Best Community Colleges in Ohio
The best colleges in Ohio include a mix of institutions located throughout the state. While top schools include big names like The Ohio State University, don't discount the many benefits of community colleges. Many two-year schools excel at providing quality academics at an affordable price. So much so that the Ohio Association of Community Colleges notes 45 percent of undergraduates starts their education at a two-year school.
More than 300,000 students are enrolled in Ohio's 23 community colleges. They include recent high school graduates, adult learners and professionals in need of continuing education. Many students will transfer credits to a four-year school and go on to earn a bachelor's degree. Others will pursue technical degree programs and certificates that are designed to lead directly to the workforce. Many of the best community colleges in Ohio double as online colleges, allowing students to study via online courses.
Regardless of why they enroll in Ohio community colleges, students get access to state-of-the-art facilities, small class sizes and comprehensive support services on many campuses. In fact, quality education and affordable tuition are two of the main reasons students choose these two-year schools, according to the Ohio Association of Community Colleges.
Ready to learn more? Keep scrolling to find the top community colleges in Ohio and discover how they can help you meet your career goals.
Cincinnati State Technical and Community College (Cincinnati)
Known simply as Cincinnati State to many, Cincinnati State Technical and Community College features small class sizes, affordable tuition and specialized workforce training. It all adds up to the school being one of the best community colleges in Ohio.
Cincinnati State maintains four campus locations: two in Cincinnati, one in Harrison and one in Middleton. Students can also enroll in CState Online. This program offers hundreds of online courses which will allow you to study, or even complete, a degree program from home. Options include an accounting technology associate degree and a coding specialist certificate.
The college is unique in that it was the first two-year school in the United States to establish a mandatory cooperative education program. Thanks to relationships with more than 500 area employers, students can gain real-world experience — along with a paycheck — through the co-op program.
Cuyahoga Community College District (Cleveland)
Extensive educational opportunities are part of what makes Cuyahoga Community College District one of the best community colleges in Ohio. The school offers more than 1,000 courses covering approximately 190 areas of interest. Tri-C, as the school is known, says it has one of the lowest tuition rates in the region as well.
For students needing a flexible schedule, there are nearly a half dozen fully online degree programs and certificates as well as others that can be completed almost entirely via online courses. These include an online degree in graphic design and a short-term certificate in court reporting technologies. Students who would rather study on campus will find classes offered at more than a dozen locations.
Cuyahoga Community College maintains a robust calendar of events and activities for its students, regardless of their degree program. There are job fairs, workshops, fine arts performances and more.
Columbus State Community College (Columbus)
As another of the top Ohio community colleges, Columbus State Community College serves students from all walks of life. As the only open admissions college in central Ohio, all are welcome to enroll and brush up on basic skills, earn a degree or complete a workforce training program.
Columbus State is an affordable educational choice, and most of its graduates leave the school with zero student loan. The college is also known for offering small classes and having one of the most ethnically diverse student bodies in the region. Its programs include construction and skilled trades training as well as a variety of health sciences degrees and certificates.
More than 27,000 students enroll in Columbus State each year. The school has two campuses and five regional learning centers. These locations support a variety of student clubs, sports programs and other activities.
Sinclair Community College (Dayton)
With four locations, Sinclair Community College offers educational programs suitable to a wide variety of career goals. Overall, there are more than 220 degree and certificate programs offered.
Students looking for online colleges in Ohio will find more than a dozen fully online associate degree programs as well as more than 20 online certificates. Even in other programs, students may be able to supplement their on-campus classes with online courses. More than 100 transfer agreements make it easy to apply credits toward a bachelor's degree at a four-year school. One such pathway can be found with the school's UD Sinclair Academy, which is a partnership between Sinclair and the University of Dayton, a private research university. It allows students to map out their path to earning a four-year degree with clearer financial picture in mind.
Sinclair College says it has one of the lowest tuition rates in the state, another reason it ranks among the best Ohio community colleges. More than 32,000 students enroll in Sinclair each year.
Lakeland Community College (Kirtland)
Being one of the top Ohio community colleges isn't the only thing distinguishing Lakeland Community College from its peers. It was also the first college in the state to be created through a vote of the people. Residents voted for the school's creation in 1967.
Today, more than 13,500 students are enrolled in credit and non-credit courses. There are more than 135 degree and certificate programs available. Some, such as the associate degree in psychology, are transfer degrees that can lead to additional education at a four-year school. Others options at the school, such as its nursing program, lead to technical degrees and certificates intended to prepare students to enter the workforce immediately.
