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Historically, New Jersey has had trouble keeping its college students in state. However, thanks to new and expanding Community College Opportunity Grants, this has become less of an issue. In 2020, the Golden State Guarantee added more than $50 million to the program to pay for up to two years of education at four-year colleges for eligible students.
To try and keep in-state students and expand the educational opportunities for out-of-state learners, New Jersey has developed some of the top online community colleges in the country.
Why Study in New Jersey?
Home to 18 community colleges and several four-year universities, New Jersey offers a lot of educational opportunities, along with several ways to pay for them. In addition to the Community College Opportunity Grants and the Golden State Guarantee, the New Jersey Scholar Program invites New Jersey residents attending universities outside the state to "come home" and attend an in-state college.
The program offers a seamless transition, in-state tuition rates, and additional benefits — regardless of how long the student has lived outside the state.
Due to high housing costs and widespread pandemic-related shutdowns, the state has suffered a great deal during the COVID-19 crisis. However, it is also positioned for many opportunities as restrictions are lifted and the state recovers.
The widespread trend toward greater urbanization means that many pundits are hopeful for a strong economic recovery for New Jersey in the coming years.
Cost of Living
New Jersey is the ninth-most expensive state to live in, although wages also tend to be above average. One of the biggest obstacles for students may be finding the right kind of housing, which is more than 40% more expensive than the national average. In contrast, healthcare costs are nearly 12% below average in New Jersey.
Cultural and Community Offerings
The home of hundreds of art organizations, New Jersey features a variety of art, music, and dance, as well as other cultural events and exhibits throughout the state. Larger metropolitan areas maintain a rich nightlife with an abundance of restaurants, clubs, and other attractions.
Winters in New Jersey can be cold, with more snow in the northern part of the state. Bordered on one side by the Atlantic Ocean and by the Delaware River on the other, summers are warm and can be humid. Rainfall is relatively consistent throughout the year, except when it turns to snow in the winter.
Many residents consider New Jersey to be particularly beautiful in the fall, when changing leaves color the landscape and cooler temperatures provide relief from the summer heat.
Top Degree Programs in New Jersey
Featured Online Programs
Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.
New Jersey Employment Outlook
Over the second half of 2021, New Jersey maintained a fairly consistent unemployment rate of around 7%, but that is improving. While construction is in decline, a lot of other industries are experiencing growth, including healthcare, technology, and leisure and hospitality.
As the economy continues to recover, New Jersey is projected to add jobs and population growth over the next decade. Occupations like physical therapists and health aides — along with many service industry jobs — can expect to see growth.
4 In Demand New Jersey Jobs
- Median Annual Salary: $70,140
- Job Outlook: 26%
Physical therapists supervise physical therapist assistants to help patients regain movement and strength after illness, injury, or disease. Assistant positions usually require an associate of science in physical therapy — one of many degrees available from several community colleges in New Jersey.
- Median Annual Salary: $71,500
- Job Outlook: 10%
A radiologic technician uses imaging equipment to examine patients who are ill or injured to determine what kind of treatment they need. Usually, they pass this information along to a physician who makes a final determination. Radiologic technicians generally work full time in doctors' offices and hospitals.
You need an associate degree to land a job in this field. In New Jersey, you also need to pass a certification test.
- Median Annual Salary: $77,840
- Job Outlook: 7%
A cardiovascular technician, much like a radiological technician, operates specialized equipment to produce images of the heart and cardiovascular system to assist physicians in the diagnostic process. They primarily work in hospitals, but some also work in private imaging clinics and doctors' offices.
To qualify for these positions, you need an associate degree. In the state of New Jersey, you also need to be certified.
- Median Annual Salary: $37,250
- Job Outlook: 21%
A medical assistant usually performs administrative and clinical duties in a physician's office or hospital. To qualify for these jobs, you need an associate degree or a career certificate from a vocational school, some experience, and good customer service skills.
Popular Career Paths in New Jersey
Best Accredited Community Colleges in New Jersey
Rankings compiled by the BestColleges Ranking Team
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Best Community Colleges in New Jersey
Warren County Community College
With an emphasis on affordability and high-quality instruction, Warren County Community College ranks among the best community colleges in New Jersey. In addition to the option to study at one of two convenient campus locations, students may also pursue a variety of certificates and degrees entirely online, making WCCC an ideal choice for working professionals and students with family responsibilities.
