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Best Community Colleges in Oregon

There are around 20 two-year colleges in Oregon, of which most are public institutions represented by the Oregon Community College Association (OCCA). Whether you're looking to advance your career with some top-level skills or put together a transfer portfolio that can count toward bachelor's degree plans at Oregon universities, the best community colleges in Oregon have programs that can help you get where you're going.

We gathered affordability, flexibility and student success data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and analyzed it to determine which institutions could rightly be called the top Oregon community colleges. Check out the list below and learn a few details about what each of the Beaver State's elite schools have to offer.

THE TOP 10 COMMUNITY COLLEGES IN OREGON

1

Clackamas Community College (Oregon City)

Initially established in 1966, Clackamas Community College admitted just 93 part-time students on its first day of operations. It's grown quite a bit in the 50+ years since those humble beginnings, earning full accreditation in 1971 and opening two additional campuses on its way to educating a total student body of more than 26,000 learners in 2017.

Students who don't live near the flagship campus in Oregon City can take campus-based courses at satellite locations in Milwaukie and Wilsonville. CCC offers nearly 110 degree and certificate programs in more than 20 areas of study, including art and media, horticulture and public service.

Nature lovers should find plenty to like about Clackamas County. Parts of two national forests are located within the county's borders, and the area around Mount Hood features skiing, hiking, rafting, fishing and more.

2

Klamath Community College (Klamath Falls)

Klamath Community College is the youngest institution among the best Oregon community colleges -- it was founded in 1996 by voter decree -- but it hasn't taken long for the Klamath Falls school to assert itself as a player in higher education. Enrollment here has grown beyond 1,200 students, and it's worked to expand learning opportunities with a range of flexibility measures.

KCC's focus on flexibility has earned it a spot among Oregon's online colleges, thanks to a substantial catalog of online courses and several degrees available entirely through distance education. Campus-based students have over two dozen associate degree plans to choose from.

What's more, the growth of KCC shows no signs of slowing down. A state-of-the-art Work Skills Technology Center and a new central facility called Founders Hall completed construction in 2017 and 2018 respectively.

3

Chemeketa Community College (Salem)

Chemeketa Community College takes its name from a word in the regional Kalapuyan language that administrators at the Salem institution translate as "place of peace." It features a range of general and specialized campuses throughout the region, including a full-service location in McMinnville and a Northwest Wine Studies Center in the Eola Hills.

Chemeketa is also one of the best online community colleges in Oregon, offering close to 1,200 online courses each year and providing access to nearly 30 degree and certificate programs delivered entirely through distance education. Online study plans include accounting, management, criminal justice and Oregon Transfer degrees.

Affordability was another bright spot at Chemeketa. The Chemeketa Scholars program offers full tuition scholarships for qualifying area high school students, and an on-campus press for low-cost textbooks helps reduce the cost of course materials.

4

Oregon Coast Community College (Newport)

Just north of 2,000 students attended Oregon Coast Community College in the 2016-17 academic year, with the majority of enrolled students pursuing non-credit education in subjects like civics, mindfulness and the arts. Among degree-seeking students, approximately 80 percent attended classes part time.

The relatively small number of students enrolled in credit programs has helped OCCC maintain a comfortably intimate learning environment on campus. The student-faculty ratio here was just 11:1 in 2017, more than 30 percent better than that year's national university average of 16:1.

Along with the main campus in Newport, OCCC maintains learning centers in Lincoln City and Waldport to serve students in the northern and southern reaches of coastal Lincoln County. Science, business, education and health care are the primary subjects of study here, including an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree in aquarium science.

5

Tillamook Bay Community College (Tillamook)

Tillamook Bay Community College spent the first seven years of its life as a satellite campus of Astoria's Clatsop Community College, beginning in 1974 and culminating in its independence in 1981. Shortly thereafter, TBCC established its own full-service campus and opened the state's first Small Business Development Center.

One financial aid program available at TBCC may be of special interest for prospective students with a strong work history. The Career-to-Career Scholarship awards two years of free tuition to eligible professionals with at least five years of work experience. Fifteen such scholarships were offered in 2018.

Transferring to other colleges and universities in Oregon can be a snap for certain TBCC students. The Tillamook institution maintains degree partnerships with nearly a dozen public and private institutions, including the University of Oregon, Oregon State University and the Oregon Institute of Technology.

