Community colleges are often the first step in one's higher education journey. Unlike four-year colleges and universities, community colleges typically offer open enrollment policies, meaning you can enroll if you possess a GED certificate or high school diploma. Many of these schools also offer GED assistance for students who need it. Additionally, community colleges are usually far more affordable than four-year institutions. Many students earn their associate degree before transferring to four-year programs, saving thousands of dollars in tuition.
Community colleges serve all types of students, whether you are looking to enter the workforce as quickly as possible or begin your journey toward a bachelor's or graduate degree. Many schools offer transfer programs that enable you to complete the first half of your undergraduate studies at a community college before transferring to a four-year school to earn your bachelor's. You can also earn a professional associate degree or certificate that prepares you to work in a specific field, such as nursing or automotive repair.
Top 10 Community Colleges in Kentucky
- West Kentucky Community and Technical College - Paducah, KY
- Madisonville Community College - Madisonville, KY
- Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College - Bowling Green, KY
- Maysville Community and Technical College - Maysville, KY
- Gateway Community and Technical College - Florence, KY
- Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College - Cumberland, KY
- Henderson Community College - Henderson, KY
- Owensboro Community and Technical College - Owensboro, KY
- Elizabethtown Community and Technical College - Elizabethtown, KY
- Hazard Community and Technical College - Hazard, KY
Selecting the right two-year college in Kentucky can be difficult, particularly given the number of programs and online education options. The closest school may not always be the best choice, especially if you have a specific degree or career outcome in mind. This ranking offers an overview of some of the top community colleges in Kentucky, and it can help you narrow your potential schools. Below, you can find information about each school's programs, as well as other distinguishing factors.
Kentucky offers a low cost of living and plenty of options for college graduates. While the state's unemployment rate is above the national average -- 4.4% as of September 2019 -- Kentucky boasts many strong industries, including automotive production, aerospace, manufacturing, logistics, and healthcare.
2020 Best Community Colleges in Kentucky
West Kentucky Community and Technical College
|Paducah, KY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 43%||
An open-enrollment college in Paducah, WKCTC serves more than 9,000 students annually and offers over 250 academic and professional programs. Consistently ranked as one of the top community colleges in Kentucky, the school has also received national recognition from the nonprofit Aspen Institute for its excellence in community college education. With campus, online, and hybrid education options -- as well as flexible courses and a strong graduate success rate -- the school draws students from around the state.
WKCTC hosts nine fully online programs, including associate, diploma, and certificate tracks. Distance learners can choose from degrees such as business administration systems, logistics and operations management, marine technology, and computer-aided drafting and design -- all accessible without ever visiting campus. Most courses use a fully asynchronous format that requires no class login times.
Madisonville Community College
|Madisonville, KY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 43%||
Serving more than 2,700 students from its campus in Madisonville, MCC ranks among the state's top two-year colleges. The school offers a sizeable selection of degree and certificate programs in areas such as agriculture, paralegal technology, business administration, and computer science.
MCC boasts strong health science programs, with options including biomedical systems technology, emergency medical services, health science technology, occupational therapy assistance, and integrated nursing. Health science candidates also benefit from the school's comprehensive Interprofessional Simulation Program, which provides a fully functional, hospital-based simulation environment.
Education majors also have the opportunity to complete their bachelor's degree at MCC through the school's 2+2 education program. With concentrations in elementary education, special education, and middle grades math/science, the 2+2 program enables students to complete upper division coursework through a partnership with Murray State University.
Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College
|Bowling Green, KY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 31%||
Primarily serving four Kentucky counties, SKYCTC operates a main campus in Bowling Green along with satellite campuses in Glasgow and Franklin. The school emphasizes both academic and technical education through several associate degree and certificate programs, which students can complete online or on campus. The school offers transfer programs in arts and sciences, as well as professional programs such as air conditioning technology, culinary arts, fire/rescue science technology, engineering and electronics technology, and medical information technology.
SKYCTC offers two professional programs designed for working adult students. The SKY Flex program features primarily online courses but requires participants to visit campus once each week for a hands-on lab. Programs focus on advanced manufacturing, construction, and transportation.
Additionally, the school's SKY FAME program blends professional experience and vocational education. Students can earn a manufacturing degree while also working at least 24 hours each week for a local manufacturing company.
Maysville Community and Technical College
|Maysville, KY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 34%||
With campuses in Maysville, Licking Valley, Rowan, and Montgomery, Maysville ranks among the top technical and community colleges in Kentucky, with numerous educational options for working adults. Students can pursue two dozen degree and certificate programs, including professional options related to automotive technology, business administration systems, diesel technology, medical laboratory technology, and physical therapy assistance. Maysville also offers transfer programs in the arts and sciences.
