Best Community Colleges in Wisconsin
If you're looking for a transfer or technical degree program, you'll want to explore the Wisconsin Technical College System. Comprised of 16 institutions and 49 campuses that serve every community in the state, the WTCS is where you can find the best community colleges in Wisconsin.
More than 300,000 people enroll in the state's technical colleges each year. The system provides an affordable education to students with diverse career goals and from a variety of backgrounds. These include students who plan to eventually transfer to four-year schools and earn bachelor's degrees as well as those looking for technical degrees and certificate programs that will take them directly into the workforce after graduation.
The best Wisconsin community colleges are those that provide flexible scheduling, strong support services and generous financial aid. Some serve as online colleges as well with numerous programs for distance learners. Here's a closer look at the schools that rise to the top in the Badger State.
Nicolet Area Technical College (Rhinelander)
As one of the top community colleges in Wisconsin, Nicolet Area Technical College is known for making its degree programs accessible to both traditional students and adult learners. It offers both one and two-year technical diplomas as well as associate degrees and continuing education classes.
Also known simply as Nicolet College, the school has a robust distance learning program that includes numerous online courses. So many, in fact, that these classes accounted for nearly a third of the credits earned at the school during the 2017-2018 school year.
Nicolet attracts nearly 2,000 students each year. Those who choose not to study online take classes on a wooded campus near scenic Lake Julia. In addition to its academic buildings, the college maintains seven technical labs.
Moraine Park Technical College (Fond du Lac)
You can prepare for more than 100 career paths at Moraine Park Technical College. The school offers classes at five locations and has online courses available as well.
A comprehensive degree catalog is part of what makes MPTC one of the top community colleges in Wisconsin. Not only does the school have dozens of associate degrees and technical diplomas, but it also offers nearly 60 certificates and apprenticeships. That means you're likely to find a program that fits your career path.
Moraine Park Technical College has a long history, dating back to the founding of Fond du Lac Continuation School in 1912. Today, the college has three campus locations in Fond du Lac, Beaver Dam and West Bend. Regional learning centers are located in Jackson and Ripon.
Western Technical College (La Crosse)
Western Technical College provides both hands-on and online learning opportunities for its students. The school offers more than 100 programs and pathways. These include fully online degrees, apprenticeships and opportunities for women and minority students to prepare for nontraditional occupations.
The flexible environment at Western makes it an appealing choice for those both young and old. Traditional students can live on campus while adult learners may be able to earn credit for prior college, work or military experience.
Those studying on the La Crosse campus have access to a library, learning commons and wellness center. Career services, child care and counseling are also available. Plus, Western Technical College hosts numerous activities throughout the year and is home to a number of student clubs and organizations.
Lakeshore Technical College (Cleveland)
As another of the top Wisconsin community colleges, Lakeshore Technical College has a reputation for helping adult learners achieve their education goals. The school offers more than 100 options for students who want technical training or an associate degree. More than a dozen programs can be completed 100 percent online.
Beyond those programs, LTC also offers workforce training, apprenticeships and adult basic education. Including those enrolled in degree and certificate programs, Lakeshore Technical College serves more than 11,000 people each year.
To help students finish their education, LTC offers financial aid and scholarships. There are also LTC Career Coaches available to help students select the right pathway for their goals. In addition to on its main campus in Cleveland, the school offers classes in Manitowoc and Sheboygan.
Milwaukee Area Technical College (Milwaukee)
At Milwaukee Area Technical College, students are invited to transform themselves. The college features affordable tuition, accessible campuses and numerous degree programs. All that adds up to MATC being one of the best community colleges in Wisconsin.
More than 200 education options are available at Milwaukee Area Technical College. These include associate degrees, technical diplomas, certificate programs and apprenticeships. In hands-on fields, students learn using industry-standard equipment and technology, and instructors across all subjects typically have substantial real-world experience. A low student-faculty ratio means plenty of opportunity for one-on-one interaction with teachers and other staff members.
MATC says it has one of the most diverse student bodies in Wisconsin. The college has six Milwaukee campus locations and a number of online degree programs are also offered.
Fox Valley Technical College (Appleton)
From certificates to diplomas to degrees, Fox Valley Technical College offers more than 200 career- focused education programs. There is also the opportunity to take individual classes for personal enrichment, and businesses may use the school to offer customized workforce training classes.
Fox Valley Technical College has been providing workforce development training since 1912. Since then, it has grown into an education leader and serves more than 50,000 people annually. FVTC has one of the largest total enrollments of any school within the Wisconsin Technical College System.
While its main campus is in Appleton, the college maintains 14 other learning locations to support the various needs of its students. Those enrolled can also choose from dozens of online programs and online courses.
Northcentral Technical College (Wausau)
With a rich history, Northcentral Technical College has spent more than 100 years perfecting what makes it one of the top community colleges in Wisconsin. The college was founded in 1912 as the Wausau Industrial School and, since the start, has maintained a commitment to graduating employable students in in-demand fields.
