Best Community Colleges in Tennesse

Interested in attending a 2-year school in Tennessee? Furthering your education at a community college in the state might be the way to go: Tennessee is one of the only states with a tuition-free program for older adults, with its Tennessee Reconnect initiative

Community colleges in Tennessee are part of a 40-school system overseen by the Tennessee Board of Regents. The system includes 13 community colleges as well as 27 colleges of applied technology that focus on technical workforce and career development programs. Students looking for online colleges can find hundreds of online courses, certificate programs and degree programs through the state's TN eCampus division.

From short term certificates to associate degrees, the top community colleges in Tennessee meet the needs of everyone from traditional students to adult learners and those somewhere in between. Keep reading to discover the best colleges in Tennessee and how your credits can transfer to a four-year school.



Dyersburg State Community College (Dyersburg)

You'll find one of the top community colleges in Tennessee in Dyersburg. First admitting students in 1969, Dyersburg State Community College is known as an affordable school with a diverse selection of education programs.

DSCC estimates that completing your first two years of college coursework on its campus could save you half the tuition you would pay at a public, four-year institution. Thanks to Tennessee Transfer Pathways, students can be assured their credits for certain classes with transfer toward a bachelor's degree. Dyersburg State Community College also has dual admissions agreements with several public universities in Tennessee.

For those who aren't interested in a bachelor's degree, there are also career and certificate programs intended to take students directly from Dyersburg State to the workplace.


Chattanooga State Community College (Chattanooga)

Chattanooga State Community College can boast of several accomplishments that help make it one of the best Tennessee community colleges. Its graduates have a 98 percent pass rate on licensure exams as well as a 98 percent job placement rate. What's more, Chattanooga State features a low student-faculty ratio and awards more than $1 million in scholarships.

Academically, Chattanooga State offers diplomas, certificates and associate degrees. Degree programs include both transfer and technical degrees. A number of online courses are available for those who are unable to travel to campus or study on a traditional schedule. Evening classes are also offered.

The school opened in downtown Chattanooga in 1965. Since then, it has expanded to add learning centers in Dayton and Kimball.


Southwest Tennessee Community College (Memphis)

At Southwest Tennessee Community College, students from all walks of life can find educational programs to meet their needs. As one of the best Tennessee community colleges, the school offers associate degrees, continuing education, corporate training, career readiness, music programs and more.

Overall, Southwest has more than 100 programs of study. Those enrolled get access to small classes taught by qualified professors. The school has an overall job placement rate of 97 percent, with 88 percent finding work with their degree field.

Beyond academics, Southwest Tennessee Community College has a vibrant campus life with a number of student organizations and clubs. The school's athletic program fields teams in five sports and includes a top-ranked men's basketball team. Southwest has its campus in Memphis.


Walters State Community College (Morristown)

Named for former U.S. Senator Herbert S. Walters, this community college opened its doors in 1970. It enrolls nearly 10,000 students through its Morristown, Sevierville, Greenville and Tazewell campuses in East Tennessee. Those looking for online colleges in the state will find a number of online courses here.

Walters State Community College offers more than 150 associate degrees and technical certificates through its eight academic divisions. The school participates in the Tennessee Transfer Pathway program which guarantees credits will transfer to a four-year school if they are part of one of 50 approved majors.

Affordable tuition helps make Walters State one of the best community colleges in Tennessee. Students can also participate in more than 40 clubs or attend 60 events held annually in the college's Expo Center.


Roane State Community College (Harriman)

Roane State Community College says it's a place where students can grow, succeed and see results. As of the top community colleges in Tennessee, Roane State offers affordable tuition and a low student-faculty ratio. What's more, it has a 90 percent job placement rate for its graduates.

The school is one of Tennessee's online colleges and offers several fully online degree and certificate programs. These include options in computer information technology, education, general studies and more. Even if their degree is not offered fully online, students may be able to take online courses to help meet their program's requirements.

Those interested in earning a bachelor's degree may be able to do so right on the Roane State Community College campus in Harriman through an arrangement with Tennessee Tech.


Nashville State Community College (Nashville)

With a main campus in the state's capital, Nashville State Community College has been educating students since 1970. Initially enrolling fewer than 400 students and offering five associate degrees, the school now offers more than 80 degree and certificate programs at six campus locations.

NSCC has six academic divisions that house programs for business, nursing, computer technology and more. Nashville State also offers professional development, online courses and an honors college to meet its students varying educational needs.

Like other top Tennessee community colleges, Nashville State has an affordable tuition rate and a number of financial aid options. Some students may even be able to attend tuition-free thanks to the Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect programs.