The college participates in the Work Ready Kentucky program, which trains students in high-demand career fields such as healthcare, construction, logistics, manufacturing, and information technology. Students without an associate or bachelor's degree may be eligible for this program, which allows qualified applicants to complete up to 60 tuition-free credits through a special scholarship. Program participants must be Kentucky residents enrolled at or accepted to Maysville.
Gateway Community and Technical College
|Florence, KY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 35%||
Based in Florence, GCTC serves around 4,000 students annually, with programs in more than 30 areas of study. The college offers academic and professional pathways and maintains partnerships with hundreds of local businesses that enable students to participate in short-term training and other technical education opportunities. Some of the school's numerous programs include criminal justice, commercial driver's license training, energy technologies, and massage therapy technology.
For students interested in a specialized technical education, GCTC also hosts NKY FAME -- a two-year advanced manufacturing technician program that emphasizes classroom and hands-on learning. Program participants attend courses at GCTC three days per week and work at a manufacturing company two days per week. The curriculum draws explicit connections between technical education and professional experience, providing learners with applicable skills in areas such as electronics, mechanics, and robotics.
Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College
|Cumberland, KY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 32%||
Based in Cumberland, SKCTC also maintains campuses in Harland, Pineville, Middleboro, and Whitesburg. It mostly serves students in eastern Kentucky, as well as neighboring counties in Tennessee and Virginia. The school offers associate of arts, science, and applied science degrees, along with professional diploma and certificate programs.
For students interested in a four-year degree, SKCTC offers several associate transfer programs that lead into bachelor's tracks at Kentucky colleges. Candidates can pursue degrees in fields such as education, psychology, social work, biology, engineering, and pre-med. The college's technical programs include industrial maintenance technology, regional radiography, surgical technology, and respiratory care, among others.
SKCTC hosts many courses online, most of which use an asynchronous delivery mode to accommodate busy students. Online learners also receive access to a wide selection of resources, including virtual library services, an online bookstore, academic advising, and technical support.
Henderson Community College
|Henderson, KY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 22%||
Based in western Kentucky, HCC also maintains a satellite campus in Herron. It serves around 2,200 students a year, predominantly educating learners in Henderson, Union, and Webster counties. Like many of the best community colleges in Kentucky, the school offers a varied selection of academic and technical programs, though HCC distinguishes itself through its sizeable number of distance education programs. The school also offers popular campus programs in engineering technology, business administration, and early childhood education.
HCC's fully online offerings include certificate tracks and associate of arts, associate of science, and associate of applied science degrees. Certificates and applied science degrees lead directly to employment, while associate of arts or science degrees typically lead into four-year programs. Most associate degrees require 60 credits and about two years to complete, while certificates require fewer credits and variable completion times. The school hosts several programs in agriculture and marine technology.
Owensboro Community and Technical College
|Owensboro, KY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 33%||
Primarily serving four Kentucky counties as well as neighboring Spencer County in Indiana, OCTC maintains several campuses around the Owensboro area. The college hosts a large selection of certificate and degree programs, including criminal justice, healthcare facilities leadership, industrial maintenance technology, and veterinary technology. OCTC also offers an associate of arts in fine arts with concentration options in visual arts or theater. Coursework at OCTC can be completed on campus, online, or through a blended hybrid format.
Unique among community colleges in Kentucky, OCTC's computer and information technologies department boasts a strong commitment to cybersecurity education. OCTC is a member of the National CyberWatch Center -- a group of government agencies, colleges, and businesses dedicated to advancing cybersecurity knowledge. The college is also a designated a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Two-Year Education by the National Security Agency.
Elizabethtown Community and Technical College
|Elizabethtown, KY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 31%||
Serving a 12-county area in central Kentucky, ECTC operates a main campus in Elizabethtown along with satellite campuses in Fort Knox, Leitchfield, and Springfield. The school offers transfer programs, two-year degrees, and certificates. Students can complete courses online and on campus. Learners at ECTC choose from dozens of academic and professional programs, including diagnostic medical sonography, fire/rescue science, interdisciplinary early childhood education, medical information technology, and business administration systems.
Unlike many community colleges in Kentucky, ECTC emphasizes study abroad experiences as a valuable tool to expand students' cultural awareness, communication skills, and leadership potential. The college actively participates in the Kentucky Institute for International Studies (KIIS) -- a consortium of schools that offers study abroad scholarships to students in Kentucky and neighboring states. Awarding $75,000 in travel scholarships annually, KIIS sponsors study abroad trips to Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America.
