More Americans are choosing to attend college than ever before. A report released in 2016 by the Academy of Arts and Sciences revealed that over 85% of surveyed high school graduates enrolled in college within eight years. Despite facing difficulties from declining enrollment numbers and state funding cuts, community colleges remain an important part of the fabric of higher education in the U.S.
Generally, community college offers a more affordable, accessible option than traditional four-year universities. On average, community college tuition costs half as much as that of a public university. Class sizes are smaller, too, meaning students can receive more personalized attention from experienced faculty than they would in a crowded university lecture hall.
Top 10 Community Colleges in Virginia
- Wytheville Community College - Wytheville, VA
- Mountain Empire Community College - Big Stone Gap, VA
- Southside Virginia Community College - Alberta, VA
- Rappahannock Community College - Glenns, VA
- Patrick Henry Community College - Martinsville, VA
- Central Virginia Community College - Lynchburg, VA
- Lord Fairfax Community College - Middletown, VA
- Eastern Shore Community College - Melfa, VA
- Germanna Community College - Locust Grove, VA
- Piedmont Virginia Community College - Charlottesville, VA
Community colleges help students pursue a variety of goals, including university transfer or immediate entry into the workforce. Virginia's cost of living is higher than the national average, but the state also boasts the eighth-lowest unemployment rate in the country -- 2.6% in October 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Attending community college in Virginia can prepare graduates to work in some of the state's largest occupational sectors, including office and administrative support, sales, business and finance, education, and healthcare.
All of the top community colleges in Virginia offer world-class education and extensive student support services. Although community colleges rarely offer on-site housing, students typically enjoy plenty of opportunities to engage with their campus community through clubs, organizations, athletics, and arts and culture events.
Virginia's community college system includes nearly two dozen institutions. Choosing the best fit for you can be difficult. The following rankings provide detailed information to help you better evaluate your options and make an informed decision. We cover topics such as program offerings, online learning, annual enrollment, campus facilities, admissions procedures, and student life.
2020 Best Accredited Community Colleges in Virginia
Wytheville Community College
|Wytheville, VA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 43%||
Wytheville Community College serves learners from Bland, Carroll, Grayson, Smyth, and Wythe counties, as well as the city of Galax. More than 3,000 credit students attend classes each year at WCC's main Wytheville campus and two extension centers in Galax and Marion.
WCC offers one of the largest program selections of any community college in Virginia. The academic catalog features more than 60 pathways for students interested in general education, university transfer, career and technical training, workforce development, or continuing education. Represented academic disciplines include business, science, education, healthcare, and technology. Thirteen certificates and two degrees can be earned entirely online. Campus engagement opportunities include clubs, organizations, and extramural sports.
All prospective students with a high school diploma or GED certificate qualify for admission to WCC. Most incoming students must complete placement tests before beginning classes.
Mountain Empire Community College
|Big Stone Gap, VA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 37%||
Mountain Empire Community College serves residents of Dickenson, Lee, Scott, and Wise counties, as well as the City of Norton. Its main campus in Big Stone Gap encompasses a variety of academic buildings and outdoor facilities including recreational tennis courts and a firing range. Students can participate in clubs, intramurals, and events including alternative spring break trips.
MECC offers 32 two-year associate degrees, 10 one-year certificates, and 36 short-term career studies certificates. Respectively, these programs require 60-69, 30-59, and 9-29 credits to complete. MECC diverse programs options include an associate degree in pre-teacher education, an associate in energy technology, and a unique career studies certificate in old time music. A number of individual courses and full certificates allow for asynchronous online completion.
As an open-admissions school, MECC accepts all students who have graduated high school or completed an equivalency program. A complete application and official transcripts are required.
Southside Virginia Community College
|Alberta, VA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 40%||
Southside Virginia Community College encompasses the largest geographic service area of all community colleges in Virginia, covering ten surrounding counties and the City of Emporia. SVCC welcomes approximately 4,700 students each year at the main campus in Alberta, a second campus in Keysville, three education centers, and a number of smaller off-campus sites throughout the region.
Students at SVCC can choose from 31 short-term career studies certificates, 10 one-year certificates, 12 career-focused associate degrees, and eight transfer-ready associate degrees. Each transferable associate of arts and sciences fulfills general education requirements and provides study in one of seven focus areas, including teacher education preparation, business administration, administration of justice, and agribusiness. SVCC offers online and hybrid courses for students who require scheduling flexibility.
To apply for a credit-bearing program, prospective students must provide high school transcripts or proof of GED completion, and ACT/SAT scores if available. Students without qualifying test scores must complete placement exams prior to course enrollment.
