus while they earn their degrees, but Terra State makes that full college experience possible. The Landings at Terra Village can house over 200 students and offers amenities like student lounges and an on-site credit union and convenience store.
North Central State College (Mansfield, OH)
North Central State College stood out among the top community colleges in Ohio for its dedication to flexibility for both on-campus and online students. Not only did 28 percent of students take at least some of their courses in the virtual classroom in 2016-17, but this institution located about halfway between Columbus and Cleveland offers on-campus day care services, degrees that can be earned exclusively through weekend and evening classes and opportunities to convert your life experience into college credit through the College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) and the American College Testing Proficiency Examination Program (ACT PEP).
- Student Enrollment, 2016-17: 3,094
- Dozens of scholarships: Students who fill out the appropriate financial aid applications at NC State may be eligible for one or more scholarship and grant distributions to help defray tuition and supply costs. Between federal programs, independent organizations and the North Central State College Foundation, students have more than 100 opportunities for financial assistance.
Clark State Community College (Springfield, OH)
Not only does Clark State Community College offer one of the lowest costs of books and supplies in our top ten -- the Springfield school ranked No. 4 in that category among the institutions that made our list -- it's also home to some of the hottest degree programs on today's career market. One of the top five majors at Clark State is physical therapist assisting, for which employment is projected to grow by 30 percent between 2016 and 2026. On top of that, Clark State also participates in 12 transfer agreements with regional four-year schools, including Antioch University, Wright State University and Ohio University, among others.
- Student Enrollment, 2016-17: 5,915
- Drone farming: Clark State is working to prepare students for employment in today's high-tech agriculture sector by featuring a GPS-enabled EH-4 quadcopter drone in its precision agriculture program. Students learn to operate the unmanned aircraft, gather data for GIS analysis and help farmers optimize their land use.
Lorain County Community College (Elyria, OH)
Metrics of student success topped the charts at Lorain County Community College, particularly in terms of retaining new students and moving them forward to the next step in their education. No other school on our list had a higher retention rate, and the percentage of LCCC students who transferred to a new institution within three years of enrolling far outpaced all other institutions in our top ten. It's also a relatively affordable school, coming in at No. 4 in the state for overall attendance cost, and no other community college in Ohio posted a higher percentage of students enrolled in online courses.
- Student Enrollment, 2016-17: 11,482
- Entrepreneur booster: LCCC students and alumni have access to features of NEO LaunchNET, an entrepreneurship model that helps members develop business or product concepts and take them to market. The campus also serves as a node on the Ohio's Small Business Development Center (SBDC) network.
Washington State Community College (Piqua, OH)
Our No. 9 school reported a student-faculty ratio of 12:1 in 2016-17, landing it in a tie for the top spot in the state in that category. Washington State Community College also put up high marks for flexibility, offering weekend/evening degree programs and on-campus child care options for students trying to balance a continued education with their family responsibilities. The numbers suggest that these amenities are paying off for students of this western Ohio school, who graduated from WSCC at the third-highest rate in the state in the 2016-17 academic year.
- Student Enrollment, 2016-17: 1,714
- Community airwaves: If you're interested in broadcasting, or if you just want to understand how local community television is produced and distributed, the WSCC campus has the facilities for you. The Piqua school is the home base for TV22, a public, educational and governmental (PEG) cable access channel for select subscribers in the city of Marietta and surrounding communities.
Central Ohio Technical College (Mansfield, OH)
Central Ohio Technical College ranked No. 10 out of all 22 schools we surveyed for its 36 percent of students enrolled in online classes and offers both weekend/evening degree programs and exams that may allow you to earn college credit for prior learning that's relevant to your degree plan. The Mansfield school also partners with Ohio University, which provides personal transfer advising through the Strategic Transfer Education Plan (STEP) and offers nine online bachelor's degree completion tracks along with its more than 250 campus-based degree programs.
- Student Enrollment, 2016-17: 3,337
- Guidance on demand: Students who aren't quite sure of the direction in which they want to take their path through school and into the workforce can sign up for FOCUS 2, a self-paced, online career and education planning tool. Once you get your assessment results, the COTC Office of Career Development can help you review them and make a plan for the future.