There are more than 190 programs available at NTC. Technical degrees and apprenticeships offer hands-on experience for those who want to go directly to the workplace after graduation. Meanwhile, hundreds of transfer agreements allow those earning associate degrees to continue their education at a four-year school if they choose.
Like other top Wisconsin community colleges, NTC has an affordable tuition rate. It also offers approximately $425,000 in scholarships annually to offset the cost.
Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (Green Bay)
As another of the best Wisconsin community colleges, Northeast Wisconsin Technical College has made a name for itself on the quality of its programs. According to the school, 98 percent of 2017 graduates were either satisfied or very satisfied with their education at NWTC.
Northeast Wisconsin Technical College has also been designated an Achieving the Dream Leader School in recognition of its work to improve student success. Those efforts have been met with strong retention, graduation and placement rates. Nearly 95 percent of 2017 graduates reported being employed within six months with 80 percent working in their selected career field.
Overall, NWTC has more than 200 education options available on its three main campus locations. There are also more than 600 scholarships available to offset the cost of tuition.
Chippewa Valley Technical College (Eau Claire)
At Chippewa Valley Technical College, students can choose from vocational programs, technical degrees or transfer degree programs. Depending on their selection, graduates will be ready to either enter the workforce immediately or continue their education at a four-year school where they can earn a bachelor's degree.
Student success is part of what makes CVTC one of the best Wisconsin community colleges. The school reports 93 percent of graduates are employed within six months of graduation, and 88 percent are working in their selected career field. The average starting salary for CVTC graduates with an associate degree is nearly $45,000.
The college offers more than 130 degrees, certificates and apprenticeship options. In addition to its campuses in Eau Claire, Chippewa Valley Technical College has four regional locations.
Waukesha County Technical College (Pewaukee)
Enrolling more than 21,000 students annually, Waukesha County Technical College meets the needs of students from diverse backgrounds. Traditional and returning students will find degree programs and certificates that can set them on course to a new career. Continuing education and adult basic education classes are also available.
Overall, there are more than 150 areas of study available at WCTC. Degrees and certificates are offered through four schools: business, protective and human services, health and applied technologies. Students are provided academic advising, career development services and student employment services to help them succeed both in school and beyond.
In addition to offering classes on its Pewaukee campus, students can enroll in online courses that span a variety of subjects including business, computer software and psychology.
Transferring Credits in Wisconsin
Students who enroll in vocational training programs to earn certificates, diplomas and technical degrees don't usually have to worry about transferring credits to another school. However, those who earn an associate degree may want to eventually earn a bachelor's degree.
To make that easier, many of the best Wisconsin community colleges have entered into transfer agreements. These ensure credits earned by their graduates can be used toward a four-year degree. All members of the Wisconsin Technical College System are part of the Universal Credit Transfer Agreement. It guarantees at least 30 credits from a core set of classes completed at one of the state's two-year schools will be accepted by the University of Wisconsin System. Other classes may transfer as well.
Regardless of whether you are planning to go to a state university or attend a private four-year college, it's best to know in advance if and how your credits will transfer. Decide which of the best four-year colleges in Wisconsin is right for you and then talk with a transfer credit advisor to determine how the classes from your associate degree will be accepted.
We ranked community colleges in Wisconsin 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:
- The percentage of students enrolled in distance education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
- 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
- Student-to-faculty ratio, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
- The graduation rate in 150% time, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
- The transfer-out rate in 150% time, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
- 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.
- WTCS Colleges, Wisconsin Technical College System, Accessed September 2018, https://wtcsystem.edu/colleges
- Transfer Options, Wisconsin Technical College System, Accessed September 2018, https://www.wistechcolleges.org/preparing-college/transfer-options
- About WCTC, Waukesha County Technical College, Accessed September 2018, http://www.wctc.edu/about-wctc/index.php
- Chippewa Valley Technical College, Accessed September 2018, https://www.cvtc.edu/
- About NWTC, Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, Accessed September 2018, https://www.nwtc.edu/about-nwtc
- Northcentral Technical College, Accessed September 2018, https://www.ntc.edu/
- FVTC Overview, Fox Valley Technical College, Accessed September 2018, https://www.fvtc.edu/about-us/fvtc-facts/fvtc-overview
- MATC Fast Facts, Milwaukee Area Technical College, Accessed September 2018, http://www.matc.edu/discover_matc/upload/2016-17_MATC_fast-facts.pdf
- Getting to Know Lakeshore Technical College, Lakeshore Technical College, Accessed September 2018, https://gotoltc.edu/Assets/gotoltc.edu/pdf/about-us/LTC%20Fact%20Sheet-Getting%20to%20Know%20LTC_web%20version.pdf
- Flexible Learning Options, Western Technical College, Accessed September 2018, https://www.westerntc.edu/flexible-learning-options
- About MPTC, Moraine Park Technical College, Accessed September 2018, https://www.morainepark.edu/about-mptc/
- At-a-Glance, Nicolet Area Technical College, Accessed September 2018, http://www.nicoletcollege.edu/about/about-nicolet/at-a-glance.html
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/