Higher education enrollment continues to grow in the United States as more students recognize the need for specialized training to access lucrative career opportunities. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the undergraduate student population is expected to grow from 16.8 million in 2017 to 17.2 million in 2028. Professionals with college credentials typically enjoy better job prospects and higher pay. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that associate degree-holders earn an average of $7,000 more each year than individuals with only high school diplomas.
Diverse academic options are available to meet the needs of all students. For individuals who do not want to pursue bachelor's training immediately after high school, community colleges provide viable alternatives in the form of transfer-oriented associate tracks. These programs allow learners to complete general education courses flexibly and affordably. Two-year schools also deliver technical training for trade occupations, preparing graduates for high-demand roles in areas like construction, hospitality, and agriculture.
Best Community Colleges in Iowa
- Eastern Iowa Community College District - Davenport,IA
- North Iowa Area Community College - Mason City,IA
- Southeastern Community College - West Burlington,IA
- Northwest Iowa Community College - Sheldon,IA
- Southwestern Community College - Creston,IA
- Northeast Iowa Community College - Calmar,IA
- Iowa Lakes Community College - Estherville,IA
- Marshalltown Community College - Marshalltown,IA
- Indian Hills Community College - Ottumwa,IA
- Des Moines Area Community College - Ankeny,IA
- Kirkwood Community College - Cedar Rapids,IA
- Western Iowa Tech Community College - Sioux City,IA
- Hawkeye Community College - Waterloo,IA
- Ellsworth Community College - Iowa Falls,IA
- Iowa Central Community College - Fort Dodge,IA
However, the large number of program choices may be overwhelming as you begin your college research. To help guide your search, this page highlights the 15 best community colleges in Iowa. This ranking provides information on program offerings, tuition rates, financial aid, and student resources. Furthermore, each profile covers general admission policies. If a school interests you, contact their admissions department for more information.
By attending a community college in Iowa, you stand to benefit from the state's growing economy. The Hawkeye State features ample career opportunities in the manufacturing and healthcare industries, and BLS data shows that Iowa's unemployment rate sits at 2.5% (as of September 2019), which is well below the national average of 3.5%. The state also boasts a low cost of living. PayScale reveals that even in urban centers like Des Moines, living expenses are 10% less expensive than the national average.
Ranking the Best Community Colleges in Iowa
Eastern Iowa Community College District
|Davenport, IA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 38%||
Eastern Iowa Community Colleges comprise three schools located in Clinton, Muscatine, and Bettendorf. Together, these colleges enroll over 8,000 students in transferable associate and career credit programs. EICC maintains formal articulation agreements with 22 universities in and around Iowa. Students can earn associate credentials in fields like business management, agriculture, and language interpretation. They may also enroll in an RN-to-BSN track. In addition to campus-based learning, students can pursue distance education facilitated by the Canvas platform.
These community colleges in Iowa support working professionals by offering flexible degree plans that combine evening classes with online coursework. Through this hybrid format, students can earn an associate of arts or an associate of applied science. EICC delivers 33 career training programs, with options in human services, construction, and information technology. Candidates can also earn certificates for culinary arts and hospitality management.
For working professionals, EICC facilitates career advancement through developmental training in topics such as workplace conflict resolution, business writing, and Six Sigma Green Belt.
North Iowa Area Community College
|Mason City, IA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 47%||
Based in Mason City, North Iowa Area Community College was founded in 1918 and is the oldest community college in Iowa. The school is nationally ranked for its accessible and career-relevant certificates and associate degrees.
Applicants submit a free online application and furnish official academic transcripts. While NIACC does not maintain SAT/ACT standards for enrollment, students do need to meet minimums to access the President's Scholarship. Learners benefit from low tuition prices and a generous transfer policy that allows them to earn credit for career achievements, military training, volunteer positions, and even relevant personal experience.
