University education is out of reach for many Americans, especially those from low-income households. But thanks to community colleges, higher education is more accessible than ever. Compared with public four-year institutions, where tuition and fees cost almost three times as much on average, community colleges offer many savings for students. Community colleges are an especially attractive option this year as many families deal with financial struggles caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Students who initially planned on attending a private four-year college might want to consider spending two years at a community college and transferring those credits once they are in a better financial situation.
Some states make community college even more accessible than usual. For example, multiple states and numerous cities across the U.S. have started “College Promise” programs that give residents free rides to community college.
Despite the fact that community colleges can offer significant cost advantages, not every state offers schools of the same quality. Drawing on the findings of WalletHub of the best and worst individual community colleges in the U.S., we present a state-by-state ranking of community-college systems below.
Best Community College Systems
(1 = Best)
(1 = Best)
In order to determine the best and worst community-college systems in the U.S., we drew upon our analysis of 2021’s Best & Worst Community Colleges, which was conducted at the individual-school level across a sample of 685 institutions and 19 key metrics.
For our state-by-state analysis, we calculated a weighted average of the scores earned by the community colleges in each state and the number of students enrolled in each school. The state with the highest average corresponds with a rank of No. 1, or the best community-college system. We also took into account only the states that had at least two community colleges present in our sample of the Best & Worst Community Colleges in order to ensure comparability of results.
Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from the National Center for Education Statistics, Campaign for Free College Tuition, U.S. Department of Education and Council for Community & Economic Research.