Finding the right college for you
It's important to note that we may have done the work to determine the top Ohio community colleges by the numbers, but students and their experiences of an institution amount to more than just columns of data. These rankings can be a good jumping-off point in your search for the right college, but make sure to do your own research into the campus-based and online colleges in Ohio to discover which one can best provide the educational experience you're looking for. The extra bit of effort may seem like more trouble than it's worth, but when you find the perfect school you'll be glad you spent the time.
We ranked 22 schools in Ohio, based on the list of institutions maintained by the Ohio Association of Community Colleges. Each school was scored on a 5-point scale, using the following seven data points.
- Percentage of students enrolled in distance education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
- Total cost of attendance, including tuition & fees plus books & supplies, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
- Student-to-faculty ratio, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
- The average retention rate for full- and part-time students, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
- The graduation rate as of FY 2016 for full-time, first time undergraduate students who enrolled in fall 2013, Ohio Board of Regents, 2017
- The transfer rate to another institution as of FY 2016 for full-time, first time undergraduate students who enrolled in fall 2013, Ohio Board of Regents, 2017
- Flexibility, based on three data points* from the National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
*If school offers credit for life experiences, weekend or evening programs, and offers on-campus daycare.
- Cost of Living Data Series, First Quarter 2015, Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, accessed August 26, 2015, https://www.missourieconomy.org/indicators/cost_of_living/index.stm,
- Lakeland Community College, G.I. Jobs School Matchmaker, accessed August 26, 2015, http://www.gijobs.com/school/lakeland-community-college/
- Tuition and Fees by Sector and State over Time, Trends in Higher Education, The College Board, accessed August 26, 2015, http://trends.collegeboard.org/college-pricing/figures-tables/tuition-fees-sector-state-time
- Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statitsics, U.S. Department of Labor, accessed August 26, 2015: Registered Nurses, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Healthcare/Registered-nurses.htm; Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Healthcare/Physical-therapist-assistants-and-aides.htm
- Ohio Transfer Module (OTM), Ohio Department of Higher Education, accessed August 26, 2015, https://www.ohiohighered.org/transfer/transfermodule
- School websites: Edison Community College, http://catalog.edisonohio.edu/content.php?catoid=19&navoid=1279; North Central State College, http://www.ncstatecollege.edu/cms/financial-aid/types-of-aid/scholarships; Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, http://www.cincinnatistate.edu/real-world-academics/academics/academics; Stark State College, http://www.starkstate.edu/public/system/uploads/files/About/profile6.14.pdf, http://www.starkstate.edu/content/stark-state-college-facts; Clark State University, http://www.clarkstate.edu/precision-agriculture/, http://www.clarkstate.edu/about-clark-state/news/clark-state-community-college-begins-flying-uas-for-precision-agriculture/, http://www.clarkstate.edu/about-clark-state/fast-facts/; Columbus State Community College, http://www.cscc.edu/admissions/adultlearning/prior-learning-assessments.html; Wright State University, http://www.wright.edu/sinclair-double-degree/programs, http://www.wright.edu/transfer/academics/dayton-campus-articulation-transfer-agreements; Lakeland Community College, Annual Report 2013-14, http://lakelandcc.edu/c/document_library/get_file?uuid=5cb510b7-502d-458c-9601-3052d5d8df9a&groupId=347086#page=3; Cuyahoga Community College, Annual Report 2012-13, http://www.tri-c.edu/about/documents/tric-2012-13annualreport-singlepg.pdf#page=13, http://www.tri-c.edu/about/sustainability/index.html; Lorain County Community College, http://www.lorainccc.edu/Business+and+Industry/Entrepreneurial+Support/Small+Business+Development+Center.htm, http://www.lorainccc.edu/Employment+and+Career+Services/Blackstone+LaunchPad/
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2013-14, National Center for Education Statistics, Accessed June 18, 2015, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- Three Year Success Measures: Fall 2010 Cohort of First-Time, Full-Time, Degree-Seeking Undergraduate Students,” Ohio Board of Regents, University System of Ohio, Accessed June 29, 2015, https://www.ohiohighered.org/sites/ohiohighered.org/files/uploads/data/statistical-profiles/3_yr_success_public_2010.pdf