6

Columbia Gorge Community College (The Dalles)

Columbia Gorge Community College is one of the smaller institutions among the top community colleges in Oregon, reporting total enrollment of fewer than 800 students, but that type of close-knit campus can be an advantage when it comes to learning. Schools with lower student-faculty ratios tend to provide more individualized time with instructors, and CGCC boasted a ratio of just 11 students per faculty member in 2017.

Degree and certificate programs at CGCC break down into seven subject categories -- general and transfer degrees, computer science, early childhood education, health occupations, computer applications, electro-mechanical technology and business. Certification courses for certain health careers are available here as well.

Numerous online courses can be taken at CGCC, including most of the requirements for the Associate of Arts Oregon Transfer (A.A.O.T.) degree. Prospective online students should meet with an adviser before starting their degree plan.

7

Blue Mountain Community College (Pendleton)

Just shy of 4,000 students are seeking degrees and certificates at Blue Mountain Community College, which serves a six-county area in northeastern Oregon. Nontraditional students might feel right at home at BMCC, according to the numbers -- the average age recorded for the 2017-18 academic year was 31 years old.

BMCC operates a total of six campuses in its service area. Four locations offer college credit courses, one in Boardman serves as a center for workforce training and the Hermiston location focuses on agricultural research and education.

The main campus location in Pendleton is located around 200 miles from the Portland metro area. The town itself is famous for the Pendleton Round-Up, a rodeo event that's been held every year since 1910, and for the Pendleton Woolen Mills' 150-year legacy in apparel production.

8

Southwestern Oregon Community College (Coos Bay)

Southwestern Oregon Community College may be one of the top Oregon community colleges for younger students looking to take care of some lower-division and general education courses before transferring to a university. The average age of students at SWOCC was 24 in 2016, and classes featured an average of just 12 students.

The main SWOCC campus is located on the edge of Upper Empire Lake in the coastal city of Coos Bay, where the population is estimated at just over 16,000. A second location educates students in Brookings, about a hundred miles down the coast from the flagship.

Around 8,300 students attended courses at SWOCC in 2015-16. More than 80 certificates and academic degrees are available in 12 areas of interest, including several study plans in forestry and forest engineering.

9

Mt. Hood Community College (Gresham)

Over 120 professional and technical programs are on offer at Mt. Hood Community College, which first opened its doors in 1966 and has grown into one of the largest two-year schools in the state. More than 33,000 students enroll in credit and non-credit programs at the Gresham institution each year, and the total headcount enrollment of degree-seeking students reached nearly 8,700 in 2017.

MHCC students preparing for the workforce can pursue certificates and A.A.S. degrees. Those gearing up for transfer have all three Oregon Transfer degree plans available to them, as well as Associate of Science (A.S.) programs and an Associate of General Studies (A.G.S.) plan.

Gresham is a city of around 111,000 people, located about 15 miles from downtown Portland. Local attractions include the Gresham Saturday Market, which takes place on the MHCC campus from April to September.

10

Lane Community College (Eugene)

Located in Oregon's second-most populous city, Lane Community College works to transform students' lives through learning. Just two other community colleges in Oregon have more students on the rolls than this Eugene school, where over 36,000 credit-seeking and non-credit students enroll annually.

In order to serve that large student population, Lane maintains four total learning sites in west-central Oregon. The main campus and a small downtown learning center can be found in Eugene, with a satellite campus in the seaside city of Florence and an outreach center in Cottage Grove.

Lane is also one of the few Oregon schools that can teach you how to take to the skies. The institution operates an aviation academy that features FAA-approved courses for private and commercial pilots, as well as offering an unmanned aerial systems (UAS) degree and certificate program.

Initiatives for Transfer Students

Administrators in Oregon's state government have put into place a range of policies and programs that can help community college students make a smooth transition to programs at Oregon universities after finishing their associate degrees. Here's some detail about a few of the most significant initiatives:

  • The Oregon Transfer Module (OTM) consists of a subset of general education courses that can be bundled toward university degree requirements as an easily transferable block
  • A pair of statewide transfer degrees -- a general Associate of Arts - Oregon Transfer (AAOT) plan, and a more specific Associate of Science - Oregon Transfer (ASOT) with specializations in business and computer science -- satisfy all lower-division requirements in their subject and are available at most two-year institutions

Individual institutions also maintain their own transfer agreements, so make sure to check with an adviser at your community college or your destination university to find out more about your options. When you're ready, be sure to explore the top 4-year colleges in Oregon.

Methodology

We ranked Oregon community colleges 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:

  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. The transfer-out rate in 150% time, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
  6. 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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