Header_Badge

Best Community Colleges in Pennsylvania

Whether they're looking to train for a new career or get a head start on their core coursework before transferring to Pennsylvania universities, students in the Keystone State have plenty of choices when it comes to college degree programs.

The Pennsylvania Transfer and Articulation Center (PA TRAC) lists more than a dozen community colleges in its portfolio. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) counts nearly 30 public two-year campuses in the state, of which most are either the flagship or satellite locations of PA TRAC schools.

To help students sort out their degree and career plans, we gathered a batch of NCES data and calculated total scores to determine the best Pennsylvania community colleges. Check out our list of the top 10 community colleges in Pennsylvania and see what schools near you have to offer.

THE TOP 10 COMMUNITY COLLEGES IN PENNSYLVANIA

1

Butler County Community College (Butler)

Affordable tuition was one of the brightest spots for Butler County Community College, known as BC3 to students and faculty. Butler County residents paid less than $4,000 in tuition and fees for a 24-credit year in 2017, making it about $1,300 more affordable than the statewide average.

Close to 80 degree and certificate programs are available for BC3 students, including 18 programs designed specifically to help you shift into a university bachelor's program. In fact, BC3 may be one of the top Pennsylvania community colleges for aspiring transfer students -- roughly 70 percent of students here are enrolled in programs that can be transferred to four-year schools.

Students who need extra flexibility in their schedules can choose from more than 100 online and distance courses. Certain certificates in business and tech can be earned entirely online.

2

Pennsylvania Highlands Community College (Richland)

Having first opened its doors in 1994, Pennsylvania Highlands Community College stands as one of the younger degree-granting schools in the state. In the twenty-odd years since its founding, Penn Highlands took on its current name, earned full accreditation and opened several satellite campuses to reach students throughout its service area.

The widest variety of programs, courses and services can be found at the main Penn Highlands campus in Richland. The institution's other learning centers in Somerset, Huntington, Ebensburg, Altoona and Johnstown each offer a selection of programs in popular disciplines.

Penn Highlands also deserves mention among the online community colleges of Pennsylvania, thanks to its variety of career training programs and four academic degrees that can be earned entirely through online courses. An online readiness quiz can help students determine whether online learning will work for them.

3

Delaware County Community College (Marple Township)

With a yearly total enrollment of around 28,000 learners and for-credit enrollment of roughly 12,000, Delaware County Community College has one of the largest student bodies among the best community colleges in Pennsylvania. Along with its primary location in Marple Township, the Philadelphia-area institution maintains numerous satellite campuses and learning centers throughout Delaware and Chester Counties.

The academic catalog at DCCC is well balanced, featuring around 35 certificates, over 20 degrees for university transfer and close to 30 Associate in Applied Science (A.A.S.) plans for career-minded students. Transfer agreements are in place with more than 50 four-year schools.

Campus life at the main DCCC location is vibrant. Students can enjoy art exhibitions, performances, literary readings and more than 30 academic, social and special interest clubs to join. Aspiring college athletes have eight sports to choose from, as well.

4

Lehigh Carbon Community College (Schnecksville)

Lehigh Carbon Community College students have more than 90 programs of study available, in subjects like business, the humanities, education, computer science, health care, engineering and more. The student-faculty ratio here is 18:1 and the campus has a strong female majority -- more than 61 percent in 2017.

Just over 7,000 students attend courses here each year, with around one third committed to full-time school and the remainder taking part-time schedules. The average courseload of a full-time student is approximately 14 credits, while part-time students take an average of around six.

LCCC's nearly 40 career-focused A.A.S. programs make up the largest portion of awarded degrees in most years, with Associate in Arts (A.A.) programs in second place and Associate in Science (A.S.) plans in third. The most popular major here, whether for transfer or graduation, is liberal arts.

5

Community College of Philadelphia (Philadelphia)

According to its annual enrollment numbers, the Community College of Philadelphia's main campus is one of the busiest two-year schools in the state. Total enrollment for the 2017-18 academic year reached nearly 28,000, with close to 90 percent of students enrolled in for-credit courses.

CCP also operates three satellite learning centers for students located closer to the western, northwestern and northeastern borders of its service area. Female and African-American students hold demographic majorities at CCP, according to 2018 statistics, making up 63 percent and 51 percent of students, respectively.

More than 70 degree and certificate programs are available here, and media-savvy students have an extra reason to be excited. The college is home to the broadcast studios of CCPTV, a public cable channel that helps produce content created by CCP students and professors and broadcasts it to households throughout the city of Philadelphia.

6

Westmoreland County Community College (Youngwood)

Founded in 1970, Westmoreland County Community College has one of the most diverse selections of degree and certificate programs of any school that made our list. A total of more than 160 study plans are available on the seven campuses and learning centers located in Westmoreland, Fayette and Indiana Counties.

