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100 best community colleges in America

  • 100 best community colleges in America

    With college costs mounting and student debt remaining a hot topic of conversation on the campaign trail, public opinion on four-year colleges has begun to shift, as people contemplate whether they are in fact the only—or best—option for all students. An estimated 8.7 million undergraduates enrolled in public, two-year colleges during the 2016–17 academic year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. A 2019 study from TD Ameritrade found 36% of Gen Z students considered attending a community college before a four-year college, while 21% considered attending a community college instead of a four-year college.

    While there are many reasons to choose a community college over a traditional four-year program, one key factor is cost. Student Loan Hero reports that the average cost-per-credit for a two-year public school is $135, compared to $324.70 for a four-year public school. Cheaper classes may put slightly less pressure on students to settle and choose a career path immediately. Community colleges also allow for flexibility in ways traditional schools may not: Students who work full-time can attend school part-time. Whether it’s to save money or experiment with career choices, community colleges not only serve as an alternative but also a gateway to four-year universities.

    The cost of a four-year college has become a substantial issue in the 2020 presidential race. Several of the Democrats who have vied to secure the nomination, including Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro, have endorsed plans that would make public colleges free in America. Others are more skeptical, proposing more-modest loan-forgiveness schemes or free community colleges. These changes would have substantial effects on the education sector.

    To determine where the best community colleges are located, Stacker looked at data from Niche's 2020 Best Community Colleges in America (as of March 2, 2020) to compile this list of the top 100 community colleges in America. The data is based on rigorous analysis of academic, financial, and student life data from the U.S. Department of Education, along with reviews from students and alumni. The community college list includes public junior colleges, public technical schools, and all other public, two-year colleges.

    Read on to see how community colleges across the nation stack up.

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  • #100. Lurleen B. Wallace Community College

    - Location: Andalusia, AL
    - Students: 957
    - Students to faculty ratio: 17:1
    - Earnings six years after graduation: $26,500
    - Employment rate two years after graduation: 82%

    Lurleen B. Wallace Community College has campuses across the state of Alabama, not only in Andalusia but also in Greenville, Opp, and Luverne. The college was named after the first female governor of Alabama, whose official state portrait is painted of her in a ballgown.

  • #99. Cuesta College

    - Location: San Luis Obispo, CA
    - Students: 3,372
    - Students to faculty ratio: 26:1
    - Earnings six years after graduation: $35,600
    - Employment rate two years after graduation: 84%

    Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo has had a remarkably diverse graduating class in recent years. In 2019, the college graduated its largest number of students ever, including a 77-year-old and 14 students with a 4.0 average.

  • #98. Santa Rosa Junior College

    - Location: Santa Rosa, CA
    - Students: 6,329
    - Students to faculty ratio: 20:1
    - Earnings six years after graduation: $35,700
    - Employment rate two years after graduation: 79%

    Santa Rosa Junior College is specifically meant to graduate students into one of the most prestigious universities in the nation. Many of the college’s students go on to enroll at the nearby University of California-Berkeley, one of the most academically-rigorous schools in the country.

  • #97. Lone Star College Montgomery

    - Location: The Woodlands, TX
    - Students: 20,532
    - Students to faculty ratio: 20:1
    - Earnings six years after graduation: $36,200
    - Employment rate two years after graduation: 86%

    Lone Star College Montgomery was dedicated at its opening by no less a figure than a president of the United States. Although he hadn’t yet achieved that rank, then-Governor George W. Bush dedicated the campus at its opening in 1995.

  • #96. Neosho County Community College

    - Location: Chanute, KS
    - Students: 788
    - Students to faculty ratio: 11:1
    - Earnings six years after graduation: $35,100
    - Employment rate two years after graduation: 89%

    Neosho County Community College’s campus in Chanute offers something many community colleges do not: housing. The Chanute campus has two residences, and a meal plan, offering some students the opportunity to attend the school as they would a traditional four-year on-campus institution.

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  • #95. CUNY Kingsborough Community College

    - Location: Brooklyn, NY
    - Students: 8,288
    - Students to faculty ratio: 22:1
    - Earnings six years after graduation: $35,400
    - Employment rate two years after graduation: 83%

    CUNY Kingsborough Community College is the only community college in Brooklyn. As befits a bookish borough, the founder of the bookstore chain Barnes & Noble donated one million dollars in scholarships in 2019 for students at the college.

  • #94. Santa Barbara City College

    - Location: Santa Barbara, CA
    - Students: 6,509
    - Students to faculty ratio: 27:1
    - Earnings six years after graduation: $36,800
    - Employment rate two years after graduation: 82%

    Nature and ocean-lovers may wish in particular to consider Santa Barbara City College. The campus is situated on 74 acres on the top of a bluff, overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

  • #93. Carteret Community College

    - Location: Morehead City, NC
    - Students: 424
    - Students to faculty ratio: 8:1
    - Earnings six years after graduation: $23,900
    - Employment rate two years after graduation: 80%

    Students at Carteret Community College are particularly enthusiastic about the level of care and attention they receive from their teachers and the support staff at the college. A low student-to-faculty ratio and attentive teachers are among the virtues students rave about.

  • #92. Hawkeye Community College

    - Location: Waterloo, IA
    - Students: 2,525
    - Students to faculty ratio: 17:1
    - Earnings six years after graduation: $36,100
    - Employment rate two years after graduation: 92%

    In 2015, Hawkeye Community College students got the opportunity to add a traditional hallmark of college life—cheering at sporting events—to their experience. Their mascot—Rusty the RedTail—was voted on by the majority of the student body.

  • #91. Northland Community & Technical College

    - Location: Thief River Falls, MN
    - Students: 1,275
    - Students to faculty ratio: 18:1
    - Earnings six years after graduation: $39,400
    - Employment rate two years after graduation: 91%

    Particularly-outdoorsy students will be drawn to the unusual Thief River Falls campus of Northland Community & Technical College. The campus is situated on 150 acres, at the intersection of the Thief and Red Lake Rivers, approximately 20 miles from the largest wildlife refuge in Minnesota.

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