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Top 10 Best Community Colleges in America

Updated on June 29, 2016
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Ms. Inglish has 30 years of successful experience in medicine, psychology, STEM courses, and aerospace education (CAP).

St. Paul MN is home to the Number One Community College in the USA.
St. Paul MN is home to the Number One Community College in the USA. | Source

Community Colleges and Two-Year Colleges Are Important

The much respected Washington Monthly Magazine operates a Best Colleges Survey regularly in order to provide American and International Students with the nest information available for choosing a Community or Junior College in the United States.

The research department at Washington Monthly provides a Top 50 Best Junior Colleges List based on a combination of six different factors that can help with decision making about future attendance. However, these factors will be examined individually here in order to provide another perspective for decision making.

The Six Factors that Determine Best Community Colleges:

  1. Active & Collaborative Learning Environment
  2. Support for Learning
  3. Academic Challenge
  4. Student-Faculty Interaction
  5. Four-year Graduation Rate (go on to a 4-year school and graduate)
  6. Student Effort

Note that costs do not enter into the decision making matrix for the Top 10 Community Colleges, but I look at some of the school's costs further below. Generally, these institutions offer substantial savings over 4-year colleges and universities and since their credits often transfer easily to the 4-year schools, they serve to really cut college costs.

For the overall Top 10 Best Community Colleges, I will average the ratings of the 6 Factors for each to yield a overall Rating Percentage. For example, the statistic will be 70 = 70% of Perfect (stipulating that any of the schools can, in fact, be perfect).

Number One Community College - St. Paul College


Health and Science Careers Increase in Numbers

A new Health and Science Alliance Center is set for constructed on the campus of Saint Paul College after Summer 2015. St. Paul is pressed for room for health and medical students, and the new facility will be used for the College’s STEM and health career programs. Many jobs are available and awaiting graduates in these fields with 2-year degrees and more advanced training.

St. Paul is a City of Bests

St. Paul in Minnesota is a city that is full of best places to see and things to do. St. Paul College is ranked as the best community college in the United States, with the best comprehensive classes, degree programs, and number of graduates.

St. Paul is home to the Prairie Home Companion radio show, produced by Garrison Keillor for over four decades. The city is also in the employment market proximity of the best city for jobs in out country - Eden Prairie. The top city for jobs is also the home of many successful publishing companies, book stores, and authors celebrated at our National Book Festival.

St. Paul Metro Area

show route and directions
A markerSt. Paul -
Saint Paul, MN, USA
get directions

B markerEden Prairie -
Eden Prairie, MN, USA
get directions

Top 10 Best Community Colleges Overall In America

Colleges, Locations and Percent of Perfect

  1. Saint Paul College (MN) ------------------------------- 67.2
  2. Hesston College (KS) ---------------------------------- 62.5
  3. Carolinas College of Health Sciences (NC) -------- 60.0
  4. Mayland Community College (NC) ------------------- 59.4
  5. Itasca Community College (MN) ---------------------- 56.7
  6. Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College ----------- 56.6
  7. Leech Lake Tribal College (MN) --------------------- 55.5
  8. Alexandria Technical College (MN) ------------------ 56.0
  9. Southwestern Community College (NC) ------------ 57.1
  10. Chippewa Valley Technical College (WI) ------------ 55.7

The overall average score among the Six Factors considered for each school above does not descend in strictly linear terms. That is, the average score increases for Numbers 8 and 9 and decreases for Number 10. We might have expected the average score to decline further for each school from 1 - 10.

A Closer Look At Number One

Saint Paul College (MN)

  • Active & Collaborative Learning Environment......83.2
  • Support for Learning...........................................71.8
  • Academic Challenge............................................63.7
  • Student-Faculty Interaction..................................71.0
  • Four-year Graduation Rate.................................41.0
  • Student Effort......................................................72.2

While this school rated the Number One Score out of the Top 10 Schools in the four bold percentages above, Saint Paul College ranked 3 in Academic Challenge and 7 in Four-Year Graduation Rate. The lower graduation rate seems counter intuitive, given the high scores related to learning and faculty interaction.

We would expect a higher graduation rate in a school where students receive more attention and encouragement. One factor that might reduce graduation rates may be the higher cost of living than offered by the cities in which other community colleges are located (see charts below).

Majority of Best Schools Are in the North

Six of the Top 10 Are located in Minnesota and Wisconsin

show route and directions
A markerSaint Paul College (MN) -
St Paul College, 317 Marshall Ave, St Paul, MN 55102, USA
get directions

B markerItasca Community College (MN) -
Itasca Community College, 1851 E US Highway 169, Grand Rapids, MN 55744, USA
get directions

C markerWisconsin Indianhead Technical College WI) -
Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College, 2100 Beaser Ave, Ashland, WI 54806-3699, USA
get directions

D markerLeech Lake Tribal College (MN) -
Leech Lake Tribal College, 6945 Little Wolf Rd NW, Cass Lake, MN 56633, USA
get directions

E markerAlexandria Technical College (MN) -
Alexandria Technical & Community College, 1601 Jefferson St, Alexandria, MN 56308-3799, USA
get directions

F markerChippewa Valley Technical College (WI) -
Chippewa Valley Technical College, 620 W Clairemont Ave, Eau Claire, WI 54701-6162, USA
get directions

Final Four Community Colleges - South and West

show route and directions
A markerCarolinas College of Health Sciences (NC) -
Carolinas College of Health Sciences, 1200 Blythe Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28203-5816, USA
get directions

B markerMayland Community College (NC) -
Mayland Community College, Pisgah National Forest, 785 Cranberry St, Newland, NC 28657, USA
get directions

C markerHesston College (KS) -
Hesston College, 325 College Dr, Hesston, KS 67062, USA
get directions

D markerSouthwestern Community College (NC) -
Southwestern Community College - Macon Annex, Nantahala National Forest, 5 W Main St, Franklin, NC 2
get directions

Important Graduation Rates

Highest Graduation Rates

The community colleges that showed a graduation rate of 70% or greater in 2010 included:

  • #21 Rowan-Cabarrus Community College (NC) - 83%
  • #41 Texas State Technical College, Waco - 82%
  • #10 Chippewa Valley Technical College (WI) - 75%
  • #4 Mayland Community College (NC) - 71%
  • #50 Barton County Community College (KS) - 70%

Two of these colleges are on the Top 10 List above. This might help you narrow down a choice among schools and you might choose between the #4 and the #10 schools. However, it would be useful to check tuition prices and the cost of living index at the Top 5.