The sheer volume of distance education programs available at WCCC earns it a mention among the best online community colleges in Pennsylvania. No fewer than 30 degrees, diplomas and certificates can be earned entirely through online courses, with an additional 20 that deliver 50 percent of their credits online.

The campus environment at WCCC is rural, which can be perfect if you prefer a peaceful environment in which to study. It's also one of the smaller schools on our list, with yearly enrollment of around 5,000 students.

7

Luzerne County Community College (Nanticoke)

Luzerne County Community College serves a large area in northeastern Pennsylvania, and as such it maintains a wide array of satellite campuses and learning centers. The campus in Nanticoke may have more academic amenities than the others, but students can also attend courses and earn degrees at dedicated centers in Scranton, Pittston, Wilkes-Barre, Berwick, Hazleton, Kulpmont and Shamokin.

If you're looking to go into music business, sound engineering, media production or another tech-focused arts discipline, LCCC has got you covered. The Advanced Technology Center at the main Nanticoke campus houses a TV station, a radio station, an audio recording studio, computer graphics labs and radio and television editing suites.

Technology for science and industry doesn't get left behind here, either. Students also have access to a motorsports technology lab, a robotics facility, a computer-aided drafting (CAD) lab and multiple service bays for automotive techs.

8

Northampton Community College (Bethlehem)

Founded in 1967, Northampton Community College serves more than 35,000 credit and non-credit students each year. Degree programs are available in more than 100 fields of study, such as business, technology, social and leisure services, health care, science and the arts.

Education at NCC is relatively inexpensive, especially for residents of Northampton County. Local students who enroll in 12-18 credit hours of coursework in a given semester are all charged the same flat rate -- $2,190 in 2018, for example -- which can provide more than a full load of classes for a price that's nearly $1,000 below the statewide average.

The numbers also suggest that NCC alumni go on to find career success after graduation. A recent survey indicates that graduates of its career training programs land jobs in their field at a rate of 90 percent.

9

Montgomery County Community College (Blue Bell)

Also known as MCCC, Montco and MC3, Montgomery County Community College stands tall among online colleges in Pennsylvania. Nearly 40 degree and certificate programs are offered entirely online, including two-year plans in information technology, computer networking, cyber security and other valuable tech-related disciplines.

Despite educating more than 10,000 students each year, Montco retains a fairly close-knit campus environment. The student-faculty ratio was 16:1 in 2017, and the average class size was just 16 students. Students hoping to transfer to one of the top four-year schools in Pennsylvania after finishing their associate degree will have more than 30 partner universities to choose from.

Campus-based students here enjoy a selection of more than 100 degree and certificate plans. If you've got a GPA over 3.2 and want some extra academic challenge, the Honors Program can help you stay engaged.

10

Bucks County Community College (Newtown)

Bucks County Community College is an eastern Pennsylvania school that operates three campuses in the region northeast of Philadelphia. Close to 7,800 students attended courses at Bucks in 2017, and the student-faculty ratio was a comfortable 14:1.

In addition to the more than 120 degrees, certificates and career training programs available at its multiple brick-and-mortar locations, Bucks makes it possible to earn more than 20 degrees and certificates through online courses alone. Among these are certificates in historic preservation and social media & digital marketing, which require 24 or fewer online classroom credits and culminate in an in-person internship.

Students and alumni with three- to five-year-old children can take advantage of high-quality, educational child care at the Newtown Campus's Early Learning Center. Services include an outdoor playground, art facilities, indoor kinetic activities and other play-based, supervised learning experiences.

Initiatives for Pennsylvania Transfer Students

More than 30 community colleges and universities in Pennsylvania participate in the Pennsylvania Transfer and Articulation Center (PA TRAC), which means that they share a portfolio of courses and degree programs designed to transfer seamlessly between them. Here are the two types of agreement covered under the PA TRAC umbrella:

  • Statewide transfer plans, otherwise known as Program-to-Program (P2P) Articulation Agreements, provide direct pathways to enrollment at four-year PA TRAC schools by aligning your associate degree with the first 60 credits of a bachelor's program
  • School-to-school transfer agreements are struck between individual community colleges in Pennsylvania and public or private universities both within and outside the state

Most of the searchable agreements in the PA TRAC database list public universities as their destination schools, but those hoping to finish their bachelor's degree at a small private college may still be able to take advantage of transfer-based associate degree programs. PA TRAC has five private institutions among its list of schools, and your community college may offer school-to-school agreements with private colleges.

When you're ready, be sure to explore the top four-year schools in Pennsylvania and find more about education in the state. 

