Best Community Colleges in West Virginia
West Virginia may be a new hot spot for education at the two-year level. The state launched the West Virginia Invests Grant in 2019 to help cover tuition and fees for eligible students enrolled in certificate or associate degree programs in high-demand fields. The grant is a "last-dollar" award which covers the remaining cost of attending a participating two-year school after other federal and state financial aid has been applied.
That money can be used to obtain real-world skills and a practical education through the West Virginia Community and Technical College System. Known as CTCS, the system includes nine schools across the state and has served more than 150,000 students since 2008. However, they aren't the only place to get career training in West Virginia. The state also has career centers offering quality programs to those seeking technical skills.
The best community colleges in West Virginia meet the needs of diverse students. They may offer certificate programs that can have students ready for the workforce in less than a year as well as technical degrees and skill set training programs. Meanwhile, credits from some associate degree programs can be transferred to one of the top four-year schools in West Virginia and used as the foundation for a bachelor's degree.
Top West Virginia community colleges may double as online colleges and offer online courses. Those that don't may have night and weekend classes available to make it convenient for adult learners who are finishing their education.
Ready to learn more? Keep reading to discover the best community colleges in West Virignia.
Mountwest Community and Technical College (Huntington)
Free tutoring, free parking and extensive student services are among what makes Mountwest Community and Technical College one of the best West Virginia community colleges. The school was founded in 1975 and today offers transfer degrees, technical degrees and certificate programs.
You'll find more than 50 programs in all at Mountwest. These include certificate programs that can be completed in one year or less as well as a number of associate degree programs in fields such as information technology and American Sign Language. The school has more than 100 online courses available to provide flexible scheduling. Other classes are offered in a hybrid format that combines classroom instruction with online learning.
Mountwest Community and Technical College prides itself on having state-of-the-art facilities. Its connections to the Huntington community mean hands-on practicum and internship opportunities are available in many programs.
New River Community and Technical College (Beaver)
Serving nine counties with four campuses, New River Community and Technical College has made a name for itself as one of the best community colleges in West Virginia. The school has a mission of making quality higher education affordable and accessible to local residents.
Known as New River, the college offers a wide range of education programs. These result in transfer degree, technical degree and certificate programs in fields ranging from allied health to welding technology. Online courses and an interactive video network help make learning convenient for students of all ages. Through its Advanced Technology Center, the school also provides customized training programs for local employers.
New River isn't just one of the top West Virginia community colleges, it's also one of the newest. The school was founded in 2003. Its campuses are in Beaver, Lewisburg, Princeton and Summersville.
West Virginia Northern Community College (Wheeling)
West Virginia Northern Community College rates as one of the best West Virginia community colleges for several reasons. It has a diverse degree catalog, affordable tuition and strong student success measures.
More than 70 degree and certificate programs are offered at WVNCC. These include specialized programs that are designed for transfer students who want to earn their general education classes at a less expensive community college before moving on to a four-year school. The school has nine programs of study including business, healthcare professions and criminal justice. WVNCC says it has some of the lowest tuition rates in the state. It offers reduced rates to students from neighboring Ohio and Pennsylvania counties.
WVNCC has campuses in Wheeling, Weirton and New Martinsville. It is also one of the best colleges in West Virginia for online degree programs, with a number of fully online degree programs.
Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College (Mount Gay)
This school's tradition of quality education started in 1971. That's when Southern West Virginia Community College was formed. Over the years, the school expanded its offerings — and name. Today, Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College is one of the top community colleges in West Virginia.
Often referred to simply as Southern, the school offers associate degree and certificate programs as well as skill set programs that prepare students for specific occupations. What's more, there are transfer degree programs for those who plan to eventually pursue a bachelor's degree. Popular fields of study include nursing, industrial technology and information technology. Nontraditional programs include an adult degree completion program and a technical studies program.
In addition to its main campus in Mount Gay, Southern maintains four other campuses and learning sites. Online courses are also available.
BridgeValley Community and Technical College (South Charleston)
Featuring an affordable tuition rate, BridgeValley Community and Technical College says its students gain skills and not more bills. Its technical programs can have students into the workforce and earning income in less than two years, and those who plan to eventually earn a bachelor's degree can save thousands by starting their education at BridgeValley.
The school offers dozens of associate degree and certificate programs in fields such as business, health studies, nursing and general education. Its newest options include a professional dog trainer program, Brew Tech program for those who want to work in the craft beer industry and training for the hospitality industry.