The college features programs of study in areas like business management, early childhood education, computer and information sciences, and aerial drone technology. Students who want to hone a particular skill can also enroll in online career training classes that cover subjects such as accounting, grant writing, and working with special needs students.
To apply to WCCC, you must have either a high school diploma or equivalency, like a GED certificate. Incoming students must also take the ACCUPLACER exam to determine if they need to take remedial coursework before entering a college program.
WCCC holds regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Raritan Valley Community College
In addition to on-campus programs, Raritan Valley Community College offers three degrees and certificates completely online, including an associate of applied science in accounting. Another 14 degree programs at the college -- including a program business administration and health information technology -- are available 85% online. Distance learners enjoy the same services as in-person students, including tutoring and career counseling.
All applicants to RVCC must have a high school diploma. They must also submit results from an entrance exam like the ACT or ACCUPLACER, though the college waives this requirement for students who have previously taken college-level courses in both English and mathematics.
On top of state and federal financial aid, the RVCC Foundation awards over $300,000 in scholarships each year to students who have excelled academically or demonstrate significant financial need. The college also provides support to learners who plan to pursue STEM or nursing careers after graduation.
Brookdale Community College
An open-admissions institution, Brookdale Community College works to increase access to educational opportunities for all residents of New Jersey. While students under the age of 18 must have either a high school diploma or GED certificate, Brookdale admits all other applicants regardless of their level of education.
Once admitted, students can pursue certificates and degrees in fields like fashion design and merchandising, paralegal studies, and information technology security. Fully online programs are available in subjects such as psychology and political science, and an online associate degree in the liberal arts caters to students who hope to continue their education at a four-year college or university.
During the admissions process, incoming students can also apply to a variety of scholarship programs. For example, the Lucarelli Memorial Scholarship supports Brookdale students hoping to become respiratory therapists, while the Blue Bishops Scholarship provides funding to learners on the basis of academic achievement and community service.
Union County College offers more than 60 degree and certificate programs, along with a range of classes for workforce training, continuing education, and personal enrichment. Additionally, online and hybrid programs in public administration, computer information systems, and education give Union students the flexibility to schedule their learning around the demands of a job or family responsibilities.
Union also provides a comprehensive suite of career services. For example, students can take online career assessments, receive personalized career guidance, and hone their interview skills with dedicated coaches. The career services department also organizes career fairs, resume-writing workshops, and networking and internship opportunities.
All applicants must have a high school diploma or GED certificate. Prospective students may also need to take a placement exam, though Union waives this requirement for those who earned at least 540 and 530 on the critical reading and math portions of the SAT, respectively. Incoming students can also apply for more than 200 scholarships.
Each year, County College of Morris serves roughly 1,000 students through a variety of degree, continuing education, and workforce development programs. While the college does not currently offer any fully online associate programs, distance education students can earn professional certificates in fields such as nursing, business, education, and information technology.
Regardless of how they choose to study, learners can access a wealth of support services through CCM. All students receive free access to both in-person and online tutoring in math, writing, and science. Academic advisors help learners choose a program of study, navigate the enrollment process, and meet graduation requirements. Students and recent alumni can also take advantage of career counseling and other employment resources.
To attend CCM, you must submit official copies of your high school transcript or GED certificate. Once admitted, all students must take a placement exam administered by the college.
Rowan College of South Jersey
Formed in 2019 by the merger of two community colleges, Rowan College of South Jersey now offers more than 120 degrees and certificates online and at two campuses. Distance education programs at the college feature five-, seven-, and 15-week classes, giving online learners even more flexibility to choose a pace of learning that best suits their needs. Any student who graduates from RCSJ with a GPA of 2.0 or higher receives guaranteed admission to Rowan University, a four-year institution in Glassboro, New Jersey.
To apply to RCSJ, you must have either a high school diploma or a high school equivalency certificate. Most applicants must also take a placement exam, though the college waives this requirement for students who earn sufficiently high scores on a standardized exam like the ACT or SAT.
