Best Community Colleges in Arizona

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by Staff Writers
Published on March 5, 2020 is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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College enrollment continues to grow in the United States. The National Center for Education Statistics projects that the number of undergraduate students will increase from 16.8 million to 17.2 million between 2017 and 2028. By earning a postsecondary degree, you gain access to better job opportunities and higher pay. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), those with an associate degree earn $7,000 more in average annual salary than individuals with only a high school diploma. They also benefit from substantially lower unemployment rates.

While higher education institutions offer accessible academic programs for students of all backgrounds, the plethora of options can prove overwhelming as you look for the right school for you. This guide supports your search by offering a list of the best community colleges in Arizona. The 20 ranked profiles below offer insight on elements like admission requirements, financial aid, and student resources. You will also learn about available academic degrees, occupational certificates, and online learning opportunities.

Best Community Colleges in Arizona

#1 Eastern Arizona College Thatcher, AZ
#2 Tohono O'Odham Community College Sells, AZ
#3 Cochise County Community College District Douglas, AZ
#4 Paradise Valley Community College Phoenix, AZ
#5 South Mountain Community College Phoenix, AZ
#6 Estrella Mountain Community College Avondale, AZ
#7 Yavapai College Prescott, AZ
#8 Chandler-Gilbert Community College Chandler, AZ
#9 Glendale Community College Glendale, AZ
#10 Scottsdale Community College Scottsdale, AZ

Both universities and community colleges enable students to earn accredited certificates and degrees. However, the latter offer more flexibility for their students who often hold full-time jobs and take care of families while enrolled in classes. To support these practical needs, community colleges typically feature open admission policies and low tuition prices. These schools also emphasize career placement, offering certificate training in technical and trade-oriented professions. Alternatively, many learners use community colleges as a starting point for their higher education, earning associate credentials before transferring into a bachelor's-completion program.

On top of affordable tuition and diverse academic programming, you will enjoy great employment prospects by attending a community college in Arizona. As of July 2019, the Grand Canyon State's unemployment rate sits at 4.9%, a decrease from previous months. The BLS reports occupational growth for many industries in Arizona, with the highest increases in construction, manufacturing, and health services. Arizona's low cost of living offers another incentive. PayScale statistics show that even in metropolitan areas like Phoenix, living costs are 5% cheaper than the national average.

Ranking the Best Community Colleges in Arizona

Eastern Arizona College View School Profile Thatcher, AZ

Based in Thatcher, Eastern Arizona College enrolls 6,000 students in accessible and career-relevant academic programming. The college offers 35 degrees and 69 certificate options. To apply, domestic students submit an online form and sit for the ACCUPLACER placement test. International students complete a separate application process and submit TOEFL or IELTS scores. As one of the best community colleges in Arizona, EAC offers one affordable tuition price regardless of residency status. U.S. citizens can access financial aid, which includes athletic and performing arts scholarships.

For students who want to enter the workforce immediately after graduation, EAC delivers an associate of applied science (AAS) and certificate programs in areas like administrative information services, cosmetology, and nursing. Learners can also earn an AAS in welding technology, taking advantage of the resources provided by the Arizona Regional Manufacturing Professional Project. Students who want to pursue bachelor's training can enroll in the diverse transfer programs. Options include anthropology, biology, education, mathematics, and psychology.

Tohono O'Odham Community College View School Profile Sells, AZ

Tohono O'Odham Community College was founded in 1998 and primarily serves members of the Tohono O'Odham Nation. However, any student can enroll in the college's 47 academic programs. TOCC operates an open door admissions process, which requires only that candidates provide government identification, complete an online application, and, if applicable, pass a placement exam. On top of offering affordable tuition, TOCC facilitates government aid and provides private awards, including the Gewkdag Scholarship for Tohono O'Odham Nation members.

Students can enroll in associate programs designed for transfer into bachelor's-completion tracks. These options consist of studio arts, business administration, health science, social work, and elementary education. TOCC sets itself apart from other community colleges in Arizona by offering an associate degree in environmental studies in indigenous borderlands. Alternatively, learners can pursue direct-employment programs in areas like carpentry, heavy equipment operation, plumbing, masonry, and construction painting. Many of these employment programs come with apprenticeships, allowing candidates to earn money as they complete their college education.

