Best Community Colleges in Minnesota

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by Staff Writers

Updated January 18, 2022

Edited by Darlene Earnest
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Minnesota combines dozens of community college learning opportunities with some of the largest companies located nearby.

With an open admissions policy, prospective students have an easier path to community college. A high school diploma or equivalent will do, or prospective students can present their case as to why they would like to be in higher education. No strict GPA or essay requirements exist.

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There is also the opportunity to do online or hybrid learning at community colleges in Minnesota.

Why Study in Minnesota?

Educational Opportunities

Community colleges in Minnesota offer a variety of degrees, or students can get a certificate in a specific field.

More than half of the state's residents from 25-44 years old have an associate degree or higher. The state's goal is for 70% of the people in that age group to have a postsecondary certificate or higher by 2025.

Economy

Big companies and significant opportunities contribute to Minnesota's economy. Like all states, Minnesota took a hit during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Minnesota Chamber is working to protect key elements of economic recovery. These include flexibility in the workplace for people who wish to work from home, ensuring high-quality and low-cost healthcare, and sustaining and protecting the environment.

Cost of Living

A single person in Minnesota will need a yearly salary of $33,000 to make ends meet. That number goes up for families. A couple with two children with one person working full time needs to make $60,000.

Every region in the state meets or exceeds the annual salary needed to adhere to the cost of living. Minnesota ranks slightly below the cost of living on a national scale.

Shoppers flock to the Mall of America each year. This shopping mecca draws people looking to window shop or buy, as it's the country's largest shopping and entertainment destination.

Cultural and Community Offerings

"The people are so nice here."

That's a common statement from those who live in or move to this Midwestern state. For sports fans, there are major league teams in the Twin Cities area.

The state celebrates a melting pot of cultures — from the Native Americans who first resided on its land to the Mexican, Swedish, Somali, and Hmong populations that have moved there more recently. The Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis opens year round, celebrating the food, music, crafts, and heritage of cultures from around the world.

This state — with over 10,000 lakes — offers many activities for outdoor lovers. Fishing, snowshoeing, hiking, and ATV-ing rank high on the "to do" list.

Climate

Yes, the winters are cold. We can get that right out of the way.

The average temperature in January is 8 degrees. Up to 70 inches of snow can fall, especially along the snow zone of Lake Superior.

Buckle up for the rest of the year because the ride gets bumpy. Spring can bring snow storms or tornadoes. The state averages close to 30 tornadoes each year. About 19 inches of rain falls during the warmer months.

Top Degree Programs in Minnesota

Minnesota Employment Outlook

With Minnesota being home to the Mayo Clinic and ranking as one of the healthiest states in the country, many residents are taking care of themselves. They need additional health providers to help.

Large companies like Target, Cargill, Best Buy, and UnitedHealth Group call Minnesota home.

The Minneapolis-Saint Paul area projects to add more than 100,000 jobs by 2028. However, industry experts warn that job growth will be slower than before the pandemic as employers look for qualified candidates to fill the few job openings they have. Yet another great reason to get a community college degree in Minnesota.

5 Minnesota Jobs in Demand for 2021

Computer Network Support Specialists

With a projected 10% job growth in Minnesota from 2018-2028, computer network specialists are the people to call when the network is having issues. They analyze, test, and troubleshoot the technology systems that keep the world connected. The best community colleges in Minnesota offer a variety of these degrees. It's also a stepping stone to a bachelor's should a student wish to pursue higher-paying jobs that require a higher degree.

Mean Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $71,410


Healthcare Support Providers

This group contains a variety of occupations, from nursing assistants to massage therapists to pharmacy aides. The projected 14% job increase in this field by 2028 makes it one of the most in-demand career fields. This field has jobs that can be done by professionals with an associate degree. However, there are opportunities to pursue a bachelor's degree if the worker decides to in the future.

Mean Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $33,320


Personal Care and Service Provider

The number of jobs in this wide-ranging field is projected to grow 17% from 2018-2028. It includes cosmetologists, travel and tour guides, exercise trainers, and funeral workers. Some of these jobs, like a cosmetologist, will also require a license in the state of Minnesota.

Mean Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $33,490


Paralegals and Legal Assistants

Paralegals and legal assistants get to work in the law field without going to law school. Jobs for this field are projected to grow 8% from 2018-2028. These jobs require preparing legal documents, doing research, or helping plan a defense strategy. It's also a good step toward a full law degree if the student chooses to further their career either now or in the future.

Mean Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $57,390


Community Health Worker

Community health workers spend their days helping to make the community healthier and more informed. They might work one-on-one with someone to better their unhealthy patterns or set up health screenings in a community. Career opportunities are expected to grow by almost 10% by 2028.

Mean Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $44,260


Popular Career Paths in Minnesota

Best Accredited Community Colleges in Minnesota

How We Rank Schools

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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.

