Best Community Colleges in Iowa
The higher education experts at BestColleges have reviewed the top community colleges in the state of Iowa. Start planning for your future today.
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Community colleges nationwide train students for their entry-level jobs while keeping open the option of four-year programs. In this way, they provide a substantial access point into bachelor's programs at four-year universities and colleges. Many prospective students prefer community colleges for their first two years of postsecondary education thanks to greater affordability and flexibility.
Iowa's community colleges offer numerous technical and vocational courses, which prepare graduates to gain immediate employment in Iowa's chief industries — especially agriculture and manufacturing. In addition to these programs, community colleges in Iowa also offer basic education programs, professional training, and skill development courses for adult students.
Why Study in Iowa?
Iowa's community colleges offer programs that fall under three major areas of instruction: adult education, vocational and technical education, and college parallel programs.
These offerings include training programs for business and industry, developmental services for underprepared students, programs for individuals in correctional facilities, and special programs for students with disabilities. Community colleges in Iowa also offer incubation centers to assist the development of small businesses.
Although often viewed as a farming state, Iowa maintains a diversified economy thanks to its wealth of natural soil, advanced technology, and world-class educational system. The largest sector of Iowa's economy is the manufacturing industry. Chief sectors in manufacturing include agricultural chemicals, heavy machinery, and food processing.
The state has also seen massive growth in the organic farming sector in recent years. It also rates highly in other economic areas, such as the cost of doing business, business friendliness, technology, and innovation. Additionally, Iowa houses a strong financial and insurance sector.
Cost of Living
According to Payscale, the cost of living in Des Moines — Iowa's capital city — was 10% lower than the national average as of January 2022. Larger expenses, such as those related to housing, transportation, groceries, and utilities, fall below the national average. Although buying a house in Iowa can still be expensive, students can rent properties at comparatively affordable rates.
Cultural and Community Offerings
The culture of Iowa relies heavily on agriculture. Rural towns dot its landscape. Owing to the topography, many Iowans indulge in fishing, hunting, boating, and biking as their main leisure activities.
Through various resources, the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs strives to boost the creative economy and sustain distinct, culturally vibrant communities. Along with the Department of Education, these departments collaborate with community colleges to showcase and encourage Iowa's art, history, and culture.
Iowa experiences a humid continental climate. Throughout the state of Iowa, people witness extreme climates with long, warm, and humid summers and windy, snowy, and freezing winters. On average, Iowa witnesses 50 days of thunderstorm activity every year. Heat and humidity define Iowan summers, with the severe weather season following a relatively short spring.
Top Degree Programs in Iowa
Featured Online Programs
Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.
Iowa Employment Outlook
Career fields such as information technology and advanced manufacturing offer many of the fastest-growing jobs in Iowa. Manufacturing is a chief industry, putting forth a large demand for a skilled workforce.
Popular occupations in the state include family medicine physicians, health specialties teachers, postsecondary, physician assistants, actuaries, nurse practitioners, software developers, and information security analysts. As of 2019, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, Iowa households earned a median annual income of $60,523 — slightly below the median annual income in the U.S. ($62,843).
3 Iowa Jobs In Demand for 2022
Wind Turbine Service Technician
The role involves routine maintenance of wind turbines. Service technicians inspect the physical integrity of wind turbine towers, replace and repair wind turbine equipment, and collect turbine data for testing, research, and analysis. They also test and troubleshoot electrical, mechanical, and hydraulic systems.
- U.S. Median Annual Salary (2020): $58,830
- Job Growth Projection (2018-2028): 45%
Occupational Therapy Assistant
These assistants collaborate with occupational therapists to carry out activities and exercises designed for the client. While occupational therapists compose the treatment plan according to the client's needs, therapy assistants monitor exercises to ensure accuracy in performance. They also record changes in the client's progress and provide encouragement.
- U.S. Median Annual Salary (2020): $56,000
- Job Growth Projection (2018-2028): 36%
Actuaries rely on mathematics, statistics, and financial theory to determine the financial costs associated with risk and uncertainty. They primarily work for insurance companies, banks, and financial firms as full-time employees or consultants to help assess the risks of potential events and develop policies to minimize the costs of those risks.
- U.S. Median Annual Salary (2020): $97,580
- Job Growth Projection (2018-2028): 32%
Best Accredited Community Colleges in Iowa
Rankings compiled by the BestColleges Ranking Team
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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.
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 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 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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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 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 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.
Frequently Asked Questions About Community Colleges in Iowa
Community colleges can provide a much more affordable and accessible alternative to four-year colleges and universities. They are adaptable to different financial and academic needs and offer student support services for nontraditional students.
For students keen on getting a head start on becoming part of the workforce, community colleges are a reliable alternative for vocational training for entry-level jobs. For nontraditional students, community colleges may be preferable due to the flexible pace of learning. Smaller class sizes also allow for personalized attention. Additionally, students who wish to embark on traditional higher education paths can earn transfer credits.
As of the 2021-22 academic year, Iowa Central's tuition rate for students from the state of Iowa is a flat rate of $6,000 per year and $3,000 per semester. For qualifying students from border states, the flat rate is $6,200 per year and $3,100 per semester. Out-of-state and international students pay $8,650 per year.
Iowa's 15 community colleges offer a variety of degrees and programs throughout various cities. Locally governed by elected boards of directors, these colleges offer comprehensive educational programs approved by the state's education board.
In the state of Iowa, all students of postsecondary school age can attend community colleges. These colleges also offer special programs for students who attended local secondary schools. Many community colleges work together and in collaboration with local businesses and industries, community organizations, and state agencies to adapt community college curricula to match the developmental and skill needs of the state.
Des Moines Area Community College is the biggest community college in the state of Iowa. DMACC enrolls more than 23,000 students annually, and 98% of recent graduates are either employed or pursuing further education. The college offers more than 200 degree, diploma, and certificate programs at 12 campuses and learning centers.
Iowa Central offers on-campus living with 15 apartment-style buildings. The annual room and board cost at ICCC in 2021-22 is $7,130, which includes housing amenities. The campus houses traditional rooms (two students per room), dorm-style rooms (2-4 students), and apartment-style options (2-5 students).
Facilities and services include a furnished kitchen, personal desks for individual students, a wireless internet system, 19 meals per week, laundry facilities on each floor, dressers for each student, and a membership to the on-campus rec center.
Iowa Lakes Community College is the most expensive community college in Iowa. The student tuition for Iowa residents costs $191 per credit for the 2021-22 school year. For non-Iowan and international residents, tuition is $202 per credit. Iowa Lakes offers numerous scholarships and financial aid options, and 43% of students graduate debt-free.
The college specializes in agricultural production technology, wind energy and turbine technology, accounting, nursing, and other areas that are essential to Iowa's economy.
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