Cochise County Community College District View School Profile Douglas, AZ

Founded in 1964 as one of the first community colleges in Arizona, Cochise College enrolls 11,500 students in academic and workforce development programs. The school provides a tuition price that is 77% less expensive than the average state university. Learners also benefit from ample scholarship opportunities and, if they graduate from a Cochise County high school, qualify for four consecutive semesters of financial support.

Cochise has articulation agreements with all three Arizona universities and many out-of-state institutions. Students who want to take advantage of these seamless transfer opportunities can pursue associate programs in liberal studies, small business management, computer programming, nursing, and administration of justice. The college features a unique associate degree in crop science for learners who want to work in agribusiness or environmental conservation. Cochise also delivers direct-employment programs in industries like computer-aided drafting (CAD), HVAC, and residential construction technology. Students can also earn credentials in aerospace thermal fusion and professional pilot technology.

Paradise Valley Community College View School Profile Phoenix, AZ

Located in Phoenix, Paradise Valley Community College is one of the 10 schools that make up the Maricopa County Community College system. PVCC enrolls over 8,400 students, many of whom attend part time while maintaining job and family obligations. To cater to a working student population, PVCC offers ample financial assistance that includes scholarships for small business entrepreneurs and high school students pursuing dual enrollment.

Students can enroll in any one of 20 associate of applied science programs, including degrees in accounting, dietetic technology, emergency response and operations, and integrated public health. PVCC differentiates itself from other community colleges in Arizona by delivering associate programs in audio production technologies and music business. The latter track caters to working musicians and candidates who want to pursue careers in production and venue management. Students can also take advantage of distance learning options, which include fully online, hybrid, and guided independent learning classes facilitated by Canvas.

South Mountain Community College View School Profile Phoenix, AZ

South Mountain Community College was established in 1978 as part of the Maricopa County Community College District. Today, the school educates more than 6,000 students, many of whom are first-generation learners from minority communities. Nearly 50% of SMCC's students enroll with the intention of transferring to a four-year university. To help learners achieve this goal, the institution offers eight meta-major programs designed for easy transferability. Students can pursue associate training in areas like accounting, criminal justice, and psychology. They can also enroll in pre-professional tracks within the health sciences.

The college features conventional degrees in forensic science, mobile app programming, and early learning and development. Working professionals can bolster their skills for career advancement by earning certificates in business microfinance and organizational leadership. As one of the best community colleges in Arizona, SMCC offers affordable tuition rates based on residency status. Students also enjoy financial aid opportunities through the Stars Campaign and the MCCCD Foundation.

Estrella Mountain Community College View School Profile Avondale, AZ

Based in Avondale, Estrella Mountain Community College enrolls more than 11,000 students each year. The school operates two campuses and 50 academic programs. As a Hispanic Serving Institution, EMCC receives additional federal funds that enable the school to offer low tuition and generous financial aid. Students can apply for need- and merit-based awards, including the New Century Workforce Pathway Scholarship. Learners may also apply for the Maricopa Grant if they do not qualify for federal funding.

Candidates can earn certificates of completion in career-relevant areas like automated industrial technology, Microsoft server administration, fire investigation, and culinary studies. Alternatively, they can prepare to complete a bachelor's degree by obtaining an associate of general studies, business, or science. EMCC also offers three associate of fine arts programs in studio art, theater, and dance. The school enables students to personalize their academic training by pursuing specialty certificates areas like in interdisciplinary storytelling, sustainability and ec

Yavapai College View School Profile Prescott, AZ

Yavapai College opened its first campus in Prescott in 1968. Today, the school enrolls more than 11,600 students at six locations around the state. To attend YC, applicants must demonstrate U.S. citizenship and establish state residency, which requires at least 12 months of physical presence and a dedicated domicile. Prospective students also need to provide evidence of financial independence. YC's tuition prices are 29% less expensive than other community colleges in Arizona. The institution offers scholarships based on academic performance and tribal affiliation.