NIACC delivers over 40 programs in six broad areas of study. For example, students can pursue agricultural education training, earning a generalist diploma or an associate degree in agriculture marketing and finance. The school also delivers business programs, including associate credentials for information assurance and security, sport management, and visual communication. For students interested in healthcare careers, NIACC provides programming in areas like radiologic technology, nursing, and physical fitness and wellness.
Southeastern Community College
|West Burlington, IA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 37%||
Southeastern Community College is located in West Burlington and supports over 2,500 students. In addition to academic transfer options and technical career training, SCC offers dual enrollment to high school juniors and seniors through its Jumpstart initiative. This program enables learners to complete general education classes. Alternatively, high school students can pursue specialized training in construction technology, welding, industrial maintenance, and automotive technology.
For students interested in associate-level academics, SCC delivers transferable credentials in criminal justice, the physical sciences, and business administration. The college also operates two nursing programs: a diploma track that prepares candidates to work as licensed practical nurses and an associate track for registered nursing.
SCC also stands out from other community colleges in Iowa by offering training in agronomy and row crop operations. This program combines traditional classes with hands-on field experience. Additional certificate options include medical scribe, animal science, and entrepreneurship. SCC provides affordable tuition prices based on residency status and program type.
Northwest Iowa Community College
|Sheldon, IA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 65%||
Northwest Iowa Community College serves four counties in the geographical center of the state. The school enrolls about 1,700 students in more than 40 academic and career training programs. As one of the best community colleges in Iowa, NCC boasts a high success rate, and nearly all graduates find gainful employment. The school offers low tuition rates, with marginal differences based on where a student resides. Financial aid is available through federal funding, state grants, and institutional scholarships.
NCC delivers transfer majors and pre-professional programs for students who intend to pursue advanced academics. Transfer majors include criminal justice and psychology, while pre-professional programs cover fields like accounting, early childhood development, and environmental science. Learners can also enroll in a pre-professional program for mortuary science. Additional programs consist of heavy equipment operations and maintenance, computer network security, and engineering design. NCC delivers online and hybrid programs in nursing and business management.
Southwestern Community College
|Creston, IA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 45%||
Headquartered in Creston, Southwestern Community College supports over 1,500 students through its academic transfer, technical certificate, and continuing education programs. SWCC provides accessible academics, offering more than 400 online and hybrid classes powered by Canvas. Learners can also earn associate degrees remotely, with options in accounting, business administration, and agricultural management. Additionally, the college offers flexible evening classes at three locations, allowing students to obtain an associate of arts by taking classes one or two nights per week.
SWCC's program catalog contains one-year diploma options in areas like auto collision repair and industrial technology. Students who want to pursue trade careers can also train in carpentry and building technology, preparing to work as contractors and business owners. Additional programming is available in the areas of advanced welding, office administration, and nursing education. Like other community colleges in Iowa, SWCC offers dual enrollment and continuing education opportunities. All students have access to affordable tuition and institutional scholarships.
Northeast Iowa Community College
|Calmar, IA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 44%||
Northeast Iowa Community College serves more than 4,500 students across its eight-county service area. The school offers diverse academic and technical programming at its main campus in Calmar, and students can pursue distance education by taking individual online classes or enrolling in remote certificate and diploma programs. NICC also facilitates fully online associate tracks in business, criminal justice, finance, and health information technology.
Students who want to engage with campus-based learning can enroll in certificate pathways for industrial sewing and building construction. They can also prepare for health sciences occupations like pharmacy technician, health support professional, and certified nurse aide. NICC is one of the few community colleges in Iowa to provide a construction management diploma, with an emphasis on lumber products and wholesale supply distribution.
Additional diploma options prepare individuals to work as dental assistants or commercial-residential electricians. In addition to affordable academics, NICC supports students by providing tutoring and career services. The school also offers daycare through its childhood development center.
Iowa Lakes Community College
|Estherville, IA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 55%||
Chartered in 1966, Iowa Lakes Community College enrolls about 2,000 students in over 40 certificate, diploma, and associate programs. The school offers flexible evening classes, distance education options, and adult education and literacy programs. Through its Career Connect initiative, Iowa Lakes delivers dual-enrollment courses for public and private high school students. These classes center on technical and trade skills related to wind energy, aviation management, and HVAC.