Rankings compiled by the the BestColleges Ranking Team

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Best Community Colleges in Minnesota

  1. Riverland Community College
    Location

    Austin, MN

    Tuition

    $8610

    Riverland Community College serves students in southeast Minnesota across three campuses in Austin, Albert Lea, and Owatonna. Students can earn high school credits through postsecondary or concurrent enrollment, college credits, and job training certificates.

    Riverland offers several associate degrees guaranteed to transfer to all seven Minnesota state universities, including accounting, chemistry, psychology, and theatre. Riverland's Business Flexspace program allows working adults to complete a degree in business administration online, one course at a time. The school also offers bachelor's degrees in elementary education and social work in cooperation with four-year colleges. Riverland's career training diplomas and technical certificates take as little as one semester to complete, and many include online course offerings.

    The college sponsors more than 160 institutional scholarships. The school offers in-state tuition to international students and residents of bordering states.

  2. Mesabi Range College
    Location

    Virginia, MN

    Tuition

    $5092

    Mesabi Range College serves about 1,700 students in northern Minnesota at locations in Virginia and Eveleth. MRC offers a variety of two-year degrees, including AA degrees designed for students planning to transfer to a four-year school and AAS degrees for those interested in directly entering the workforce upon graduation. Popular majors include liberal arts and practical nursing.

    MRC also offers career preparation through 1-2 year diploma and certificate programs. These technical programs provide job training in areas such as carpentry, addiction studies, and human services. Some programs host online classes, including business operations and management and construction management.

    The college follows an open-door admission policy. Many MRC students qualify for and receive financial aid. The school awards more than $100,000 in institutional scholarships each year, and local Native American tribes offer scholarships to students who demonstrate tribal heritage.

  3. Hibbing Community College
    Location

    Hibbing, MN

    Tuition

    $8820

    Located in northern Minnesota's Iron Range, Hibbing Community College offers a variety of two-year degrees and online and on-campus technical programs. HCC graduates can enter the workforce directly or transfer their credits to pursue a four-year degree. High school students may also receive college credit through concurrent enrollment.

    Career-training AAS programs at HCC include IT networking and security, law enforcement, culinary arts, and dental assistant. Students may select from a variety of transferable AA and AS degree options in the liberal arts, such as business, communication, chemistry, and psychology. Learners may also earn job training certificates and diplomas in areas such as law enforcement, culinary arts, and diesel mechanics.

    HCC students have access to on-campus housing, college athletics, and a variety of campus services. Additionally, the school uses an open-enrollment policy.

  4. Ridgewater College
    Location

    Willmar, MN

    Tuition

    $11161

    Located west of the Twin Cities, Ridgewater College operates campuses in Willmar and Hutchinson. Ridgewater offers more than 100 programs, including associate degrees that transfer to any public university in the state, AAS degrees for those seeking immediate employment, and technical diplomas and certificates.

    AA degrees in four areas meet qualifications for transfer to a Minnesota public university: communication studies, English, liberal arts and sciences, and psychology. AS degrees provide eight transfer pathways, including agricultural science and technology and early childhood education. The school's AAS degrees require at least 20 credits of liberal arts and sciences. Ridgewater also provides a fully online option for many programs and an opportunity to study abroad in Scotland.

    Qualified Ridgewater students may benefit from more than $250,000 in institutional scholarships, as well as federal and state aid and work-study jobs.

  5. Itasca Community College
    Location

    Grand Rapids, MN

    Tuition

    $9694

    Located in the northern Minnesota community of Grand Rapids, Itasca Community College serves about 1,700 students annually. ICC prepares graduates to transfer to a four-year university by offering two-year associate degrees. It also offers a variety of career and technical education programs, including AAS degrees in natural resources and industrial-technology process operations.

    ICC students may select from transferable AS and AA programs, such as accounting, business, psychology, and health sciences. Each of these tracks consists of 60 credits. Learners can also pursue opportunities in engineering, natural resources, coaching, and American Indian studies.

    Itasca operates an active chapter of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society and offers a spring study abroad program in Denmark. Students may access some courses online, including a fully online geographic information systems certificate track. Interested students may apply online. ICC provides nearly $400,000 in institutional financial aid annually.

  6. Normandale Community College
    Location

    Bloomington, MN

    Tuition

    $11169

    Located just outside the Twin Cities in Bloomington, Normandale Community College is one of the state's largest community colleges, serving nearly 15,000 students. Local attractions include the school's Japanese Garden and the nearby Mall of America.

    Normandale offers numerous associate degrees that include the 40-credit Minnesota Transfer Curriculum, which qualifies graduates for seamless transfer to the state's public universities and many private colleges. The school offers transfer pathways through AA and AS degrees in a variety of areas, including business, liberal education, and the sciences. Students pursuing an AA degree may select an area of emphasis, such as sociology or physics. In some cases, students may take advantage of four-year partner programs, transferring to another college to finish their bachelor's degree while still taking classes at Normandale.