As one of the state's online colleges, Lakeland has a number of fully online degree and certificate programs. There are also blended programs which combine online courses with on-campus requirements.
Clark State Community College (Springfield)
Affordable tuition, personalized attention and convenient learning options are all part of what make Clark State Community College one of the best Ohio community colleges. It's a popular choice for those seeking a transfer degree or looking to study fields such as nursing or business.
Regardless of whether you are a traditional student or an adult learner, the school likely has a program for you. There are approximately 125 degree and certificates from which to choose. Clark State has online courses, internships and co-ops to enhance the learning experience as well. An Honors Program provides an academically challenging curriculum while the Aspire Program provides adult learners with basic skills.
Clark State enrolls more than 6,000 students each semester. It was founded in 1962 and maintains three campus locations.
James A Rhodes State College (Lima)
More commonly known by its shortened name of Rhodes State College, this school embraces core values that include integrity, quality and respect. Approximately 4,000 students enroll in its programs each year.
Rhodes State College offers more than 90 associate degrees, majors and certificates that prepare students for in-demand occupations. Its innovative options include a business administration associate degree which requires students to attend classes only one night per week. There are also more than a dozen fully online degrees and certificates as well as a number of hybrid programs that combine on-campus with online learning.
High school students can get an early start on their college education thanks to Rhodes State's participation in the College Credit Plus program. It offers free college classes to eligible students in grades 7-12.
Washington State Community College (Marietta)
Students seeking a smaller learning environment may want to take a closer look at Washington State Community College. The school enrolls approximately 2,300 students, allowing it to have small class sizes in its more than 50 degree and certificate programs.
Transfer students can save more than $30,000 in tuition costs by starting their education at WSCC, the college says. There are 10 transfer degree programs that include liberal arts, general science, business and education. For technical education students, there are 15 one-year certificates that lead directly to employment.
Distance learners will find a handful of fully online programs at WSCC. These include a chemical operator certificate and a liberal arts transfer degree. All students have access to free tutoring and support services through the Center for Student Success.
Edison State Community College (Piqua)
Chartered in 1973, Edison State Community College offers education options in more than 30 technical fields as well as transfer programs, continuing education classes and workforce development training. It enrolls more than 3,000 students annually, and they can choose to study online, on the school's main campus in Piqua or at three other regional locations.
Edison State offers career pathways that are designed to help students explore fields of study and identity an occupation that may be right for them. Online programs include more than 30 degrees and certificates.
The college has two university transfer pathways that allow students to focus on either the arts or sciences. Those seeking a career technical education can choose from five different pathways which include programs such a degree in criminal justice and a real estate certificate.
Terra State Community College (Fremont)
There are multiple reasons Terra State Community College is one of the best Ohio community colleges. The school says its tuition rate is half the cost of most public colleges and universities and a quarter of the price charged by some private institutions. Despite the low cost, students still get quality academics, small classes and comprehensive academic support.
Terra State offers more than 60 degrees and certificates across 19 fields of study. These include transfer degrees for those planning to eventually earn a bachelor's degree. There are also technical degrees and programs that prepare graduates to move quickly into the workforce.
Among its specialty programs, the college has a Basic Law Academy Certificate for those who want to work in law enforcement. Distance learners can choose from four fully online degrees at Terra State.
CTE in Ohio
While many students attend top community colleges in Ohio as an affordable way to finish the first two years of a bachelor's degree program, career and technical education is just as important. Also known as CTE, career technical education includes both technical degrees and certificates that prepare students to work in specific occupations or fields.
CTE in Ohio is broken down into 16 career clusters. Each cluster represents a pathway students can take to a specific occupation. Those who aren't sure exactly what they'd like to do with their lives can start by exploring a career cluster that interests them. By taking classes associated with that cluster and pathway, students can determine whether it is, in fact, a good fit for their personal goals.
Students can begin studying career pathways as early as 7th grade in Ohio, and the state encourages people to consider technical training in the following ways:
- Ohio high school students can earn their diploma by gaining industry-recognized CTE credentials or completing a 250-hour workplace experience.
- College Credit Plus allows students in grades 7-12 to earn both high school and college credits at the same time through classes offered by the best community colleges in Ohio and other postsecondary institutions.
- ApprenticeOhio is a state program that helps connects job seekers with apprenticeship programs.
For more information about CTE in Ohio, look for the career program pages on the school websites listed above. You can also find additional details at these links:
- OhioMeansJobs - Job seekers will plenty of resources on the OhioMeansJobs website, including a list of all 16 career clusters and the occupations associated with them.