For learners who want to complete their education at a partnering university, Iowa Lakes offers transfer options in areas like animal science, arts management, biology, and computer science. Candidates can also pursue a pre-law track.
Iowa Lakes also sets itself apart from other community colleges in Iowa by delivering bachelor's completion tracks, where students may complete upper-level baccalaureate classes at any Iowa Lakes campus.
The school bases its low tuition prices on residency status. Iowa Lakes provides private scholarships to over 80% of its students, with additional opportunities for government assistance.
Marshalltown Community College
|Marshalltown, IA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 37%||
As part of the Iowa Valley Community College District, Marshalltown Community College bolsters the economic vitality of surrounding areas by providing over 80 affordable academic transfer and career training opportunities. MCC supports approximately 2,000 students, delivering low tuition prices and hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual scholarships. The college also facilitates veterans benefits and grants transfer credit through prior learning assessments.
MCC offers programs in six areas, including humanities, health occupations, and social sciences. Students who want to train in the skilled trades can pick from options like welding, culinary arts, and gunsmith technology. They can also earn a diploma or associate degree in automotive repair technology; these graduates are qualified to earn professional certification from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence.
Learners who want to work in business may enroll in administrative, accounting, and marketing programs. MCC also provides an interdisciplinary track for e-commerce and web page development. Undecided students can opt for the liberal arts associate program, which offers a direct path to baccalaureate transfer. Like many other community colleges in Iowa, MCC provides distance education through Blackboard.
Indian Hills Community College
|Ottumwa, IA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 35%||
Indian Hills Community College is located in Ottumwa and enrolls about 4,000 students each semester. Committed to the cultural and economic prosperity of the local community, IHCC offers campus-based and distance education programming. The school features over 250 online classes in general education topics, health information technology, and medical/insurance coding. Learners can also complete classes from IHCC's Aviation Ground School entirely online before undergoing practical training.
IHCC focuses its associate programs on three broad areas: advanced technologies, arts and sciences, and health sciences. Health sciences options include degree tracks for occupational therapy, respiratory care, and nutrition. Students can also enroll in an associate program in health information technology that boasts a 100% graduation rate and an 89% job placement rate.
Additional associate programs include public relations, athletic coaching, and geospatial technology. IHCC also offers a two-year track in cybersecurity administration, which enables candidates to access some of the fastest-growing jobs in the United States.
Des Moines Area Community College
|Ankeny, IA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 29%||
As one of the largest community colleges in Iowa, Des Moines Area Community College supports over 23,000 students every year. Prospective learners enjoy an easy application process, in which they submit a free online application and complete an academic assessment. In addition to overseeing transfer programs with partnering universities, DMACC facilitates reverse crediting; students who earned community college credits before attending a four-year institution can transfer back to DMACC to complete their associate credentials at little cost.
Learners can pick from 200 certificate, diploma, and associate programs in 12 areas of interest. Options include watershed technology, civil engineering, crime scene investigation, and hospitality business. DMACC also provides a horticulture program, with concentrations in plant reproduction, greenhouse production, and arboriculture. Additionally, the college operates a liberal arts transfer track for undecided students.
Iowa residents and online students benefit from the lowest tuition rates. Students can apply for state grants, work-study positions, and over 350 institutional scholarships.
Kirkwood Community College
|Cedar Rapids, IA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 29%||
Located in Cedar Rapids, Kirkwood Community College serves about 14,000 students. The school offers over 120 certificates, diplomas, and associate degrees. Learners can take classes at any one of Kirkwood's seven campuses or online. Distance learning options include individual remote courses and full programs in areas like project management, water environmental technology, and paralegal studies. Kirkwood also provides adult accelerated tracks that combine self-paced online coursework with flexible campus-based classes.
