The 100 Best Community Colleges in America

As college costs rise and student debt remains a hot topic of conversation, public opinion about four-year colleges has shifted as people question whether they’re actually the only — or best — option for all students. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, an estimated 7 million students enrolled in public, two-year colleges in the 2020-21 academic year, accounting for 33% of all undergraduate students.

While there are many reasons to choose a community college over a traditional four-year program, cost is a key factor. Student Loan Hero reports that the average cost per loan for a two-year public school is $158 compared to $448 for a four-year public school. That last number increases significantly — to $1,148 per credit hour — if that four-year school is out of state. Cheaper courses may put less pressure on students to settle down right away and choose a career path. Community colleges also allow for flexibility in ways traditional schools may not have: students who work full-time can attend school part-time and often in the evenings. Whether it’s to save money, take advantage of flexibility, or experiment with career choices, community colleges serve not only as an alternative, but also as a gateway to four-year universities.

The cost of a four-year college education continues to dominate the national conversation as the United States now weathers the post-pandemic impact on higher education. The CARES Act provided $14 billion to the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund to help students and institutions adversely affected by COVID-19, but understaffing and funding problems persist. Many progressives have supported plans that would make public colleges in America free. Others are more skeptical and propose more modest ideas for lending. These changes would have a significant impact on the education sector.

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Stacker looked to data from Niche’s 2023 Best Community Colleges in America to compile this list of the top 100 community colleges across the country. The data is based on a rigorous analysis of academic, financial and student data from the US Department of Education, as well as student and alumni assessments. 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 are performing across the country.

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