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August 19, 2021

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In May 2018, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the top 10 employment fields for Hawaii residents included office and administrative support, management, and sales-related occupations. Also, as the state continues to experience low unemployment, employers are expected to raise wages and improve benefits to attract new employees. However, career placement in these fields usually requires an associate or bachelor's degree. To advance your education without going into debt, consider earning a degree from a community college in Hawaii. Community colleges award associate degrees and professional certificates, while four-year schools also offer bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees.

Top 5 Community Colleges in Hawaii

#1 Leeward Community College Pearl City, HI
#2 Kapiolani Community College Honolulu, HI
#3 Kauai Community College Lihue, HI
#4 Hawaii Community College Hilo, HI
#5 Honolulu Community College Honolulu, HI

Community colleges in Hawaii boast lower tuition -- sometimes more than 50% lower -- than four-year public and private schools. Also, most associate degrees at Hawaii community colleges transfer seamlessly to in-state, four-year public schools. To help you start your college search, we created a ranking of the best community colleges in Hawaii. These five schools offer excellent academic programs, online learning options for students who live on a different Hawaiian island, and valuable students support services (e.g., career centers). Finally, because community college teachers focus primarily on teaching -- in contrast to professors at four-year schools who have many other responsibilities -- they can provide you with ample individualized instruction and one-on-one support.

As you review this ranking, please keep in mind that even though these schools have many outstanding qualities, they may lack the specific academic program or student support services you need to succeed. As you learn more about each school, write down the aspects that attract you. This way, you can identify other schools and programs that might better align with your academic and career goals.

Best Community Colleges in Hawaii

Leeward Community College View School Profile Pearl City, HI

Part of the University of Hawai'i System, Leeward CC boasts 20 programs of study, including liberal arts, automotive technology, and culinary arts. Most fields offer both an associate degree and certificate program. Certificate programs provide part-time tracks that students can complete in just two years. Full-time students earning an associate degree on campus can also graduate in two years.

Leeward CC features an online AA degree in liberal arts that transfers to the University of Hawai'i at Manoa. The college also boasts over two dozen online certificates in subjects such as business essentials, teaching, and travel industry management. Online programs at this community college in Hawaii are delivered through accelerated five-week courses. Unlike on-campus associate programs, the online AA requires 2.5 years.

Leeward CC -- like all community colleges in this ranking -- accepts students who hold a GED certificate. The University of Hawai'i System awards multiple scholarships each year to eligible students. Incoming degree-seekers should submit the UH System Common Scholarship Application.

Kapiolani Community College View School Profile Honolulu, HI

Situated in eastern Honolulu, KCC educates nearly 7,000 students on campus and online. Many of the college's academic programs align with the state's largest employment sectors, including tourism, education, and nursing. Along with associate degrees, the university offers nine non-credit certificate programs in fields such as massage therapy, phlebotomy, and surgical technology.

Students can select from more than 200 online courses each semester. Learners earning a degree entirely online or in a hybrid format at this Hawaii community college benefit from online tutoring, testing, and technology resources. Alumni can use the college's Employment Prep Center to receive resume critiques and practice interviewing skills. Finally, high school students in the Honolulu area can participate in the college's dual-credit program.

Prospective students can apply for the fall or spring semester, and KCC exempts Hawaii residents and active-duty military personnel from paying an admission fee. Incoming degree-seekers take COMPASS placement tests to determine their initial English and math courses. Finally, students may qualify for one of four institutional scholarships.

Kauai Community College View School Profile Lihue, HI

With 18 programs of study, Kaua'i CC prepares students for a variety of careers, including medical assistants, nurses, and beekeepers. This community college in Hawaii also boasts a strong relationship with the local community. For example, the school hosts at least two public events each month that include lectures and speakers.

Distance learning at Kaua'i CC may appeal to degree-seekers who live in rural Hawaii, want to earn a degree in a hybrid format, or have other responsibilities such as a full-time job or family. Kaua'i CC online students can take any online course offered by the University of Hawai'i System -- a boon for learners who plan to transfer to a bachelor's completion program.

Advisors at the Veterans' Support Centers work with veterans one-on-one to ensure that relevant military training can count toward certificate or degree requirements. Like all public colleges in Hawaii, Kaua'i CC offers exclusive scholarship and grant opportunities for Native Hawaiians. Also, Hawaii residents ages 60 and older do not pay tuition.

Hawaii Community College View School Profile Hilo, HI

With campuses in Hilo and Kailua Kona, Hawai'i CC holds a special relationship with the University of Hawai'i at Hilo; community college students can access academic, library, and career services offered by the larger four-year university. The college's 28 programs of study include agriculture, business technology, and tropical forest ecosystem and agroforestry management. Students can pursue certificates of competence and achievement. Certificate of achievement programs accept students with some career experience.

Although Hawai'i CC does not offer online programs itself, degree-seekers at the school can still take online courses through the Hawai'i Community College System. Distance education learners can access online tutoring, proctoring, and IT services.

Like all community colleges in Hawaii, in-state students save approximately 66% on tuition compared to out-of-state students. However, students pay a higher tuition rate if they take courses during the summer term. Incoming degree-seekers should apply for financial aid by the March 1 deadline.

Honolulu Community College View School Profile Honolulu, HI

At Honolulu CC, degree-seekers and certificate-seekers can select from more than two dozen programs of study. The college's five liberal arts associate programs -- Hawaiian studies, natural sciences, Asian studies, communication, and psychology -- transfer to four-year public schools in Hawaii.

Honolulu CC boasts affordable online programs where in-state students pay a fraction of the tuition that four-year public universities charge. All prospective online learners take a readiness assessment before enrolling. This community college in Hawaii delivers courses through five-week sessions.

Honolulu CC accepts new students in the fall, spring, and summer semesters. Incoming degree-seekers can submit standardized test scores to fulfill Honolulu CC's placement testing requirements. Learners interested in a college-funded scholarship should submit all materials by the March 9 deadline.

Click here to see the best colleges in Hawaii.
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