Volunteer State Community College (Gallatin)

Found in central Tennessee, Volunteer State Community College enrolls more than 11,000 students in 100 areas of study. Both traditional students and adult learners are at home here. Vol State, as the school is known, offers associate degrees, certificate programs and continuing education courses.

There are five academic divisions at Vol State, including business, health sciences and humanities. Students can also choose from one of more than three dozen online degrees or study around the globe through the school's international education options.

At the school's main campus in Gallatin, students can join one of numerous organizations, cheer on one of Vol State's athletic teams, attend a campus event or get academic help in the college success zone. Outside of Gallatin, Volunteer State Community College maintains three other campus locations.


Columbia State Community College (Columbia)

Columbia State Community College is another of the best colleges in Tennessee. It has also been named one of the best community colleges in the country by The Aspen Institute, a nonprofit leadership organization.

Nearly 6,000 students are enrolled in credit classes at Columbia State. They can choose from technical degrees designed for career readiness, transfer degrees intended for those planning to pursue a bachelor's degree and certificate programs for those who need training but not a degree.

On the Columbia campus of Columbia State, students can join clubs, academic organizations and intramural sports teams. There is also a Peer Leaders program in which second year students are available to help freshmen make a successful transition to college life.


Cleveland State Community College (Cleveland)

Diverse learning options are part of what make Cleveland State one of the top Tennessee community colleges. The school offers students seven ways to complete a degree or certificate program. These include studying on a traditional schedule, using night and weekend classes or signing up for online courses. There are also accelerated programs and the option to pursue a degree program using a special two-day schedule.

Cleveland State Community College was authorized in 1965 and has grown into a comprehensive institution serving Southeast Tennessee. Approximately 5,000 credit and non-credit students enroll each year, with many of them being adult learners. CSCC says 28 is the average age of its students.

In addition to its main campus in Cleveland, CSCC maintains learning centers in Athens and Monroe County.


Northeast State Community College (Blountville)

Founded in 1966 as a technical school, Northeast State Community College has grown to become one of the best Tennessee community colleges. The school offers dozens of transfer degrees, technical degrees and certificate programs.

Students who come to NeSCC without a specific major in mind can select from eight academic foci. These foci cover broad topics such as applied technology, education, humanities or STEM. Northeast State notes that some research shows a link between student success and having a selected program of study. Therefore, all students at the college are required to enroll in a degree program or have a specific academic focus.

In addition to its main campus in Blountville, Northeast State Community College offers classes in Elizabethton, Gray, Johnson City and Kingsport.

Transferring Credits in Tennessee

While some students are interested in career readiness programs at the best community colleges in Tennessee, others are looking for a low-cost way to earn credits toward a bachelor's degree. If you fall into the latter category, you need to know how your credits will transfer from a two-year school to the four-year school of your choice.

Fortunately, the Tennessee Transfer Pathways makes it easy for students to transfer credit from the top Tennessee community colleges to four-year schools in the state. Those who earn an Associate of Arts or an Associate of Science through one of the pathway options is guaranteed to have their credits transferred. By completing a Tennessee Transfer Pathway, students also have guaranteed admission at a number of colleges and universities in the state.

Even students who don't complete a Tennessee Transfer Pathway degree may be able to transfer credits thanks to articulation agreements between institutions. However, to see if and how credits will transfer, you need to know where you plan to go next.

Check out more about education in the state and explore the best four-year colleges in Tennessee to find out where your next stop will be after community college.


We ranked community colleges in Tennessee on factors such as affordability, program availability, and flexibility. 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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  • Chattanooga State Community College, Accessed July 2018, https://www.chattanoogastate.edu/
  • Fast Facts, Southwest Tennessee Community College, Accessed July 2018, http://www.southwest.tn.edu/crm/docs/2018-fast-facts.pdf
  • About, Walters State Community College, Accessed July 2018, https://ws.edu/about/
  • Academic Programs, Roane State Community College, Accessed July 2018, https://www.roanestate.edu/?5506-Academic-Programs
  • Online learning, Nashville State Community College, Accessed July 2018, https://www.nscc.edu/academics/online-learning
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  • About Us, Columbia State Community College, Accessed July 2018, https://new.columbiastate.edu/about-us
  • About CSCC, Cleveland State Community College, Accessed July 2018, http://www.clevelandstatecc.edu/about/index.html
  • About Northeast State, Northeast State Community College, Accessed July 2018, http://www.northeaststate.edu/About/About-Northeast-State/
  • Transfer and Articulation, The College System of Tennessee, Accessed July 2018, https://www.tbr.edu/academics/transfer-and-articulation
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  • Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
  • "Tens of Thousands of Adults Line Up for Free College in Tennessee," Inside Higher Ed, accessed August 2018, https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2018/08/24/tennessee-sees-thousands-apply-tuition-free-adult-plan