2021 Best Community Colleges in Virginia

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by Staff Writers

Published December 6, 2021

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Virginia's in-person and online community colleges can offer students a quicker and more flexible route toward entering the job market or continuing their education. The schools offer two-year associate degree programs, dual enrollment, transfer programs, and college credit pathways.

Virginia has 23 community colleges on 40 different campuses across the state. The community college system in Virginia awarded 31,193 degrees, diplomas, and certificates in 2020. Forty-six percent of all Virginia undergraduates were enrolled in one of the state's community colleges.

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The state's community college system has also partnered with organizations like College Anywhere VA and FastForward to provide prospective students with financial aid, grants and scholarships.

Why Study in Virginia?

Educational Opportunities

Along with the two-year associate degrees offered by the community colleges in Virginia, high school students can sign up for dual enrollment programs. They can take college coursework and earn credits toward their intended degree program.

On top of that, Virginia's community colleges also offer transfer programs that can help students transition easily to four-year colleges and universities. The state also provides short-term in-person and online training programs through the FastForward platform.

Economy

Virginia's economy ranks 13th among states as of 2021, according to U.S. News and World Report. The most in-demand industries in Virginia include service, healthcare, technology, agriculture, forestry and fishing, manufacturing, and transportation.

Different industries have a big presence in different parts of the state: Farming and tobacco-growing in Virginia's rural areas. Shipbuilding along the southern shore. Seafood harvesting, apple-growing, and wineries on the Atlantic coast and in the countryside.

Cost of Living

Virginia has a score of 103.7 on the cost of living index, which puts the state above the U.S. average score of 100. In Virginia, housing costs and gas prices are also above the national average. However, almost all other living expenses across the state are relatively affordable.

Healthcare costs in Virginia are below the national average. The cost of health insurance has decreased 4% since 2020.

Other expenses in Virginia that are below the national average include food costs and groceries, utility costs, the sales tax rate, and property taxes.

Cultural and Community Offerings

Whether you're a tourist or a resident, there are plenty of things to do in the state. Virginia offers a diverse range of activities.

You can visit the state's cultural and heritage museums, such as the National Museum of the Marine Corps, the Taubman Museum of Art, the Virginia Museum of Natural History, and the Birthplace of Country Music Museum.

Places where you can go to explore the great outdoors include the Appalachian Trail, Shenandoah National Park, Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, Blue Ridge Parkway, and the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests.

Climate

With its humid and subtropical climate, Virginia is often characterized as "not too hot and not too cold."

You can enjoy four distinct seasons in Virginia. August tends to be humid, as the summers can be "pleasantly hot." If you want to escape the hot and humid summer temperatures, you can always visit the mountains. There, the temperatures are about 10 degrees cooler on average.

The month of January is typically described as cold and dry. In the winter, the state can get some snow, with the heaviest amounts found in the mountains. Expect moderate rainfall throughout the year.

Top Degree Programs in Virginia

Related Programs That May Interest You

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Virginia Employment Outlook

Virginia's unemployment rate fell to 3.6% in October 2021. The state's labor force increased by 5,918 to 4,256,634, according to the Virginia Employment Commission.

Just like every state in the country, Virginia's economy is still in the process of recovering from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The industry that enjoyed the highest job growth in Virginia was leisure and hospitality. It was followed by the government and then trade and transportation as the fields with the biggest job gains.

5 Virginia Jobs in Demand for 2021

Nursing Assistants

Among occupations that require an associate degree or a postsecondary non-degree award, nursing assistant roles are projected to be the most in-demand jobs in Virginia. The Virginia Employment Commission projects the field will grow by 9,644 jobs through 2024.

Median Annual Salary in Virginia: $24,900


Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses

Students pursuing entry-level jobs as licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses can enroll in a two-year associate degree program offered at most Virginia community colleges. The field is projected to grow by 4,546 new jobs in the state through 2024.

Median Annual Salary in Virginia: $40,800


Medical Assistants

Healthcare jobs are projected to be in great demand in the coming years. Students looking to enter this field may want to consider studying to be medical assistants. They can get a postsecondary education at a Virginia community college to pursue this career. This field is projected to grow by 3,434 new jobs in the state through 2024.