    Normandale also offers technical certificates that require 4-30 credits. These programs provide career training for jobs such as community health worker, casino operations worker, and nursing assistant.

  7. Rainy River Community College
    Location

    International Falls, MN

    Tuition

    $7,918

    Founded in 1967 to serve Minnesota's North Woods community, Rainy River Community College boasts an 80-acre campus with buildings connected by heated walkways. Located near the U.S.-Canada border in International Falls, RRCC oversees a variety of academic and technical programs.

    RRCC offers AA degrees in liberal arts and sciences, communication studies, English, and history, as well as AS degrees in exercise science and health science. The curricula of these two-year pathways include the requirements needed to transfer to a four-year university. RRCC also offers technical certificates in professional truck driving, coaching, fitness, and healthcare. Through partner programs with other Minnesota colleges, RRCC offers additional academic programs, such as addiction studies, early childhood education, and practical nursing.

    Students interested in financial assistance may apply online for scholarships ranging from $200-$6,000.

  8. Central Lakes College-Brainerd
    Location

    Brainerd, MN

    Tuition

    $11,618

    With two locations in the Brainerd area, Central Lakes College provides liberal arts and career/technical educational pathways to students in central Minnesota. The school offers more than 70 programs, including an associate of arts honors degree and college courses for high school students.

    CLC features affordable program options, including an associate of arts degree that requires no textbook purchases. The school also offers a variety of flexible online courses and career training programs. Some online classes give students the option to attend class meetings via web conferencing in real time. Available program offerings prepare students for careers in agriculture, business, education, information technology, law enforcement, manufacturing, media, transportation, and health.

    CLC awards financial assistance to about 80% of its students. The school provides more than $350,000 in institutional scholarships each year.

  9. Saint Paul Community & Technical College
    Location

    Saint Paul, MN

    Tuition

    $11,969

    Located in Minnesota's capital city, Saint Paul College offers 54 associate degrees and 74 technical certificates and diplomas. The school also oversees a dual-enrollment program that enables high school students to finish secondary school while starting college.

    Programs at Saint Paul College fall into six divisions: business, career and technical education, health science, liberal and fine arts, human services, and STEM. Liberal arts programs include AA degrees that learners can transfer to a four-year university; participants can choose from specializations in communication, criminology, public affairs, and history. STEM programs include college transfer pathways in biology and chemistry, as well as technical certificates in computer animation and web design.

    All students receive free tutoring and academic resources from the school's tutoring center, as well as access to 24/7 online tutoring. Saint Paul College offers many online and hybrid courses.

  10. North Hennepin Community College
    Location

    Brooklyn Park, MN

    Tuition

    $9807

    Situated in Brooklyn Park -- a northern suburb of Minneapolis -- North Hennepin Community College offers more than 60 college transfer and career training programs -- online and on campus. Through Minnesota's bachelor's degree partnership program, NHCC also provides a dozen bachelor's degrees in cooperation with four universities. Students may earn bachelor's degrees in gender studies, nursing, exercise science, and special education, for example.

    At NHCC, students can complete the first two years of college by earning associate degrees in areas such as economics, business, and psychology. Alternatively, a variety of AAS degrees and technical certificates in areas such as business and computer science prepare graduates to directly enter the workforce. NHCC's program offerings also include a leadership program that gives students the chance to gain leadership skills and experience. To help students succeed, NHCC offers students access to free peer tutoring sessions and 24/7 online tutoring services.

Frequently Asked Questions About Community Colleges in Minnesota

Are community colleges worth it?

Minnesota community colleges are worth it, especially for someone who may not have had the best high school grades. They can get a chance to restart their education and earn a certificate or degree. The open admissions policy at community colleges requires no GPA from high school, just a diploma. Even if a candidate doesn't have a diploma or equivalent, they can still be admitted if they show potential to succeed in community college. Most schools also offer some form of online learning with affordable options.

Does Minnesota have good community colleges?

Yes. The majority of community colleges in Minnesota are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

How much does it cost to go to community college in Minnesota?

According to Education Data Initiative, the average rate of two-year school in Minnesota costs $5,540 for in-state students and $6,300 for out-of-state learners. Pine Technical and Community College offers a free tuition program for those who meet the criteria.

What is the cheapest community college in Minnesota?

For the 2021-2022 academic year,Lake Superior College offers the lowest annual tuition and fees at around $5,450. The most expensive schools are around $6,200 per year.

Is Minnesota a good place to live and study?

Minnesota stands out in ranking reports. It was voted the second best state overall in 2021 by U.S. World & News Report. It was named the seventh healthiest state by the United Health Foundation in 2019 and third best state for community colleges by WalletHub in 2019.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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