Like other community colleges in Iowa, Kirkwood delivers a liberal arts associate program for students who want to transfer to a state university. Programs are also available in fields like information technology, engineering and mathematics, and public services. Learners interested in trade and manufacturing careers can pursue training in plumbing technology, HVAC installation, and automotive collision repair.
Kirkwood facilitates study abroad opportunities all over the world, such as a global marketing program in Scotland, cultural anthropology trips to Mexico, and a global health education program in Ghana.
Western Iowa Tech Community College
|Sioux City, IA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 30%||
Western Iowa Tech Community College works to improve the student experience and economically enhance Sioux City and the surrounding communities. Learners benefit from affordable tuition rates, with marginal differences in prices based on residency status and program type.
The college offers seven types of institutional scholarships and participates in the GAP Tuition Assistance program, which financially supports continuing education candidates. WITCC stands apart from many other community colleges in Iowa by delivering comprehensive resources for special education students through its Project SUCCESS initiative.
For students who want to earn a transfer-focused associate degree, options include business administration, sociology, sports medicine, and addictions counseling. WITCC also offers an early childhood education track that prepares students for teacher training. The college operates additional associate programs in agribusiness technology, technical business management, and correctional police science.
Certificate and diploma programs cover areas like construction and manufacturing. Students can train for high-need positions like auto mechanic, electrician, residential plumber, and industrial drafter.
Hawkeye Community College
|Waterloo, IA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 26%||
Based in Waterloo, Hawkeye Community College supports more than 25,000 learners by offering technical diplomas and transferable associate degrees. Prospective students complete an online application and undergo required assessment testing facilitated by ACCUPLACER. Both state residents and out-of-state students enjoy affordable tuition rates and financial aid opportunities. Awards include scholarships for military personnel, students with disabilities, and early childhood educators.
Like other community colleges in Iowa, Hawkeye offers a liberal arts transfer plan. Students in this program complete general education courses and guided electives to earn an associate of arts or science. The college maintains articulation agreements with public and private universities in the state, enabling graduates to complete their bachelor's education efficiently and at a lower cost.
For learners interested in trade and technical education, Hawkeye delivers programs in fields like agricultural power technology, sustainable construction and design, and veterinary assisting. Students can also learn about welding technology and earn credentials recognized by the American Welding Society.
Ellsworth Community College
|Iowa Falls, IA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 34%||
Ellsworth Community College was founded in 1890 as a private business school. Today, the institution operates within the Iowa Valley Community College District and serves over 1,000 students every semester. ECC provides career-relevant certificate, diploma, and associate programs at its two campuses.
Students access distance education classes through Blackboard, and they can earn an associate of arts entirely online. Candidates can personalize the curriculum by pursuing concentrations like accounting, human services, secondary education, and social work. Like other community colleges in Iowa, ECC provides a liberal arts/general education track for undecided students.
Learners who want to attend campus-based programs choose from eight broad fields of study. Candidates can enroll in agriculture and natural resources programs, with options in animal science, conservation technology, and equine science and management. They may also cultivate specialized skills in business computer applications, athletic training, and retail merchandising. Outside the classroom, ECC students can join 12 campus clubs to access networking and professional development opportunities.
Iowa Central Community College
|Fort Dodge, IA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 32%||
Iowa Central Community College is located in Fort Dodge and serves approximately 5,400 students. The school provides affordable and flexible academic opportunities in the form of adult basic education, college transfer courses, and career and technical training. Iowa Central bases its low tuition rates on residency status, with discounts available to residents of neighboring states. All learners can access financial support, such as government funding based on need and institutional scholarships for high academic performance.
For students interested in career programs, Iowa Central offers certificates and diplomas in growing industries like computer networking, emergency medical services, and industrial robotics and automation. Individuals can also learn about electrical and mechanical technology, which combines classroom instruction with hands-on skill development through apprenticeships. Additionally, the college operates programs for practical and registered nursing. As one of the best community colleges in Iowa, Iowa Central further supports students by providing online classes and career services.