Median Annual Salary in Virginia: $31,000


Teacher Assistants

Becoming an elementary or secondary school teacher requires a four-year bachelor's degree. However, those who still want to work in education may consider a path as a teacher assistant. They can start by earning an associate degree at a community college in Virginia. In the state, the field for teacher assistants is projected to increase by 3,398 jobs through 2024.

Median Annual Salary in Virginia: $25,200


Computer User Support Specialists

As technology and computer use continues to grow, these professionals will be needed to analyze, troubleshoot, and maintain computer systems. For many, training can be done through an associate degree program. The projected growth for computer user support specialists is 3,339 new jobs in the state through 2024.

Median Annual Salary in Virginia: $53,500


Popular Career Paths in Virginia

2021 Best Accredited Community Colleges in Virginia

Rankings compiled by the BestColleges Ranking Team

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Best Community Colleges in Virginia

  1. Wytheville Community College
    Location

    Wytheville, VA

    Tuition

    $2184

    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.

  2. Mountain Empire Community College
    Location

    Big Stone Gap, VA

    Tuition

    $6752

    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.

  3. Southside Virginia Community College
    Location

    Alberta, VA

    Tuition

    $8403

    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.

  4. Rappahannock Community College
    Location

    Glenns, VA

    Tuition

    $6955

    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.

  5. Patrick Henry Community College
    Location

    Martinsville, VA

    Tuition

    $4812

    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.

  6. Central Virginia Community College
    Location

    Lynchburg, VA

    Tuition

    $4741

    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.

  7. Lord Fairfax Community College
    Location

    Middletown, VA

    Tuition

    $7099

    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.

  8. Eastern Shore Community College
    Location

    Melfa, VA

    Tuition

    $5538

    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.

  9. Germanna Community College
    Location

    Locust Grove, VA

    Tuition

    $7658

    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.

  10. Piedmont Virginia Community College
    Location

    Charlottesville, VA

    Tuition

    $7428

    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.

Frequently Asked Questions About Community Colleges in Virginia

Are community colleges worth it?

By providing students with a quicker and more affordable path to the workforce or to continued education, enrolling at a community college is worth it.

The best community colleges in Virginia offer associate degree programs that students can finish within 24 months. This can allow them to pursue many entry-level jobs.

On top of that, prospective students can also enroll in courses where credits can be transferred to four-year universities. This can be a less expensive route toward completing a bachelor's degree program.

Does Virginia have good community colleges?

Virginia has a lineup of excellent community colleges. In 2020, 948 employers and businesses were served through workforce programs at community colleges in Virginia. This shows the trust that companies have in the abilities of students from community colleges in Virginia.

Fifty-five percent of students attending Virginia community colleges take at least one course through distance learning technologies. Furthermore, 43% of bachelor degree recipients in Virginia have some community college experience.

And a total of 44,926 high school students earned college credit through dual enrollment at one of the state's community colleges.

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

Enrolling at a community college in Virginia costs an average of $4,620 per year for in-state students. This compares to the $13,699 annual average tuition fee at four-year public universities.

Along with less expensive associate degree programs, community colleges in Virginia also partner up with programs such as FastForward, College Anywhere VA, and G3 that can provide students with affordable online classes and short-term skills training.

Virginia's community colleges also offer financial assistance programs that include grants and scholarships, paid employment for working students, and student loans.

What is the cheapest community college in Virginia?

Founded in 1967, the Southwest Virginia Community College (SWCC) is among the most affordable in the state. Tuition is around $157 rate per credit for Virginia residents and around $354 for out-of-state residents.

SWCC offers more than 80 programs in high-demand areas, such as administration of justice and human services, business, education, engineering and information technology, industry and manufacturing, and science and health technologies.

SWCC enrolls around 3,100 students on an annual basis. SWCC is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Is Virginia a good place to live and study?

With a relatively low cost of living and an encouraging economic outlook, Virginia is certainly a good place to live and study. The state also has many cultural and community offerings, a subtropical climate, and outdoor activities to enjoy during all four seasons.

Virginia's 23 community colleges in 40 different campuses give prospective students plenty of educational options across the state. Virginia has also partnered up with numerous programs that offer more convenient education access, along with financial assistance.

College Anywhere VA is an initiative that helps deliver online classes to every community college in Virginia, and FastForward offers short-term training courses that allow Virginians to pursue jobs they want.

Featured Image: Sky Noir Photography by Bill Dickinson / Moment / Getty Images

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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