Why This Matters


    By comparison, annual full-time tuition is $10,560 at four-year public universities, and $37,650 at four-year private universities for the 2020-2021 academic year.


    Six percent of occupations require a professional certification as the minimum level of education for entry, but that number will nearly double by 2024.


    By comparison, individuals whose highest level of education is a high school degree earn a median annual salary of $36,100.

Our Research

This list focuses on community colleges and technical or vocational schools, most of which offer associate’s degrees and professional certificates, although some schools also offer bachelor’s degrees. In evaluating these institutions, we prioritized affordability, program selection, reputation, faculty, and course delivery methods, including online, in-person, and hybrid classes.

To ensure that the community colleges on our list provide a high quality of education, we prioritized institutions that are regionally accredited. Schools with regional accreditation are eligible for more federal financial aid, and it is easier to transfer credits from these types of schools to other higher education institutions.

We evaluated each program on the basis of flexibility, faculty, course strength, cost, and reputation. Then we calculated the Intelligent Score for each program on a scale from 0 to 100. Our top picks for the best Community Colleges program are affordable, respected, and flexible. (For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.)

  • 73 hours to write this article
  • 1,187 community colleges we assessed
  • 2,268 education programs we compared

The Top 50 Community Colleges

Best Community Colleges 2022 Badge Logo
Intelligent Pick
Oakton Community College
Best in the Midwest
Inver Hills Community College
Most Innovative Community College
Moraine Valley Community College
Best Research Institution
Georgia Southern University
Best in the Northeast
Cuyahoga Community College
Best Community College Network
Alamo Colleges District
Best in the South
Northwest Florida State College
Best Associate's-to-Bachelor's Program
Rowan College at Burlington County
Best in the West
Santa Barbara City College
Best Student-to-Faculty Ratio
Western Wyoming Community College
Most Sustainable Campus
De Anza College
Best Technical College
Northcentral Technical College
Best in the Southwest
Scottsdale Community College
Best in the Northwest
Shoreline Community College
Nationally-Recognized Community College
West Kentucky Community and Technical College
Best for Nursing Programs
Muskegon Community College
Best Scholarship Opportunities
St. Cloud Technical Community College
Best for Human Services Programs
Pearl River Community College
Best Study Abroad Opportunities
Itasca Community College
Best Return-on-Investment
North Central Kansas Technical College
Best Workforce Education Programs
Kilgore College


What You Should Know About This Degree

Designed specifically to serve the areas in which they are located, community colleges offer a variety of educational opportunities to a diverse array of students. They primarily award associate’s degrees, which students can earn as a terminal degree, or use as a stepping stone towards a bachelor’s degree. These institutions are also popular among adult learners who want to earn professional certifications to help them advance their careers.

Other students may attend community college to complete general education coursework before transferring to a four-year institution to earn a bachelor’s degree. For students who are following this path, it is important to confirm that the institution they plan to transfer to will accept the credits they complete at the community college. One way to confirm this is to review the community college’s articulation agreements with four-year institutions. These agreements between schools guarantee that credits will transfer. Even if schools don’t have an articulation agreement, it is likely that other institutions will accept your credits if you attend a regionally accredited community college.

Community colleges are typically the most affordable higher education institutions, but it’s important to note that the lowest tuition rates are typically reserved for in-state students.

What’s Next?

Here are some questions to ask when researching community colleges:

  • What resources does this school make available to students? While community colleges may not have all the bells and whistles of four-year institutions, they should provide robust resources to support students. This includes libraries, advising, student organizations, student support services, technological resources, and appropriate classroom facilities.
  • What are class schedules like? Because community colleges serve a broader range of students, including working adults, classes may be offered on more flexible schedules, including during evenings and weekends. Community colleges have also increasingly been offering online classes, to make their programs more accessible to nontraditional students.

As you research community colleges and programs, keep track of what their admission requirements and application deadlines are. Community colleges typically have more flexible requirements and deadlines than four-year universities, but missing key information or deadlines can affect your ability to start classes when you are ready. If you have questions about the admissions process, contact the admissions department.

Although community colleges are typically the most affordable higher education institutions, it’s still important to consider how you will afford tuition and other costs. Students attending accredited community colleges are usually eligible for federal financial aid, and schools offer support in the form of scholarships, grants, and work-study. If you are a working professional, find out if your employer offers any kind of tuition assistance benefits.

Find the Best Community Colleges in Your State