RCSJ also provides a host of scholarships to make the community college experience even more affordable. For example, the Presidential Start Smart Scholarship provides $1,000 to first-year students who graduated in the top 15% of their high school class.
Ocean County College strives to be one of the most student-focused colleges in the country. OCC's Center for Student Success, for instance, offers peer tutoring, peer mentoring, in-person and virtual academic advising, and research and writing assistance. An online planning tool also provides step-by-step instructions on enrolling in a program, registering for courses, and tracking progress towards degree completion.
Along with on-campus programs in nursing, environmental science, and game design, OCC offers fully online associate degrees in business administration, criminal justice, and computer science. The college has also partnered with an online test proctoring company to ensure that distance learners can complete all aspects of their coursework remotely.
OCC does not require students over the age of 18 to have a high school diploma or GED certificate to enroll. However, some programs, such as nursing, have additional requirements. In addition to low tuition rates and a variety of scholarships, full-time students can take advantage of a free course during the summer semester.
Rowan College at Burlington County
Rowan College at Burlington County offers an educational experience enriched by diversity and multiculturalism. Students of color make up roughly 40% of the student body, and international students represent nearly 50 countries from around the globe.
The college offers in-person, online, and hybrid programs in fields like photography, hospitality and tourism management, computer networking technology, and dental hygiene. RCBC also maintains a guaranteed transfer agreement with Rowan University in New Jersey, meaning students who earn an associate degree with a GPA of at least 2.0 can easily apply their credits towards a bachelor's program.
Applicants to RCBC must have a high school diploma or GED certificate. Incoming students must also take the ACCUPLACER, though the college waives this requirement for applicants who earn a minimum score on either the ACT, SAT, PARCC, or ASVAB. During the admissions process, prospective students may also apply for an RCBC Foundation scholarship. To qualify for an award, you must maintain a high school or college GPA of at least 2.0 and submit two letters of recommendation.
Mercer County Community College
West Windsor, NJ
Mercer County Community College places a premium on experiential learning. Through the school's Innovative Partnership program, students pursuing either a certificate or degree in certain fields -- such as cybersecurity or automotive technology -- can apply for paid internships with partner businesses. Participating students receive mentoring and, in some cases, additional scholarship funding. Partner organizations also commit to extending postgraduation offers to students who meet specific benchmarks during their internship.
MCCC offers more traditional programs of study in accounting, civil engineering technology, and occupational therapy assisting. Students can also earn fully online degrees in business administration and criminal justice. An online associate in liberal arts also serves students planning on continuing their education at a four-year college or university.
Applying to MCCC requires a high school diploma or GED certificate. While not required, students who submit results from either the ACT or SAT do not need to take an additional placement exam.
Since 1964, Middlesex County College has provided access to quality and affordable education to residents of northeastern New Jersey. Now, students from around the state and country can take advantage of the college's growing slate of online courses, in subjects like world literature, constitutional law, and small business management.
In total, MCC offers 90 degree and certificate programs.The college's associate of applied science degrees equip students with the skills needed to begin technical careers, while an associate of art or associate of science helps meet the general education requirements of a bachelor's program at a four-year institution. Non-degree students can also take in-person and online classes in areas such as computer programming, plumbing, and veterinary technology.
Degree-seeking applicants must have either a high school diploma or GED certificate. They must also take a placement exam that assesses their reading, writing, and math skills. MCC waives tuition fees for unemployed individuals, senior citizens, and volunteer emergency services personnel.
Salem Community College
Carneys Point, NJ
Students who begin working towards their bachelor's degree at Salem Community College save an average of about $17,000 compared to those who complete all of their undergraduate coursework at a four-year college. In addition to these tuition savings, learners at SCC enjoy access to a host of scholarships awarded on the basis of academic achievement, financial need, and career aspirations.
SCC trains students for careers in fields such as nursing, glassworking, culinary arts, and health information technology. Learners can also pursue a fully online associate degree in business administration, developing the knowledge and skills needed to start their own company or take on entry- and mid-level roles in the for-profit sector. The college also holds transfer agreements with schools like Rutgers and Wilmington University.