Through its six locations, YC delivers over 100 trade, academic transfer, and lifelong learning programs. Options include associate degrees in visual arts, hotel and restaurant management, paralegal studies, and radiology. Students can also enroll in an applied pre-engineering program to develop the core technical skills needed to complete a bachelor's degree in the field. For individuals who want to immediately translate their education into career opportunities, YC provides trade training in high-need areas like aviation, commercial driving, welding, machining, culinary arts, and fire science.

Chandler-Gilbert Community College View School Profile Chandler, AZ

Chandler-Gilbert Community College enrolls 20,000 students across its four campuses, making it one of the fastest-growing community colleges in Arizona. Prospective students need to possess a high school diploma or an equivalent from a regionally accredited school. They must also display academic potential through transcript details and placement test performance. Learners pay low tuition prices based on residency status. On top of federal aid, CGCC offers institutional awards, including scholarships for aviation and aircraft maintenance technology students.

CGCC has direct transfer agreements with three Arizona universities and multiple out-of-state institutions. Students can earn associate degrees in general business, computer science, fine arts, registered nursing, and teacher education. The college also operates engineering technology associate programs with concentrations like industrial engineering, biomedical sciences, and electrical systems. Certificate options include homeland security, sustainability, and women's studies. Candidates can also earn an emergency medical technology certificate, which allows them to pursue careers as first responders and healthcare administrators.

Glendale Community College View School Profile Glendale, AZ

Since its establishment in 1965, Glendale Community College has served over 500,000 students. As one of the best community colleges in Arizona, GCC delivers 60 academic programs. The school bases its low tuition rates on residency status and offers departmental scholarships for learners pursuing counseling, performing arts, nursing, and English degrees. GCC also features scholarships for students who want to transfer to any one of the partnering universities.

Learners pick from diverse associate of applied science tracks, which include accounting paraprofessional, automotive service, marketing and sales, and information security. They can also enroll in audio production technology programs with emphasis in either sound design or audio production. Furthermore, GCC offers university transfer tracks centered on elementary education, general studies, fine arts, and physical science. For candidates who want to pursue job entry after graduation, GCC offers occupational certificate training for industries like law enforcement, automotive service, and insurance studies. Students can also develop skills in Adobe foundations and iOS application development.

Scottsdale Community College View School Profile Scottsdale, AZ

Scottsdale Community College enrolls over 10,000 students in 100 degree and 60 certificate programs. SCC welcomes students of all backgrounds, operating an accessible admissions process that requires only that candidates pass the ACCUPLACER placement exam. The college waives this requirement if an applicant provides evidence of a high school diploma, GED, or adequate ACT scores. In partnership with the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, SCC offers comprehensive academic support and financial resources for Native American students.

Learners pick from associate programs in fields like political science, anthropology, physics, and web design technologies. SCC also offers an associate of equine science, which consists of coursework in stable management, relevant business laws, and veterinary training. The school delivers certification training in areas like personal training, law enforcement, tribal development, and practical nursing.

SCC is one of the few community colleges in Arizona to deliver bachelor's programs. By partnering with Northern Arizona University, SCC enables students to earn baccalaureate credentials on its campus. Bachelor's degree options include interior design, biology, elementary education, and hotel and restaurant management.

Pima Community College View School Profile Tucson, AZ

Based in Tucson, Pima Community College educates 42,000 students annually, offering degrees, certificates, workforce development opportunities, and continuing education programs. The school also delivers online classes through the Blackboard platform. Learners pay affordable tuition prices based on program type and residency status. On top of federal aid and veterans benefits, PCC provides institutional scholarships for high-achieving students, Pima County residents, and returning learners.

Students who want to complete their education at a four-year institution can enroll in associate transfer programs. Options include fashion design, business administration, early childhood education, sociology, and history. Learners who want to complete their core classes before declaring a major can enroll in the general studies program.

For individuals interested in immediate job placement, PCC offers career training in culinary and food service, medical office administration, and surgical technology. Similarly, active professionals can advance their careers by developing specialized skills in one of four workforce programs. Like other community colleges in Arizona, PCC delivers basic and continuing education classes.

