Best Community Colleges in California
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California's community colleges make up the largest higher education system in the U.S. About 2.1 million students attend 116 community colleges in California.
Students choose to attend community colleges for various reasons. Many want to earn an associate degree or an industry-specific certificate. Other learners hope to reduce educational costs by attending a community college for two years before transferring to earn a bachelor's degree.
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Many in California have worked to raise awareness about the benefits of a two-year education and believe it should be available to everyone. California's community colleges also boast some famous former students, including actor and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, NFL star Aaron Rodgers, and writer Amy Tan.
Read on to learn more about community colleges in California and what they have to offer.
Ranking compiled by the BestColleges Ranking Team
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Top 10 Community Colleges in California
|#1||Irvine Valley College Irvine, CA|
|#2||Moorpark College Moorpark, CA|
|#3||Mt San Antonio College Walnut, CA|
|#4||Las Positas College Livermore, CA|
|#5||Diablo Valley College Pleasant Hill, CA|
|#6||Imperial Valley College Imperial, CA|
|#7||Santiago Canyon College Orange, CA|
|#8||De Anza College Cupertino, CA|
|#9||Pasadena City College Pasadena, CA|
|#10||Hartnell College Salinas, CA|
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Our rankings are grounded in a few guiding principles and use the latest statistical data available from trusted sources. Read our ranking methodology. We hope our approach helps you find the school that is best for you.
Why Study in California?
Educational OpportunitiesCalifornia's community colleges offer more than 200 programs. These programs give students options to reach a variety of desired goals.
Some learners want to earn an associate degree. Others want to complete general education requirements before transferring to a four-year university. For these students, the system offers the Associate Degree for Transfer program. This guarantees admission and a saved spot at participating universities in California.
Another program, the College Promise Grant, waives enrollment fees for qualified students. Many students at community colleges in California get financial aid to help with school costs.
EconomyCalifornia boasts the highest gross domestic product in the nation. This number reveals the total market value of goods and services produced in a given year. It is a common indicator of economic strength.
According to Bloomberg, since April 2020, California's surging economy resulted in 1.3 million new non-farm payroll jobs and $164 billion in increased household income.
Cost of LivingCalifornia ranked third in CNBC's 2021 list of the most expensive states to live in, topped only by Hawaii and New York. However, keep in mind that California's cost of living varies dramatically between its different counties and cities.
For instance, it is typically less expensive to live in Los Angeles than San Francisco. Additionally, it costs significantly less to live in the eastern valleys than it does to live in coastal cities. Due to its large size and diversity, the state can accommodate individuals on a wide variety of budgets.
Cultural and Community Offerings
California is home to some of the nation's most famous attractions. The Golden Gate Bridge, Yosemite National Park, Disneyland, and Big Sur are all found within its borders.
The state also has culturally diverse neighborhoods and thriving artistic communities. California offers street fairs, concerts, and a legion of culturally rich community programs and events.
Additionally, California contains 840 miles of beaches and some of the tallest trees on Earth. It also shares the largest alpine lake in North America. California can be an ideal home for nature enthusiasts.
ClimateMuch of California enjoys a temperate, Mediterranean-like climate — dry, hot summers and mild winters. Beach communities in the northern part of the state typically see daytime temperatures in the 70s, with a morning blanket of fog in the summer months.
In the mountains, Californians can experience all four seasons. And those living in the deserts can see temperatures that reach above 100 degrees. Depending on where they attend school, students may need to pack an array of clothing options, from lightweight shorts and tees to warmer wear.
Top Degree Programs in California
California Employment Outlook
Many states are in the process of recovering from the effects of the pandemic, and California is no exception. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), California added 804,900 jobs in 2021 — the largest job increase in the nation. Industries experiencing the most significant growth include hospitality, education, health, information, and business services.
According to California's Employment Development Department, some of the state's fastest-growing occupations between 2018 and 2028 are projected to include solar energy technician, occupational and physical therapy assistant, and respiratory therapist. Many of these roles require an associate degree or other type of postsecondary training.
|Occupation||Annual Median Salary (as of May 2020)||Job Outlook|
|Respiratory Therapist||$62,810||The BLS projects 19% job growth between 2019 and 2029. Respiratory therapists examine, treat, and perform diagnostic tests on patients experiencing trouble breathing. These professionals may test oxygen levels, perform chest physiotherapy, and connect patients to ventilators. They also may treat premature infants with undeveloped lungs and elderly patients with chronic lung diseases. Typically, respiratory therapists work in hospitals, though some provide home care.|
|Physical Therapy Assistant||$59,770||The BLS projects 33% job growth between 2019 and 2029. Physical therapy assistants work under the supervision of a physical therapist. They may treat patients recovering from injuries by helping them perform exercises or through the use of massage, gait and balance training, and other therapeutic measures. These professionals work in various settings, including hospitals, nursing care facilities, and private practices.|
|Occupational Therapy Assistant||$62,940||The BLS projects 35% job growth between 2019 and 2029. Occupational therapy assistants work under the direction of an occupational therapist. These professionals assist patients who have lost the ability to perform daily functions due to disabilities, injuries, or illnesses. For example, they may help patients perform exercises or teach them how to use special equipment. Occupational therapy assistants work in numerous fields, including pediatrics, mental health, and rehabilitation.|
|Solar Photovoltaic Installers||$46,470||The BLS projects 52% job growth between 2019 and 2029. Solar photovoltaic (PV) installers, also called solar energy technicians, install and maintain solar panel systems. While not always mandatory for employment, earning certification or a degree in this field can demonstrate competency. Some states require certification for PV installers working on projects qualifying for solar-related subsidies.|
|Diagnostic Medical Sonographers||$75,920||The BLS projects 17% job growth between 2019 and 2029. Diagnostic medical sonographers create images, known as sonograms or ultrasounds, of the body's tissues and organs. They may specialize in different parts of the body, such as the abdomen, heart, and breast. These professionals also can work with specific populations, such as the elderly, children, and pregnant women.|
Popular Career Paths in California
Political Science Business Administration Child Development Public Policy Healthcare Administration History Philosophy Sports Medicine Mechanical Engineering
Best Accredited Community Colleges in California
Frequently Asked Questions About Community Colleges in California
How many community colleges are there in California?
There are 116 community colleges in California. These colleges enroll 25% of all community college students in the U.S.
How much does it cost to go to a community college in California?
Community colleges in California charge the lowest tuition rates in the nation at $46 per credit for in-state students. This amounts to $1,380 per year for full-time students taking 30 credits. Additional costs may include books, parking, and room and board. Out-of-state students paid approximately $7,730 in annual tuition in 2021.
Does California offer free community college?
California's community colleges offer financial aid that may waive tuition for income-eligible students and full-time, first-time students.
How do I pay for college in California?
Community colleges in California offer various financial aid options, including funds that help pay for tuition, books, and even rent. In addition, grants, scholarships, and work-study programs may provide additional aid. Students must submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for consideration. Federal student loans may also be used to help fund college.