Rappahannock Community College
|Glenns, VA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 36%||
Rappahannock Community College educates students at two main campuses in Glenns and Warsaw. Each full-service location offers classrooms, labs, lecture halls, a library, testing center, and recreation areas. Three additional sites in Kilmarnock, King George, and New Kent expand RCC services to the surrounding communities. Students can participate in on-campus activities and events, leadership programs, intramural sports, clubs, and off-site trips.
More than 40 academic programs are available at RCC's various locations, including transfer programs, career-focused associate degrees, and short-term and one-year certificates. Guaranteed admission agreements ensure seamless transfer to more than 45 universities both in and out of state. RCC also offers an extensive distance learning program, with 13 credentials available through online and hybrid courses. Some of RCC's newest program offerings include pre-BSN, networking and cybersecurity, and a diesel certificate.
RCC is an open-admissions college. Prospective students must complete an application, provide required documentation, and take a placement test unless exempt.
Patrick Henry Community College
|Martinsville, VA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 38%||
Originally founded as a two-year branch of a four-year university, Patrick Henry Community College joined the ranks of independent community colleges in Virginia in 1964. PHCC is now a comprehensive, open-admissions school serving Martinsville and surrounding counties. Approximately 2,900 students enroll each year. The 137-acre main campus is supplemented by several off-site workforce development and training centers.
PHCC offers transferable associate degrees, career-ready associate degrees, and certificates. General studies, science, and health sciences are the most popular programs at PHCC, but students can select from a variety of diverse fields and disciplines including business technology, legal assisting, and culinary arts. Asynchronous distance learning is also available. Outside of class, students can join NJCAA sports teams, arts and culture events, and clubs and organizations.
To qualify for admission, applicants must provide official high school transcripts or a GED certificate. Placement testing is required unless exempt via test scores or GPA.
Central Virginia Community College
|Lynchburg, VA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 32%||
Central Virginia Community College serves more than 5,000 students through a main campus in Lynchburg and three extension centers in Amherst, Appomattox, and Bedford. Like other community colleges in Virginia, this two-year institution offers a number of extracurricular activities -- including clubs, organizations, sports, and student government -- to help provide opportunities for networking, growth, and leadership development.
CVCC offers programs of study in business, education, health sciences, art and humanities, public safety, STEM, industry/manufacturing, and social and behavioral sciences. Options include six transfer degrees, 19 associate degrees, 19 one-year certificates, and 10 short-term certificates, including a popular RN-to-paramedic bridge program. Students interested in online courses can choose from asynchronous, synchronous, and hybrid formats.
Prospective students can apply to CVCC at no cost. Eligible applicants include high school graduates and GED recipients, college transfer students, and other learners who are over the age of 18.
Lord Fairfax Community College
|Middletown, VA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 39%||
A two-year institution, Lord Fairfax Community College serves more than 7,500 credit students and more than 10,000 noncredit students each year. Learning centers located in Luray and Warrenton supplement LFCC's two main campuses in Middletown and Fauquier. In addition to world-class education, these campuses offer a number of engagement opportunities: events, clubs, organizations, recreation, and volunteering.
LFCC offers more than 75 associate degrees and certificate programs in varied disciplines including education, recreation and wellness, engineering, and administration of justice. Students undecided about their preferred focus area can complete a transferable general studies degree or general education certificate. The school features more than 300 online courses in addition to five fully online associate degrees and five fully online certificates.
Admission requirements vary for prospective credit and noncredit students. Applicants may need to provide proof of high school graduation or an equivalent. Health professions programs feature separate admissions procedures.
Eastern Shore Community College
|Melfa, VA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 30%||
Originally established as a branch of the University of Virginia, Eastern Shore Community College joined the growing system of community colleges within the state in 1971. The school moved to its current 115-acre campus in Melfa in 1974 and today serves the academic, vocational, and professional development needs of residents of Accomack and Northampton counties.
ESCC's academic offerings encompass six associate degrees designed for university transfer, seven career-focused associate degrees, five one-year certificates, and eight short-term career studies certificates. Early childhood development, medical assisting, business administration, and science are among the diverse fields of study at ESCC. Hybrid learning options and online courses -- both synchronous and asynchronous -- are available. Outside of the classroom, students can engage in internships, clubs and organizations, cultural events, and trips abroad.
Both high school graduates and nongraduates can apply to ESCC. Applicants without a high school diploma or GED certificate may be admitted with qualifying scores in reading, writing, and math assessments.
Germanna Community College
|Locust Grove, VA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 34%||
Germanna Community College offers accessible, affordable education options for residents of the city of Fredericksburg and seven surrounding counties. The institution features two full-service campuses in Spotsylvania and Locust Grove as well as five technology and learning centers that provide expanded access to credit courses, workforce training, and other academic services.