Arizona Western College View School Profile Yuma, AZ

Located in Yuma, Arizona Western College offers more than 100 academic programs at 12 locations. Approximately 11,000 students attend AWC every year, many of whom reside on campus and engage with the school's seven competitive sports teams and 50 student clubs. To enroll, candidates submit an online application and complete placement testing. AWC bases tuition rates on residency status, with in-state residents enjoying the lowest rate. Discounts are available for certain students through the Colorado River Educational Compact and the Western Undergraduate Exchange.

AWC offers career and technical education programs in high-demand industries like radiologic technology, hospitality services, and homeland security. Students can also pursue training in welding, plumbing, and construction management. Additionally, the college offers on-campus and online workforce development education aimed at business and industry professionals. Through these courses, learners develop specialized skills like public speaking and county code enforcement. Consistent with other community colleges in Arizona, AWC provides diverse associate degree tracks leading to transfer opportunities with state universities.

Phoenix College View School Profile Phoenix, AZ

Founded in 1920, Phoenix College is the flagship school of the Maricopa Community College system. The institution enrolls over 17,000 students and delivers 150 academic programs, preparing candidates for university transfer, career training, and professional development. Learners can enroll in day, evening, or online classes, all of which come with affordable tuition prices and financial support. Funding opportunities include work-study positions, government grants, and private awards like the Diane H. Thomas Scholarship for candidates who plan to transfer into a four-year program.

PC offers occupational certificates in areas like medical laboratory science, dental assisting, and paramedicine. Students can pursue careers as entrepreneurs by earning certificates in organizational leadership or social media marketing. As one of the best community colleges in Arizona, PC also offers small business startup training, which covers financial operations, management concepts, and planning strategies. Candidates who want to earn associate credentials choose from diverse options like forensic science, fashion design, and exercise science with an emphasis in pre-physical therapy.

GateWay Community College View School Profile Phoenix, AZ

Based in Phoenix, GateWay Community College was established as the first technical school in Arizona. Today, the institution operates more than 150 academic degree and career training programs grounded in the needs of local industry and with support from community advisory committees. GWCC offers open admission that requires only that applicants provide identification, submit an online application, and complete placement testing. In addition to affordable tuition and FAFSA-facilitated awards, students benefit from institutional funding that includes craft training program scholarships.

GWCC delivers certificate programs in growing occupational fields like carpentry, medical billing and coding, and precision machining. Students interested in trade-oriented careers can also earn a certificate or associate credentials in automotive technology. Additional associate options consist of archaeology, cybersecurity, health services management, and production technology. GWCC is one of the few community colleges in Arizona to offer a bilingual nursing fellowship program that allows students to obtain both an associate degree and a nursing license within three years.

Mesa Community College View School Profile Mesa, AZ

Mesa Community College serves 21,000 students every year through multiple campuses and learning centers. The majority of MCC students enroll part time, taking advantage of flexible campus-based courses and over 500 online classes. The college delivers 30 remote certificate and degree tracks, enabling students to train in emergency management or earn a transferable associate of general studies.

The academic catalog contains additional associate programs in areas like accounting, multimedia technology, public relations, and sustainable agriculture. Candidates can also develop welding skills, preparing them to work in construction, urban planning, and manufacturing. MCC stands apart from other community colleges in Arizona by offering an associate of applied science in geospatial technologies. This 60- to 77-credit program includes classes in Java scripting, SQL server databases, and human geography.

High-achieving learners who want to pursue advanced academics can apply for the honors program. This opportunity lets them access customizable curricula, small-group learning, and one-on-one faculty advisement. Honors students also enjoy full tuition scholarships and study abroad stipends.

Central Arizona College View School Profile Coolidge, AZ

Central Arizona College maintains five campuses and three learning centers across Pinal County. The school delivers affordable and career-focused programs to a diverse student population, many of whom come from Hispanic and Native American backgrounds. CAC operates an open enrollment policy and low tuition rates based on residency status. Out-of-state students can access discounts through the Western Undergraduate Exchange.

