Attendance at two-year public colleges began to increase again in the spring of 2023, after enrollment at community colleges declined during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, enrollment increased by 0.5%, which is the first time in years that community colleges saw even a modest increase.
To find the best community colleges in the country, SmartAsset analyzed data from 845 schools where you can spend two years getting an associate’s degree or technical training. Schools were ranked based on their student-to-faculty ratio, retention rates, and cost of tuition and fees.
Top 10 Best Community Colleges
1. Southeastern Community College – Whiteville, NC
Located in Whiteville, North Carolina, Southeastern Community College is the top-ranked community college in the country. Southeastern has the highest retention rate (93%) and a student-to-faculty ratio of 11:1. It is also in the top 25% in the state for affordability with tuition and fees totaling just $2,600 per year.
2. Stanley Community College – Albemarle, NC
Stanley Community College, located about 40 miles east of Charlotte, North Carolina, has an 83% retention rate – which ranks sixth out of 845 schools. While Stanley Community College has one faculty member for every 11 students, the school is $2,794 per year more affordable than 76% of the colleges in our study.
3. Edgecombe Community College – Tarboro, NC
Edgecombe Community College has a retention rate of 79%, which is tied for 15th best in Eastern North Carolina. A year’s tuition and fees add up to just $2,640, making Edgecombe more affordable than about 80% of community colleges. The school also has a high student-faculty ratio (10:1) which is lower than 91% out of 845 schools evaluated.
4. State Technical College of Missouri – Lynn, MO
The State Technical College of Missouri emphasizes technical and vocational programs that are not typically offered at community colleges. The school has an 89% retention rate and a 16:1 student-to-faculty ratio. However, in-state tuition and fees for one year at Missouri State Technical College totals $7,564 – significantly higher than the national average ($4,590).
5. Commonwealth Institute of Technology – Johnstown, PA
Only one other school can boast of a lower student-faculty ratio than Commonwealth Institute of Technology, where there is one faculty member for every four students. 77 percent of first-year students continue their education the following year. One year’s tuition and fees at Commonwealth Institute of Technology total $7,664.
6. CBT Institute of Technology – Miami, FL
The main campus of CBT Institute of Technology is ranked sixth overall due to its 93% retention rate. The school, which offers associate degrees and technical training certificates, has a student-to-faculty ratio of 12:1. Its tuition and fees ($13,152) place it in the most expensive 5% of community colleges.
7. Mission College – Santa Clara, CA
Despite being located in the heart of expensive Silicon Valley, Mission College is one of the most affordable community colleges in the country. Tuition and fees total only $1,204 per year, making it cheaper than 95% of the colleges you study at nationwide. The school has one faculty member for every 16 students and the retention rate is 79%.
8. Moraine Park Technical College – Fond du Lac, WI
Located about 70 miles northwest of Milwaukee, Moraine Park Technical College has one faculty member for every 11 students. Seventy-eight percent of first-year students continue their education. Tuition and fees add up to $4,568 per year, which puts the school near the middle in terms of affordability.
9. Sandhills Community College – Pinehurst, NC
Sandhills Community College, which offers more than 100 associate degrees, diplomas and certificates, sees 77% of its first-time students continue their education. Tuition and fees add up to $2,764 for a full-time in-state student, making Sandhills more affordable than 77% of schools. Students also enjoy a faculty-to-student ratio of 13:1.
10. Durham Technical Community College – Durham, NC
As one of five technical schools in the top 10, Durham Technical Community College also offers arts, education, public safety, and business administration programs. Located just a few miles from Duke University, Durham Technical is tied for the 10th lowest student-to-faculty ratio (7:1). Tuition and fees combined come to $2,228, making it cheaper than 83% of schools.
Data and methodology
Data from 845 two-year colleges offering associate degrees were ranked based on the following metrics from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) for the 2021-2022 school year:
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