Tuition Costs

Tuition Prices and Cost of Living at Top 5 Community Colleges

By Lowest Cost of Tuition (See Table Below)

  1. Mayland Community College (NC) - Lowest Cost of Living
  2. Saint Paul College (MN) - High Cost of Living
  3. Itasca Community College (MN) - Charges Out-of-State Fees - Lower than Average Cost of Living
  4. Carolinas College of Health Sciences (NC) - About Average Cost of Living
  5. Hesston College (KS) - Ties for Lowest Cost of Living

General Information; Other Fees May Be Charged

In-State Tuition
Out-of-State Tuition
Cost of Living Index
1. Saint Paul College (MN)
2. Hesston College (KS)
$10,656 12-17 Credit ($626/Credit if 17 Credits are taken)/ $444/Credit summer
3. Carolinas College of Health Sciences (NC)
$225 - $ Labs fees, most expensive is Medical Laboratory fee of $6,800
4. Mayland Community College (NC)
$862.3 per Semester at $66.50/Credit
5. Itasca Community College (MN)
$170.62 per credit
$208.51 per credit

Making a Choice

At this point, I would stop and choose Mayland Community College for four reasons:

  1. Lower cost per credit hour.
  2. Lower cost of living.
  3. One of the higher graduation rates.
  4. Ranking of #4 on the Top 50 List of Community Colleges in 2010 (out of 650 nominated 2-year schools). The ranking program is renewed every two years and Mayland has been rising in the ranks for the last decade.

Spruce Pine, North Carolina


Program Offerings at Mayland - "The Intelligent Choice"

First of all, Mayland offers an Early College High School Program. They attend high school and college at the same time on the main campus of the community college and once completed with the course, receive a North Carolina High School Diploma and an Associate’s Degree from Mayland Community College.This allows these graduates to go to work or to begin a 4-year college program two years ahead of schedule, with more experience.

The main campus and two branch campuses offer Continuing Education for self-improvement or GED classes as well as Customized Training for potential employees of companies that join that program for help with employee interviewing, hiring , and training and to receive tax credits.. This is a program that a growing number of schools offer and includes Basic Skills and Work Readiness. Fire, Law, and Emergency Services personnel may enroll and take classes for certifications.

In addition to the, a dozen classes are offered in the short-term setting to help with employment from first job to career advancement.Further, Small Business Development short-term learning has been a success at this institution for entrepreneurs enrolled.

Academics for the AA Degree

You can study just about anything from Fine Arts and Horticulture to Engineering Technology or Law Enforcement at this school. See the program offerings HERE.


Why North Carolina?

Another good reason to study at Mayland is that North Carolina is home to one of the biggest research complexes in North America and the World, bring forth new industries and new jobs as well as products and services to increase human and animal heath and other improvements. The Triangle Research Park is like an amusement park of sciences and technologies, with a retail district and residential space.

Research Triangle Park Covers 8 Counties and Three Major Cities

A markerResearch Triangle Park, NC -
Research Triangle Park, Durham, NC, USA
get directions

The EPA Complex Portion of Research Triangle Park


Hot Jobs In and Near Mayland Community College

During summer 2015, about 600 job opportunities were open for the Mayland area, including these in highest demand:

  1. Engineers - various fields
  2. RN Nurses
  3. Shift Supervisors
  4. Salespeople and Clerks for Food Lion
  5. Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants
  6. Pharmacy Technicians
  7. Beauty Advisors and Stylists
  8. Nurse Practitioners and Medical Assistants
  9. Pizza Hut Jobs - All levels and positions
  10. Merchandisers
  11. Customer Service Jobs
  12. Various jobs at Blue Ridge Hospital
  13. Part-time Jobs and Internships
  14. Jobs at KFC and McDonald's

Things To Do

  • Pine Spruce celebrates four festivals annually for music, trout fishing, town heritage - and a Storytelling Festival (mid-July).
  • Nate Allen of Knife & Fork in Spruce Pine, N.C. awarded the Small-Town Chef Award (see video above).

© 2012 Patty Inglish


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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 5 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      At least in the Top 10, two states have the most!~ It's time to look at the rest of the top 50 and see where they are.

    • Maren Morgan M-T profile image

      Maren Elizabeth Morgan 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      I am surprised and impressed that 2 states dominate the quality community college list. Thanks for the great research, Patty!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 5 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      The job placement office at the university I attended did very little to help place or record data about students after graduation. Perhaps the community colleges do a better job of staying in contact. Mayland CC is certainly in a good location for jobs, though - the Research Triangle covers eight counties and is always expanding businesses.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Excellent and informative article. Many thanks.

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 5 years ago from Jamaica

      I would definitely choose Maryland too for the same reasons you stated. This is a very informational hub. What about job placement rates? I would also check the gainful employment data when looking for a college, but I would suppose that since Maryland has such a good graduation rate that their job placement rate is also good seeing that so many opportunities are in the area.