Similar to other community colleges in Arizona, CAC offers university transfer programs. Students choose from associate degrees in arts, business, science, applied science, and general studies. Candidates who do not want to commit to a field of study may enroll in the general education curriculum. This certificate option fulfills all lower-division requirements and prepares students to transfer into bachelor's-completion tracks at public Arizona universities.

CAC also offers occupational certificates that enable learners to pursue entry-level employment. Options include equine management and training, paramedicine, firefighter operations, and massage therapy. Students can also earn certificates in general, structural, and pipe welding.

Northland Pioneer College View School Profile Holbrook, AZ

Northland Pioneer College serves over 7,000 students at four campuses and five learning centers located across Navajo and Apache counties. The school offers seven associate programs that guarantee transfer to public state universities. Learners can also enroll in 29 occupational associate programs and 67 certificate tracks. NPC provides affordable tuition rates based on residency status in addition to generous scholarships. Funding opportunities include awards specifically for accounting and automotive students.

As one of the best community colleges in Arizona, NPC offers free college-level classes to high school students within its service area. Juniors and seniors can complete coursework toward associate degrees and eventually transfer into bachelor's-completion programs. Alternatively, they may pursue career training in industries like computer information technology and cosmetology. The college also offers nursing assistant training that prepares candidates for immediate job entry or an RN program. Furthermore, NPC delivers distance education options that include online teaching courses with the lowest tuition price in the state.

Coconino Community College View School Profile Flagstaff, AZ

Located in Flagstaff, Coconino Community College enrolls 8,500 learners in over 50 occupational and academic programs. CCC supports a student population that largely consists of rural inhabitants and members of the Navajo, Hopi and Supai tribes. To meet the needs of its diverse learners, the college offers flexible in-person courses, interactive television classes, and distance education options. Students pay affordable tuition rates based on where they reside, with in-county residents benefiting from the lowest price.

The school offers career-focused certificate programs in areas like hotel and restaurant services, fire science, and construction technology. CCC is one of the few community colleges in Arizona to deliver two levels of environmental technology certificates that emphasize alternative energy. Coursework covers topics like solar water heater systems, photovoltaics and wind energy, and house wiring. Similarly, learners can enroll in an associate program in sustainable green building, taking classes in solar greenhouse design and rainwater harvest systems. Additional associate programs include prehealth, sociology, and American Sign Language interpretation.

Rio Salado College View School Profile Tempe, AZ

Rio Salado College enrolls 52,000 students in campus-based and remote learning programs. The school offers 50 certificates and degrees as well as more than 500 online classes. Courses start every Monday, enabling traditional students and working professionals to begin their education on their own schedule. RSC bases its low tuition prices on residency status and offers discounts to military personnel, formerly incarcerated persons, and students eligible for the Western Undergraduate Exchange.

Consistent with other community colleges in Arizona, RSC features transfer-focused associate programs in liberal arts, science, business, and elementary education. Students can also earn a two-year degree in general studies that prepares them for specialized training at the baccalaureate level. Due to the school's emphasis on distance education, the majority of RSC's programming is online. Options include entrepreneurial studies, nanotechnology, and military leadership. Distance learners can also enroll in dental assisting and hygiene programs. Furthermore, the college delivers teacher education training that includes residency programs, endorsement options, and professional development opportunities.

Mohave Community College View School Profile Kingman, AZ

Based in Kingman, Mohave Community College serves over 6,000 students annually. On top of an accessible admissions process, the school offers one of the lowest tuition rates among community colleges in Arizona. MCC also provides financial aid, which includes scholarships for Mohave County high school students. Additionally, learners benefit from comprehensive academic resources and career services.

The academic catalog contains over 40 program options, including certificates in practical nursing, paralegal, and healthcare information technology. Students can pursue an HVAC certificate, with options for residential work and commercial refrigeration. The school also features opportunities in automotive service technology and collision repair.

MCC operates a robust distance education platform that offers fully asynchronous and hybrid classes. Learners can pursue online associate degrees in fields like administration of justice, accounting, history, and computer graphics and web design. Students can also earn an associate of substance abuse counseling, which prepares them for careers in health education, correctional treatment, mental health counseling, and social work.

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