- ApprenticeOhio - The ApprenticeOhio website is the place to learn more about career training in the workplace.
Transferring Credits in Ohio
Once you earn your associate degree, you may want to continue your education at one of the best four-year schools in Ohio. In that case, you'll need to transfer your credits. Fortunately, the Ohio Transfer to Degree Guarantee helps ensure college credits can easily move between public institutions in three ways:
- General education transfers: General education courses of 36-40 semester hours can typically be transferred between public colleges and universities for equivalent course credits.
- Guaranteed transfer-to-degree pathways: Students enrolled in eligible pathway programs at top Ohio community colleges can transfer core credits toward an undergraduate major at a four-year school.
- Credit When It's Due: Known as CWID, this program helps transfer credits for an associate degree.
In addition to these programs, many of the best colleges in Ohio have articulation or transfer agreements with other institutions to make it easy for students to move between schools. Check with your college's advising office for more information on the transfer process or read our guide on how to transfer schools for more information.
Resources for Community College Students in Ohio
- Ohio Association of Community Colleges - The OACC represents all community colleges in the state and promotes student success through a variety of initiatives.
- Ohio Department of Higher Education - Whether you're looking for information on earning college credit in high school or returning to school as an adult, the Ohio Department of Higher Education may have the information you need.
- Ohio Association for Career and Technical Education - As a statewide professional organization, this group advocates for CTE in Ohio at all levels.
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.
- Community College Facts, Ohio Association of Community Colleges, Accessed September 2018, http://ohiocommunitycolleges.org/benefits-of-an-associates-degree/
- About Tri-C, Cuyahoga Community College, Accessed September 2018, https://www.tri-c.edu/about/index.html
- 50+ Years Providing Excellence in Education, Tri-County Career Center, Accessed September 2018, https://www.tricountyhightech.com/Tri-CountyHistory.aspx
- About LCCC, Lorain County Community College, Accessed September 2018, https://www.lorainccc.edu/about/
- Five Innovative Community Colleges Named Awards of Excellence Winners, April 30, 2018, American Association of Community Colleges, Accessed September 2018, https://www.aacc.nche.edu/2018/04/30/five-innovative-community-colleges-named-awards-of-excellence-winners/
- About Sinclair, Sinclair Community College, Accessed September 2018, https://www.sinclair.edu/about/
- Overview of Cincinnati State, Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, Accessed September 2018, https://www.cincinnatistate.edu/about/cstate-overview#
- About Lakeland, Lakeland Community College, Accessed September 2018, http://www.lakelandcc.edu/web/about/lakeland
- Fast Facts, Marion Technical College, Accessed September 2018, https://www.mtc.edu/about/fast-facts/
- Fast Facts About the College, Clark State Community College, Accessed September 2018, https://www.clarkstate.edu/fast-facts/
- Fast Facts, Columbus State Community College, Accessed September 2018, https://www.cscc.edu/about/fast-facts.shtml
- About NC State, North Central State College, Accessed September 2018, https://www.ncstatecollege.edu/cms/about-nc-state
- Transfer College Credit, Ohio Transfer to Degree Guarantee, Accessed September 2018, https://transfercredit.ohio.gov/pg_20?5694692520780
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- President Speaks: How to ease transfers between two- and four-year colleges, EducationDive, August 29, 2019, accessed September 2019, https://www.educationdive.com/news/president-speaks-how-to-ease-transfers-between-two-and-four-year-colleges/561952/
- Community College Facts, Ohio Association of Community Colleges, Accessed November 2019, https://ohiocommunitycolleges.org/benefits-of-an-associates-degree/
- About Rhodes, Rhodes State College, Accessed November 2019, http://www.rhodesstate.edu/about%20rhodes.aspx
- About WSCC, Washington State Community College, Accessed November 2019, https://www.wscc.edu/about/
- About, Edison State Community College, Accessed November 2019, https://www.edisonohio.edu/About-Us/
- Why Terra State, Terra State Community College, Accessed November 2019, http://www.terra.edu/about_us/why_terra_state/index.php
- Two additional graduation options available for the class of 2020, December 20, 2018, Ohio Department of Education, Accessed November 2019, http://education.ohio.gov/Topics/Ohio-s-Graduation-Requirements/News/Two-additional-graduation-options-available-fo-1
- College Credit Plus, Ohio Department of Higher Education, Accessed November 2019, https://www.ohiohighered.org/content/college_credit_plus_about
- Career Pathways, Ohio Department of Education, Accessed November 2019, http://education.ohio.gov/Topics/Career-Tech/Career-Connections/Career-Pathways