Hazard Community and Technical College
|Hazard, KY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 30%||
HCTC serves around 4,700 students across five campus locations in eastern Kentucky. Students can pursue a selection of degree and certificate programs, including computer-aided drafting and design, heavy equipment operations, practical nursing, and visual communication. Unique among community colleges in Kentucky, the school also offers a professional studio musician program that emphasizes bluegrass and traditional styles. Students can complete online and hybrid coursework.
HCTC recognizes the geographic and financial challenges many students face in pursuing higher education. To combat this issue, the college serves as a member of the University Center of the Mountains -- a consortium of colleges that offers greater access to bachelor's and master's degrees. Through partnerships with several four-year colleges, including Eastern Kentucky University and the University of the Cumberlands, this consortium enables HCTC students to pursue advanced education through online learning and other accessibility measures.
Big Sandy Community and Technical College
|Prestonsburg, KY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 22%||
Based in Prestonburg, BSCTC also maintains campus locations in Pikeville, Mayo, and Hager Hill. Students from five eastern Kentucky counties can pursue associate of arts and science degrees, as well as an assortment of technical education programs and certificates. Available programs at BSCTC include civil engineering technology, community dental health coordination, human services, surveying and mapping technology, and visual communication.
BSCTC is also home to the Kentucky Coal Academy -- a state-funded program that meets the coal industry's workforce needs in Kentucky. This academy offers a technical education and operates as an open-enrollment training program for students looking to enter the state's mining industry. It also provides continuing education opportunities to current miners. Candidates gain a broad overview of key mining topics, including surface mine training, underground mine training, and mine emergency technician training.
Jefferson Community and Technical College
|Louisville, KY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 14%||
Based in Louisville, Jefferson ranks among the largest community colleges in Kentucky, serving nearly 12,000 students annually. The school maintains six campus locations in the Louisville area, along with a sizeable distance education program that serves thousands of learners. Jefferson offers dozens of degree and certificate programs in both professional and academic fields, including African American studies, applied process technology, aviation maintenance technology, communication arts technology, and global studies.
Jefferson hosts a selection of automotive technology programs, including certificate tracks for Mercedes and Toyota/Lexus technicians. The school's Mercedes-Benz Certified Systems Technician program leads to Level 1 certification after just three semesters, training students to repair most types of Mercedes vehicles. Candidates who complete an additional year can earn an associate degree in automotive repair. Jefferson also offers Toyota T-TEN certification; this two-year program graduates skilled Toyota and Lexus technicians.
Hopkinsville Community College
|Hopkinsville, KY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 32%||
Serving students throughout western Kentucky, HCC operates a main campus in Hopkinsville along with a branch campus at the Fort Campbell Army base. The college enrolls almost 4,000 students and offers both campus-based and online courses. HCC students select from varied program offerings that include computer manufacturing and machining technology, medical assisting, pharmacy technology, phlebotomy, and commercial truck driver training.
HCC delivers online education through the Blackboard learning management system, with most courses using a fully asynchronous format that enables students to complete coursework at their convenience. Online learners receive comprehensive support services in the form of academic assistance and advising, library resources, and technical support. While most courses offer proctored exams online, some may require students to visit campus to take tests. HCC also hosts on-campus orientation sessions that introduce the online learning platform.
Ashland Community and Technical College
|Ashland, KY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 26%||
With three campus locations in the Ashland area, ACTC serves more than 4,500 students each year through academic and technical education programs, awarding professional certificates and associate of arts, associate of science, and associate of applied science degrees. Students may complete coursework on campus and online.
Students planning to transfer to a four-year program can earn their associate of arts or science degree in about two years. ACTC offers several areas of study for each degree type, including elementary education, social work, and psychology in the arts department and engineering and pre-medicine in the science department. Students pursuing an associate of arts degree can also earn a certificate in Appalachian studies -- a unique credential among community colleges in Kentucky.
For students interested in a technical or vocational education, ACTC offers several professional programs, including advanced integrated technology, advanced nursing assistance, cosmetology and aesthetics, and culinary arts.
Somerset Community College
|Somerset, KY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 25%||
Operating six campus locations in the Somerset area, SCC serves almost 6,500 students annually, making it one of the larger community colleges in Kentucky. The college offers numerous associate degrees and certificate programs in areas such as visual communication/multimedia, collision repair technology, emergency medical services, and culinary arts. SCC is also the first college in Kentucky to offer a certificate in digital printing technology/3D printing.
For students employed in the healthcare field, SCC offers several relevant certification opportunities, including nursing assistant skills, CPR, and phlebotomy. The eight-credit, 11-week state certified nursing aide certificate is an accessible entry point to the healthcare field. Graduates are prepared to work in hospitals, doctor's offices, clinics, and other healthcare environments as a nurse aide. The one-credit CPR certification requires just one day to complete, while the five-credit phlebotomy certificate requires one semester.