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Best Community Colleges in America – 2020 Edition


Community college is a great option for any number of high school graduates in America. Whether you require more experience to be accepted to a four-year college, want an associate’s degree in a specific skill or hope to save money on tuition, community college is a viable option for higher education. Not all community colleges are of equal quality, though, so SmartAsset decided to find the best community colleges in America.

To do so, we analyzed more than 800 community colleges across three metrics: student-to-faculty ratio, graduation & transfer rate and cost of tuition & fees. For details on our data sources and how we put all the information together to create our final rankings, check out the Data and Methodology section below.

This is SmartAsset’s seventh study on the country’s best community colleges. Take a look at the 2019 version of the study here.

Key Findings

  • North Carolina still rules. Just like in the previous four years, North Carolina is well represented at the top of the list. Three of the top four schools this year are in North Carolina (all of which rank within the best quarter of the study for affordable tuition and fees for two semesters), and there are seven more in the top 25.
  • Strong student-to-faculty ratios. Student-to-faculty ratios in the community colleges across the top 10 of our study range from a low of nine to a high of only 13 students per faculty member, potentially allowing for more individualized opportunities for study.

1. Brunswick Community College – Bolivia, NC

Brunswick Community College, located in Bolivia, North Carolina, has the eighth-highest graduation and transfer rate in this study, at 83%. It also ranks 15th-highest for student-to-faculty ratio, at nine to one. The college ranks the 155th-lowest out of all 821 community colleges for its cost of tuition and fees for two semesters of classes, which totals $2,532.

2. College of the Albemarle – Elizabeth City, NC

Another community college in North Carolina – in Elizabeth City, specifically – is next. College of the Albemarle ranks sixth-highest out of 821 for graduation and transfer rate, with 85% of students either graduating or transferring to a four-year university. The college ranks 88th in the study (within the top 11%) for its relatively low student-to-faculty ratio, at 13, and ranks within the top 150 out of all 821 community colleges in the study for cost of tuition and fees for two semesters, at $2,239.

3. Cloud County Community College – Concordia, KS

Cloud County Community College, located in Concordia, Kansas, has the highest graduation and transfer rate in this study, at 94%. This college is also in the top 40 overall for student-to-faculty ratio, at 11 students per faculty member. The school ranks 226th-lowest out of 821 for cost of tuition and fees, at $3,300 for two semesters.

4. Carteret Community College – Morehead City, NC

The third North Carolina community college on this list, Carteret Community College (located in Morehead City), has the fourth-best student-to-faculty ratio in the study, at seven students to a faculty member. The graduation and transfer rate is 65%, the 52nd-highest out of all 821 colleges for which we considered data. Carteret ranks within the top 200 overall for its low price, with a two-semester tuition and fees bill totaling $2,696.

5. Pierce College-Puyallup – Puyallup, WA

Pierce College-Puyallup has the seventh-highest graduation rate in the study, at 83%. It also ranks 88th out of 821 for student-to-faculty ratio, at 13 students to each instructor. The college also ranks within the top half of the study for its low price. Two semesters of tuition and fees at this school in Puyallup, Washington will cost $3,952.

6. Northwest Louisiana Technical College – Minden, LA

The No. 6 community college in our study is Northwest Louisiana Technical College, located in Minden, Louisiana. Northwest Louisiana Technical College has the 21st-best graduation rate of all 821 schools we studied, at 73%. The student-to-faculty ratio is 12, which ranks 63rd-best, and the cost of tuition and fees for two semesters is $2,976, 226th-lowest overall, or within the best 30% of the study.

7. Mid-Plains Community College – North Platte, NE

North Platte, Nebraska is home to the No. 7 school on this list, Mid-Plains Community College. Mid-Plains ranks 32nd-best in terms of graduation and transfer rate, at 70%. The student-to-faculty ratio is 11, tying for 39th-best overall. In terms of cost, the school ranks 260th most affordable out of 821 community colleges, at $3,210 for two semesters.

8. Morgan Community College – Fort Morgan, CO

Morgan College in Fort Morgan, Colorado ranks 28th-best for graduation and transfer rate (71%) and ties for 39th-best in student-to-faculty ratio, at 11. It comes in 318th most affordable out of 821 community colleges for cost of tuition and fees for two semesters, at $3,765.

9. Southern Arkansas University Tech – Camden, AR

Southern Arkansas University Tech, located in Camden, Arkansas, ranks fifth-best in the study for graduation and transfer rate. A full 87% of students graduate or transfer to a four-year university. It also ranks 88th-best for student-to-faculty ratio, at 13. It ranks 553rd, however, in terms of price – tuition and fees total $4,977 for two semesters, the highest in the top 10 of this study.

10. Tillamook Bay Community College – Tillamook, OR

Tillamook, Oregon is the home to the final community college on this list, Tillamook Bay Community College. This school has the 15th-best student-to-faculty ratio in this study, at nine. It has a graduation and transfer rate of 65%, 46th-best in the study. The cost for two semesters ranks 333rd most affordable out of 821 community colleges, at $3,888.

Data and Methodology

In order to create our rankings of the best community colleges in America, we analyzed data on 821 community colleges. We compared these schools across the following three metrics:

  • Student-to-faculty ratio. This is the number of students for every faculty member. Data comes from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and is for the 2018-2019 school year.
  • Graduation and transfer rate. This is the percent of students who either graduate from the community college or transfer to a four-year institution. Data comes from IPEDS and is for the 2018-2019 school year.
  • Cost of tuition and fees. This is the cost of tuition and fees for in-state students completing two semesters of coursework. Data comes from IPEDS and is for the 2018-2019 school year.

To create our final rankings, we gave each community college a score in each of the metrics based on how far above or below the mean they were. We used the sum of these numbers to create our final ranking. The community college with the highest cumulative score received a score of 100. The community college with the lowest score received a score of 0.

Note: We refer to Mitchell Technical Institute (in Mitchell, South Dakota) by its old name to align with the corresponding data we used for this version of our study, but it has officially changed its name to Mitchell Technical College as of July 1, 2020.

Tips for Managing College Costs

  • Invest in expert advice. If you want to save for your kids’ college education, consider working with a financial advisor. Finding a financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool connects you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If you’re ready to be connected with local advisors get started now.
  • Budgeting is key. College students are often living on their own for the first time. Make sure you create a budget to make your money last all semester.

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