BridgeValley maintains two campuses in South Charleston and Montgomery. It also has online classes available for distance learners.
Blue Ridge Community and Technical College (Martinsburg)
Blue Ridge Community and Technical College is another of the top community colleges in West Virginia. With roots that go back to 1974, the school seeks to foster an environment of affordability and accessibility for its students.
The education programs at Blue Ridge are broken down into four categories: associate degrees, certificates, certification programs and career advancement education. These options cover diverse fields such as business administration and culinary arts and mean the college can meet the needs of both transfer students and those seeking a technical education. Financial aid such as scholarships, grants and work-study programs are available to make these academic and career readiness programs more accessible.
Blue Ridge has its main campus and technology center in Martinsburg. There is also a learning center in Berkley Springs.
Huntington Junior College (Huntington)
Founded in 1936, Huntington Junior College is a private two-year school that educates students from across the globe. The college's on-campus programs are held in the former Cabell County Public Library, a building listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
HJC offers eight degree programs that are designed to give students practical skills for the workplace. Options include an associate degree in accounting, associate degree in realtime reporting and an associate degree in medical coding. Most programs can be earned entirely online with only the dental assisting and medical assisting programs requiring an in-person externship for graduation.
Graduates of HJC can return to the college to refresh their previously trained skills at any time and for no additional cost. The school also promises not to raise tuition for continuously enrolled students.
CTE in West Virginia
Not every job requires a bachelor's degree. A career technical education is sufficient for many in-demand occupations in fields such as health care, information technology and skilled trades. Commonly called CTE, these programs don't include general education classes but instead focus exclusively on providing the skills needed for a specific occupation or industry.
To help students explore their options, CTE in West Virginia is broken down into 16 career clusters. Within each cluster are pathways leading to specific occupations. This system is designed to make it easier for people to narrow down their education choices by first identifying a broad area of interest and then quickly seeing which occupations are related to it.
Beyond career clusters and pathways, the State of West Virginia and two-year schools are working to improve access to CTE through the following initiatives:
- As mentioned earlier, the WV Invests Grant helps pay for technical programs for students pursing CTE in West Virginia.
- StepUp lets students take a prior learning assessment and potentially receive college credit for their work, military or volunteer experience.
- Work Force West Virginia is a state agency that, among other services, helps job seekers assess their interests and find the right training program.
Head to the websites of the best West Virginia community colleges listed above to see details of their CTE programs. Or to read more about career clusters and career planning, check out these links.
- Career Clusters - The College Foundation of West Virginia makes it easy to explore career clusters and see the many pathways within each one.
- Career Coach - Offered by the West Virginia Community and Technical College System, this website offers a career assessment and tools to explore occupations and find the right CTE program.
Transferring Credits in West Virginia
Some students enroll in the best community colleges in West Virginia because they want a technical education geared toward a specific career. Others, however, are looking for an affordable way to earn general education credits that can be used toward a bachelor's degree. For these students, understanding how credits transfer in West Virginia is essential.
While the state has made gains in recent years to ensure that credits will transfer between two-year and four-year schools, the process is still largely dictated by individual institutions. Some of the best colleges in West Virginia have articulation agreements that allow for the smooth transfer of a core set of classes. For instance, WVU has something called the Transfer Equivalency Self Service system, which outlines their requirements and guidelines. Others consider transfer requests on a course-by-course basis.
If you plan to pursue a bachelor's degree program, start by reviewing those top four-year schools in West Virginia. Once you know which school you'd like to attend, talk to an admissions counselor there as well as at your community college to determine if and how your credits will transfer between institutions.
Our guide on how to transfer schools is another resource to help you understand the transfer process and transfer agreements.
Resources for Community College Students in West Virginia
West Virginia Community & Technical College System - This system includes all the public two-year schools in the state and works to ensure that students have access to an affordable education that meets the needs of local employers.
College Foundation of West Virginia - This resources provides information on career planning, college financial aid and more.
Work Force West Virginia -A service of the West Virginia Department of Commerce, this website offers a variety of resources for job seekers.
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.
- College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, Accessed December 2019, https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
- Mission, Huntington Junior College, Accessed December 2019, http://www.huntingtonjuniorcollege.edu/About/Why-HJC.aspx
- StepUp, Accessed December 2019, https://www.stepupwv.com/#/
- West Virginia Invests Grant Program, Accessed December 2019, http://wvinvests.org/
- Why Choose BridgeValley, BridgeValley Community and Technical College, Accessed December 2019, https://www.bridgevalley.edu/why-choose-bridgevalley