GCC clusters programs into eight major pathways: business, health science, humanities and arts, IT and technical studies, public service, science and engineering, social science and education, and transfer programs. Each pathway offers a variety of associate degrees and one-year/short-term certificates designed to help prepare students for engaging careers in their preferred field. Some opportunities include paraprofessional counseling, cybersecurity, nursing, and business management. GCC offers online, hybrid, and interactive video courses.
GCC accepts applications from high school graduates and nongraduates alike. The school determines students' academic placement using prior coursework, GPA, ACT/SAT scores, and/or placement tests.
Piedmont Virginia Community College
|Charlottesville, VA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 31%||
Piedmont Virginia Community College primarily serves residents of Albemarle, Buckingham, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa, and Nelson counties as well as the city of Charlottesville. A scenic main campus and two learning centers enroll approximately 6,000 students each year, a majority of whom attend on a part-time basis.
PVCC's 60 academic programs help fulfill student goals for short-term training, career preparation, or university transfer. Learners must complete 60-72 credits to earn an associate degree and 9-59 credits to earn a certificate. Diverse program options include accounting, multimedia and motion graphics, chemistry, and theatre and drama. Students can also choose from a selection of online courses. Like other community colleges in Virginia, PVCC is a nonresidential institution, but learners can participate in a variety of activities, clubs, sports, and events on campus.
An open-admissions policy offers placement to both high school graduates and eligible individuals without a diploma or GED certificate. Additional requirements may apply depending on program selection.
Southwest Virginia Community College
|Richlands, VA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 35%||
Southwest Virginia Community College serves an area encompassing Buchanan, Rusell, Tazewell, and Dickenson counties. In addition to providing world-class education opportunities, SVCC enriches the local community through a small-business development center, the Appalachian Arts Center, a community chorus, and the annual Festival of the Arts.
Students enrolled at SVCC can choose from 35 transfer- and career-ready associate degrees and 48 one-year and short-term certificates. Transferable degree options include a general studies associate in Appalachian studies and a business associate in outdoor leadership. With available online learning options and traditional classroom courses into the evening hours, SVCC provides flexibility to students with a range of scheduling needs.
Prospective learners can complete a free application online. General enrollment requires high school transcripts. Some health technologies programs require additional documentation or prerequisites.
New River Community College
|Dublin, VA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 30%||
New River Community College educates more than 4,000 undergraduate students each year. The 100-acre main campus in Dublin encompasses four buildings. Learners can also access select general education courses and academic services at a state-of-the-art instructional site at the New River Valley Mall in Christiansburg.
NRCC offers 10 transfer degrees, 19 career-focused associate degrees, eight one-year certificates, and 32 short-term career studies certificates. Students preparing for university transfer can pursue flexible general studies degrees or select a focus option, choosing among business administration, education, engineering, liberal arts, and science. Learners can even pursue a bachelor's or master's degree on-site at NRCC through distance learning options provided by Old Dominion University.
Applications can be completed online or through the mail. First-time college students applying to NRCC must complete English and math placement tests unless exempt.
Dabney S Lancaster Community College
|Clifton Forge, VA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 34%||
Founded in 1962, Dabney S. Lancaster Community College bears the name of a prominent Virginia educator and longtime resident of the local community. The school encompasses a service area of eight surrounding counties and cities, welcoming approximately 1,400 credit and noncredit students to the Clifton Forge campus and Rockbridge Regional Center each year.
DLCC offers a total of 12 degrees -- including three specialization options -- and 36 one-year and short-term certificates. Transferable degree majors include business administration, education, general studies, and science. Career-focused associate programs and certificates offer diverse focus areas like forest management technology, industrial/structural welding, nonprofit management, and private security service. Beyond academics, students can participate in clubs, organizations, student government, and the campus newspaper.
DLCC accepts applications from high school graduates and nongraduates. Depending on status, prospective students may need to provide official transcripts and ACT/SAT test scores and/or complete placement testing.
Blue Ridge Community College
|Weyers Cave, VA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 31%||
Situated in Weyers Cave, the campus of Blue Ridge Community College encompasses various academic buildings, a fine arts center, a rec center, and a workforce center, which offers space for local businesses, organizations, and private groups to rent for meetings and events. Clubs and cultural activities provide opportunities for students to engage in a thriving campus community.
BRCC offers programs of study in more than 20 subject areas including aviation, human services, nursing, and early childhood development. Learners can also pursue programs in radiologic technology and culinary arts/management through partnerships with other Virginia institutions. Students who require scheduling flexibility can complete their education through online and hybrid learning. Four programs -- three in aviation and one in veterinary technology -- are available entirely online.
Both high school graduates and nongraduates can apply for general admission to BRCC. Some programs practice selective admissions and may require that prospective students meet additional qualifications.
Danville Community College
|Danville, VA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 33%||
Danville Community College is one of the oldest community colleges in Virginia. Originally established in 1963 as Danville Textile School, DCC predates the formation of a statewide body for junior colleges. Today, the two-year institution serves several thousand students each year from an 86-acre campus just south of downtown Danville.