Methodology

We ranked 15 community colleges in Pennsylvania 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
  • College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, accessed October 10-12, 2018, https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?s=PA&ct=1&ic=2
  • School pages, accessed October 10-12, 2018: About BC3, Butler County Community College, https://www.bc3.edu/about/index.html; Who We Are, Butler County Community College, https://www.bc3.edu/about/who-we-are/index.html; Tuition and Fees, Butler County Community College, https://www.bc3.edu/paying/tuition-fees.html; Online & Distance Education, Butler County Community College, http://academic-catalog.bc3.edu/content.php?catoid=10&navoid=478; Distance Education Programs and Courses, Butler County Community College, https://www.bc3.edu/programs-classes/online-distance-education/online-programs-courses.html; College History, Pennsylvania Highlands Community College, http://www.pennhighlands.edu/about/history/; Richland Campus, Pennsylvania Highlands Community College, http://www.pennhighlands.edu/about/locations/richland/; Locations, Pennsylvania Highlands Community College, http://www.pennhighlands.edu/about/locations/; Online College, Pennsylvania Highlands Community College, http://www.pennhighlands.edu/about/locations/online-college/; Fast Facts, Delaware County Community College, https://wwwtest.dccc.edu/about/news-information/fast-facts; Programs of Study, Delaware County Community College, https://www.dccc.edu/academics/programs; Locations, Delaware County Community College, https://www.dccc.edu/about/locations/all-locations; About LCCC, Lehigh Carbon Community College, https://www.lccc.edu/about-lccc; Statistics, Lehigh Carbon Community College, https://www.lccc.edu/about-lccc/statistics-(1); Key Facts, Community College of Philadelphia, https://www.ccp.edu/about-us/key-facts; Locations, Community College of Philadelphia, https://www.ccp.edu/locations; Welcome to CCPTV, Community College of Philadelphia, https://www.ccp.edu/about-us/welcome-ccptv; About, Westmoreland County Community College, https://westmoreland.edu/pages/future-students/about/; Online Learning, Westmoreland County Community College, https://westmoreland.edu/pages/future-students/considering-distance-education/about-online-classes-and-distance-learning/; Online Programs, Westmoreland County Community College, https://westmoreland.edu/pages/future-students/considering-distance-education/online-programs/; Academic Programs, Westmoreland County Community College, https://westmoreland.edu/pages/future-students/academic-programs/; LCCC History, Luzerne County Community College, https://www.luzerne.edu/about/history.jsp; Facts and Figures, Luzerne County Community College, https://www.luzerne.edu/about/facts.jsp; Campus Locations, Luzerne County Community College, https://www.luzerne.edu/about/oc/; Main Campus - Nanticoke, Luzerne County Community College, https://www.luzerne.edu/about/oc/location.jsp?offcampus=MC; Tuition & Fees Breakdown, Northampton Community College, https://www.northampton.edu/admissions/tuition -- financial-aid-scholarships/tuition-and-fees/tuition-and-fees-breakdown.htm; College History and Facts, Northampton Community College, https://www.northampton.edu/about/college-history-and-facts.htm; Fact Sheet, Northampton Community College, https://www.northampton.edu/about/college-history-and-facts/fact-sheet.htm; Programs and Majors, Northampton Community College, https://www.northampton.edu/academics/programs-and-majors.htm; Montgomery County Community College, https://www.mc3.edu/; About Us, Montgomery County Community College, https://www.mc3.edu/about-mccc; Degrees and Programs, Montgomery County Community College, https://www.mc3.edu/degrees-and-programs; Honors Programs, Montgomery County Community College, https://www.mc3.edu/degrees-and-programs/honors-programs; Program Finder, Montgomery County Community College, https://www.mc3.edu/degrees-and-programs/programs; History, Bucks County Community College, http://www.bucks.edu/discover/history/; Academic Majors, Bucks County Community College, http://www.bucks.edu/academics/courses/majors/; Online Degrees and Certificates, Bucks County Community College, http://www.bucks.edu/bucks-online/majors/; Newtown Campus, Bucks County Community College, http://www.bucks.edu/campus/newtown/; Early Learning Center, Bucks County Community College, http://www.bucks.edu/resources/campusresources/elc/; Transfer Agreements with Pennsylvania Community Colleges, Penn State University, https://priorlearning.psu.edu/transfer-agreements-pennsylvania-community-colleges;
  • U.S. Census Bureau, accessed October 12, 2018: https://www.census.gov/
  • Pennsylvania Transfer and Articulation Center, accessed October 10: Participating Colleges and Universities, http://www.pacollegetransfer.com/AboutPATRAC/ParticipatingColleges/tabid/301/Default.aspx; Transfer Degrees, http://www.pacollegetransfer.com/TransferDegrees/tabid/4473/Default.aspx
  • Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds