The 20 Best Community Colleges by Cost and Quality

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Going to a four-year university is a huge undertaking for students and families, especially when it comes to paying for it. Parents spend years socking away whatever money they can to help their kids afford higher education, and sometimes that’s still not enough.

But two-year colleges, otherwise known as community colleges or junior colleges, offer college classes for much less than universities.

The College Board reports that the average cost of tuition and fees at a public two-year school for the 2018-2019 academic year was $3,660. That’s compared with $10,230 at a public four-year institution and a mind-blowing $35,830 for a private four-year school.

In its recent analysis of community colleges in the U.S., WalletHub weighed measures of cost as well as quality. The publication then gave each school an overall score out of 100 points and ranked them according to those scores.

Read on for the 20 highest-ranked community colleges out of the more than 700 evaluated by WalletHub.

20. Raritan Valley Community College

Female students looking at computer on outside stairs.
Bruce Weber / Shutterstock.com

Total score: 63.45 out of 100 points

This school based in Branchburg, New Jersey, was ranked No. 30 by WalletHub out of more than 700 schools in its “career outcomes” category, which is based on factors such as the student loan default rate and the median salary of graduates.

The school trains students for such careers as manufacturing, automotive technology and esthetics (skin care), in addition to offering academic programs. RVCC also offers free tuition for qualified persons under the New Jersey Community College Opportunity Grant Program.

For more tuition-free options, check out “10 Colleges Where Tuition Is Free.”

19. Morgan Community College

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Total score: 63.55 out of 100 points

This school based in Fort Morgan, Colorado, ranks No. 25 out of more than 700 schools in the “education outcomes” category, which WalletHub based on factors such as the student-to-faculty ratio and the graduate rate.

MCC recently received a $3 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Title V program for Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions.

The grant will help MCC expand its Supporting a College Culture of Equity for Student Success (SUCCESS) program, which supports students through activities like supplemental instruction/tutoring and professional development.

18. Hopkinsville Community College

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Total score: 63.6 out of 100 points

This Kentucky school ranked 49th in WalletHub’s “education outcomes” category.

HCC also gives students a better chance to afford their education with Work Ready Kentucky scholarships.

The scholarships cover the cost of up to 60 credit hours of tuition for folks who are pursuing careers in health care, manufacturing, construction/trades, logistics, business or information technology and who meet other requirements.

HCC explains:

“Free tuition …* We know what you’re thinking. There’s probably a catch. But, here in Kentucky, employers are struggling to find enough people to fill positions in high demand, high paying fields. They need you. So we’re making it easier to get you the credentials you need and a job you’ll love.”

17. Barstow Community College

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Total score: 63.64 out of 100 points

WalletHub ranks this California school No. 8 in its cost and financing category — which is based on factors like the cost of in-state tuition and fees and the average amount of grant or scholarship aid that students receive.

In June 2019, BCC graduated a record 494 students, including 51 graduates who earned summa cum laude honors with grade point averages (GPAs) of 3.75 to 4.0.

16. North Hennepin Community College

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Total score: 63.81 out of 100 points

WalletHub ranks this Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, school No. 14 for career outcomes, a category that reflects factors such as the percentage of former students who earn more than the average earnings for high-school graduates.

The school also tries to unite students, faculty and staff with its Common Book program, in which participants read and discuss a text chosen to encourage appreciation of diversity and equity.

15. Irvine Valley College

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Total score: 63.82 out of 100 points

This Southern California school transfers more students to the University of California Irvine than any other community college in the state, and also is the top Orange County community college in transfers to UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, UC Davis and UC Riverside.

First-time, full-time students are eligible for the Irvine Valley Promise program, which offers free tuition and textbook vouchers. Even without that program, students can do a full load of classes for $1,100 per year.

14. Miles Community College

Sergei Bachlakov / Shutterstock.com

Total score: 63.84 out of 100 points

This Miles City, Montana, college gives students a chance at getting a job quickly after high school with its Workforce Ready program, which provides training in fields such as equine science, agriculture, information technology and health care.

There are also plenty of extracurricular activities to get into, including the rodeo and tabletop gaming clubs, and the Young Farmers and Ranchers.

13. Queensborough Community College

New York City
littlenySTOCK / Shutterstock.com

Total score: 63.9 out of 100 points

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng of New York was so impressed by the ASAP program at Queensborough Community College, part of the City University of New York (CUNY) system, that she wants to replicate it at community colleges across the country. The Accelerated Study in Associate Programs, started in 2007, has doubled graduation rates with financial, academic and career support services.

Another innovative program at QCC is Port of Entry, an English language program that for four decades has helped nearly 13,000 students from 21 countries get their footing in hectic New York City.

12. Northwest Iowa Community College

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Total score: 64.26 out of 100 points

WalletHub ranks this college in Sheldon, Iowa, No. 3 in the “career outcomes” category, and the school website boasts that “Nearly 100% of our students get jobs.”

The SR Education Group, a leading education research publisher, named NCC the No. 1 online community college in the nation for 2019 and lauded the school for its 70% retention rate. About 35% of NCC students are online learners.

11. SOWELA Technical Community College

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Total score: 64.51 out of 100 points

This college in Lake Charles, Louisiana, tied for No. 1 on “highest return on education investment” with several other schools in WalletHub’s rankings. WalletHub also ranks SOWELA (short for “Southwest Louisiana”) No. 27 in the category of education outcomes and No. 9 in career outcomes.

Whatever SOWELA is doing is working. The college had a 20% increase in enrollment this fall, pushing their student total to more than 4,000.

10. Columbia-Greene Community College

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Total score: 64.53 out of 100 points

WalletHub doesn’t rank this school too highly for career outcomes (140th) and education outcomes (141st), but it comes in at 81st out of more than 700 schools for cost and financing.

One of the more intriguing offerings at this Hudson, New York, college is its cyber security/digital forensics program.

9. Northland Community and Technical College

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Total score: 64.58 out of 100 points

Among NCTT’s three Minnesota campuses is an aerospace campus in Thief River Falls, where students can train in the fields of aviation maintenance technology, unmanned aerial systems and imagery analysis.

But despite a surge in interest in aircraft maintenance, NCTT has seen its enrollment decline while it has increased at other institutions in the state such as Minneapolis Community and Technical College.

8. Mitchell Technical Institute

Jacob Boomsma / Shutterstock.com

Total score: 64.72 out of 100 points

This school based in Mitchell, South Dakota, ranks No. 2 in the “education outcomes” category and No. 4 in “career outcomes.” On a less positive note, it ranks 652nd out of 710 colleges in WalletHub’s rankings for “cost and financing.”

However, a study from the South Dakota Board of Technical Education found that high school students who took dual-credit courses — a program MTI offers — were more likely to have less college debt and stay enrolled than students who didn’t.

7. Alexandria Technical & Community College

New college graduates pose with their diplomas
michaeljung / Shutterstock.com

Total score: 64.83 out of 100 points

This school based in Alexandria, Minnesota, has the best graduation rate of all Minnesota state institutions, according to the college.

The school offers a diverse menu of studies, including cybersecurity, diesel mechanics and exercise science. You can even study to become a marine, motorcycle and powersports technician.

6. Minnesota State Community and Technical College

Stokkete / Shutterstock.com

Total score: 65.58 out of 100 points

WalletHub gives this institution — with campuses in four Minnesota cities as well as online — high marks for education outcomes and career outcomes.

The school’s Workforce Development Solutions program trains students to fill labor needs in many businesses and industries.

5. Pierce College-Puyallup

Tyler Olson / Shutterstock.com

Total score: 66.11 out of 100 points

Earlier this year, Pierce College in Puyallup, Washington, received a Rising Star Award from the Aspen Institute for its achievements in student retention and degree completion, which at 59% is 20 percentage points higher than the national average.

Joshua Wyner, executive director of the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program, said that “At every turn, Pierce College identifies and lifts barriers that stand in students’ way.”

4. San Joaquin Delta College

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Total score: 66.23 out of 100 points

WalletHub ranks this school based in Stockton, California, No. 11 in the category of “cost and financing.”

For the 2019-2020 school year, a full-time in-state student pays a total of just $1,288 for tuition (fall and spring semesters, 14 units per semester, assuming no summer courses).

3. Southern Arkansas University Tech

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Total score: 67.27 out of 100 points

WalletHub ranked this school based in Camden, Arkansas, No. 1 for having the highest graduation rate of all 710 colleges ranked. It was No. 3 in the “education outcomes” category but only 516th for “career outcomes.”

However, SAUT recently announced the addition of an international business program, a 5.9% growth in enrollment and a 13.9% increase in full-time equivalent students.

2. Arkansas State University-Mountain Home

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Total score: 68.61 out of 100 points

The National Council for Marketing and Public Relations recently named Robin Myers, school chancellor, a “Pacesetter of the Year” for his work in college communications and marketing.

The Mountain Home, Arkansas, college also boasts a Career Coach Program, which is geared toward helping high school students explore career choices and increase their interest in postsecondary education.

1. State Technical College of Missouri

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Total score: 70.09 out of 100 points

This school based in Linn, Missouri, is ranked No. 4 by WalletHub in its category of “education outcomes” and No. 5 in “career outcomes,” though it does come in the middle of the pack (No. 341) in the category of “cost and financing.” It also has the third-highest graduation rate in the study.

Students are obviously taking notice: The college recently announced a 15% increase in enrollment, pushing the total student population to more than 1,700, the most ever for the school.

What’s your take on community colleges? Share your thoughts by commenting below or on the Money Talks News Facebook page.

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