In order to apply to SCC, you must have a high school diploma or GED certificate and take a placement test. Certain programs, like scientific glass and nuclear energy, set additional requirements.
Sussex County Community College
Unlike many other community colleges, Sussex County Community College gives students the option to earn a bachelor's degree in business, nursing, or education without needing to relocate. Students on this track first earn an associate degree then take a series of transitional courses. They can then enroll in upper-level coursework offered by Felician University on the Sussex campus.
Sussex also hosts fully online degree programs in business administration, English, and liberal arts. As coursework in these online programs are available in an asynchronous format, students can watch lectures, contribute to class discussions, and complete assignments entirely on their own schedule.
You do not need a high school diploma or GED certificate to apply to Sussex. You may, however, need to take a placement exam if you did not maintain a GPA of at least 3.0 in high school. The college also provides exam waivers for students who received a composite ACT score of 23 or higher.
In addition to operating three campuses in the Jersey City area, Hudson County Community College offers fully online associate programs in accounting, business administration, criminal justice, health sciences, and history. The school delivers dozens of additional courses online, allowing students in on-campus programs to enjoy the convenience of distance education along with the individual attention of the traditional classroom experience.
HCCC is deeply committed to the success of its online students. For example, they have access to 24/7 online tutoring. Distance learners can also make online appointments and remotely meet with dedicated academic advisors. Finally, online and hybrid students can take advantage of the same mental health and career counseling services provided on campus.
The college has both an open enrollment policy and a rolling admissions calendar, meaning students do not need a diploma or GED certificate and can apply at any point throughout the year. However, all incoming HCCC students must take a placement exam.
Camden County College enrolls more than 17,000 students every year in roughly 100 degree and certificate programs. Students can explore a wide range of subjects, including audio production, retail management, computer-aided drafting (CAD), and health information technology. More than 160 courses at the college are also available online, helping learners continue their education on their own terms.
Incoming students do not need a high school diploma or GED certificate, but they must take the ACCUPLACER exam. Exemptions are available for students who previously completed college-level courses or those who received minimum scores on the ACT, SAT, or PARCC exam.
Transfer students must submit official copies of college transcripts so that CCC can determine which credits to accept. Students can also receive course credit for nontraditional learning experiences, including volunteer work and military service. Current military personnel and veterans may also qualify for tuition waivers and scholarships.
Hudson County Community College
Through its Pathway Scholars Program, Bergen Community College provides intensive support to students who need to take development courses prior to seeking a certificate or degree. The program offers personalized academic advising, peer mentoring, structured career exploration opportunities, and specialized tutoring. Participating learners can also apply for additional financial assistance to continue their education.
As a supplement to the college's in-person programs, Bergen also allows students to complete eight degrees completely at a distance. Online students can explore fields like business administration, marketing, sociology, and psychology. An online associate in liberal arts is also available to students who plan to transfer to a bachelor's program after earning their two-year degree.
To apply to Bergen, you must have a high school diploma or an equivalency certificate. Health professions programs feature additional requirements, including academic benchmarks and a basic skills test. Through a prior learning assessment, incoming students can receive course credit for specialized training in addition to certain licenses and professional certifications.
Frequently Asked Questions About Community Colleges in New Jersey
Community colleges can often shave thousands off your overall college bill, reducing out-of-pocket costs or student loans. Small class sizes mean ample personal attention from professors. In New Jersey, various programs to assist students with tuition can make the first couple years of college free.
This makes attending a community college a great choice and worth the effort for many students. New Jersey houses some of the most affordable online community colleges in the nation.
In-state community college students in New Jersey can expect to pay roughly $6,000 per year, while out-of-state students typically pay about $7,500. However, some students can qualify for free tuition grants under one of New Jersey's financial aid programs.
Brookdale Community College is one of the most affordable community colleges in New Jersey. The school charged $188 per credit for in-state tuition and fees as of spring 2022.
Many people love New Jersey for its four-season climate and the cultural and artistic opportunities that abound throughout the state. While the cost of living may be relatively high, wages also tend to be higher. The career and educational opportunities often make additional expenditures worthwhile for students who choose to pursue their education in New Jersey.
Feature Image: Howard Kingsnorth / Stone / Getty Images