Students can choose from more than 100 programs designed to meet requirements for university transfer, career training, general education, or customized business and industry needs. DCC's seven transferable associate degrees -- in business, engineering, science, and the liberal arts -- offer guaranteed admission to more than 30 Virginia colleges and universities for students who maintain a qualifying minimum GPA. A variety of courses feature online completion options. Campus involvement opportunities include honor societies, student government, clubs, and activities.
Prospective students can access applications for free online. Applicants must show readiness for college-level coursework by providing proof of high school graduation and/or completing a placement test.
Paul D Camp Community College
|Franklin, VA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 29%||
Paul D. Camp Community College is named after local education advocate Paul D. Camp. The main PDCCC campus in Franklin sits on land donated by Camp's daughters nearly 50 years after his death. A second campus in Suffolk and a learning center in Smithfield expand PDCCC academics and services throughout the region.
Approximately 1,500 credit-seeking students attend PDCCC each year. More than 61 short-term, one-year, and two-year programs are available in seven areas of study: health sciences, administrative/office support, education, business and management, industrial technology and trades, and public safety. Several academic areas offer "stackable" credentials, meaning students can apply credits earned in a certificate program to an associate degree in the same field. Online course options offer additional flexibility.
As an open-admissions school, PDCCC accepts both high school graduates and nongraduates who meet the criteria. Prospective students must complete an application and schedule a placement test unless exempt.
Virginia Highlands Community College
|Abingdon, VA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 26%||
Virginia Highlands Community College has been a dynamic leader in education within the state's southwest region for more than half a century. Approximately 3,000 credit and noncredit students enroll each year. The Abingdon campus offers a variety of major events and activities including intramural sports and an annual comic-con.
VHCC offers more than 70 programs of study, including career- and transfer-ready associate degrees and one-year certificates. Transfer degrees offer a diverse set of specialization options including art education, theater arts education, engineering science, and horticulture science. The school delivers credit and noncredit distance learning courses in a variety of subjects, taught by the same instructors who lead on-campus classes.
Prospective students can fill out an online application for free. Placement testing may be required. Acceptance to VHCC does not guarantee enrollment in select healthcare programs.
Virginia Western Community College
|Roanoke, VA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 28%||
Virginia Western Community College is the third-largest community college in Virginia, with a current annual enrollment exceeding 9,000 credit students and 1,400 noncredit students. Located in southwest Roanoke, the 70-acre campus encourages student involvement through an assortment of social, cultural, and recreational activities and events, including art exhibitions, music performances, and lectures.
Students at VWCC can choose from 15 transferable associate degrees; 26 career-focused associate of applied science degrees; two one-year certificates; and 37 short-term, career studies certificates. Many courses offer several completion methods, including dual-enrollment high school classes, traditional day classes, evening classes, and online learning. Business students can expedite their learning through VWCC's fast-track programs.
VWCC's general admissions policy welcomes applications from high school graduates and eligible nongraduates, as determined by assessment scores. Select health programs may feature additional criteria.
John Tyler Community College
|Chester, VA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 23%||
Established in 1967, John Tyler Community College is named for the 10th U.S. president, a Virginia native. The school serves more than 14,000 students each year, making it one of the largest community colleges in Virginia. JTCC operates two major campus locations in Chester and Midlothian and serves residents of 10 surrounding counties.
JTCC offers nearly 80 in-demand academic, career, and technical programs, with short-term, one-year, and two-year timelines available. Students can complete twelve programs entirely online. The JTCC catalog features a diverse field of academic disciplines, including law and public safety, arts and communication, and advanced manufacturing. Students who complete a transferable associate degree with a qualifying GPA can receive guaranteed admission at more than 35 four-year institutions across the state and country.
Eligible applicants to JTCC include individuals with a high school education or the ability to benefit from college instruction, as demonstrated by placement testing.
Northern Virginia Community College
|Annandale, VA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 25%||
Located near Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia Community College is the largest community college in Virginia and the second-largest community college in the U.S. More than 75,000 students attend classes on NOVA's six campuses, located in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield, and Woodbridge.
The school delivers more than 160 degrees and certificates in ten major areas of interest, including business and hospitality management; fine arts, digital media, and design; and physical and life sciences. NOVA's dedicated online campus offers various individual courses, 18 complete associate degrees, and 12 career studies certificates through e-learning technology. Outside of class, students can get involved in sports and intramurals, clubs, organizations, and diverse campus programs and events.
NOVA accepts high school graduates -- and nongraduates who meet minimum placement criteria -- into its credit programs. The college encourages early applications and admits on a first-come, first-served basis. Class enrollment limitations may apply.