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The Best Community Colleges in California

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The Best Community Colleges in California
Rank School Location
1 Pasadena City College Pasadena, California
2 City College of San Francisco San Francisco, California
3 De Anza College Cupertino, California
4 Foothill College Los Altos Hills, California
5 Orange Coast College Costa Mesa, California
6 Santa Barbara City College Santa Barbara, California
7 Santa Rosa Junior College Santa Rosa, California
8 Diablo Valley College Pleasant Hill, California
9 Ohlone College Fremont, California
10 Santa Ana College Santa Ana, California
11 Glendale Community College Glendale, Arizona
12 Irvine Valley College Irvine, California
13 Evergreen Valley College San Jose, California
14 College of the Siskiyous Weed, California
15 Las Positas College Livermore, California
16 Napa Valley College Napa, California
17 Lake Tahoe Community College South Lake Tahoe, California
18 Taft College Taft, California
19 Mission College Santa Clara, California
20 College of San Mateo San Mateo, California

About The Best Community Colleges in California

Successful Student has ranked the 20 Best Community Colleges in California. Considering the rising cost of higher education, it should come as no surprise that more and more students are looking to begin their college career at a junior or community college. This type of schooling is beneficial before heading to a four year institution for a lot of reasons, but one of the most important is that financially, a community college can provide the foundation for a four-year degree for a fraction of the cost as a major university.

Many community colleges offer "Associate Degrees for Transfer", which are developed intentionally for students looking to complete the first two years of a four-year degree at their school.

Other students might find it beneficial to begin their college career at a smaller institution to better acclimate themselves to the college life.

Still others might be looking to decrease living costs by staying close to home, or maybe to participate in athletics on a smaller scale. A community or a junior college can be the right decision for many students. California offers many community college options, which can be stepping stones into California's universities.

Featured Colleges with Online Associate's Degrees:

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The Best Community Colleges in California

Ranking Methodology

This ranking was devised by our machine learning algorithm, which factored in each school's academic influence. College Calculator uses a proprietary metric that looks at the schools H-Index scores and other factors such as alumni influence.


Pasadena City College

Pasadena, California

Pasadena City College, located ten minutes north of Los Angeles in Pasadena, California, was founded in 1924. The college is now home to over 30,000 students from more than 90 countries each semester who are participating in over 60 academic program areas.

PCC ranks #1 in California in Associate Degrees granted, Associates Degrees for transfer and Associates Degrees earned by minorities.

The school offers 117 associate degree programs and 70 occupational skills certificate programs. PCC was also named in the top ten for the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. PCC also encompasses a Child Development Center, which is a center dedicated caring for the children of college students, faculty and staff, and community members.


City College of San Francisco

San Francisco, California

The main campus of the City College of San Francisco is located in San Francisco, California, where it was founded as a public two-year community college in 1935. Statistics show that the college is widely appealing to the residents of San Francisco, as they annually enroll up to one in nine city residents.

The college offers courses in over 60 academic programs and over 100 occupational disciplines. Some degrees that are offered include nursing, business, broadcasting, graphic communications and engineering, to name a few.

The school also boasts over 80 student organizations, along with a student-run newspaper, television and radio stations. The faculty is comprised of over 800 full-time and 1,000 part-time professors, 95% of whom hold masters degrees. CCSF has a total enrollment of over 65,000 students throughout the 11 campuses around the Bay Area.


De Anza College

Cupertino, California

De Anza College, spread over 112 acres in Cupertino, California, was founded in 1967 and is now accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. The school is home to approximately 800 faculty members and 23,000 students.

The school has 63 degree programs and 97 certificate programs, with an average class size of 35 students. According to the college, of the 63 degree programs, their most popular majors include Accounting, Automotive Technology, Business and Child Development. For the school year of 2012-2013, 2,404 students transferred to either a private university, a California University or a California State University.

De Anza College also offers 19 men's and women's athletic programs, including basketball, badminton, soccer, swimming, diving, and cross country to name a few. De Anza has transfer agreements in place with many schools, including UC Davis, UC Irvine, and UC Santa Barbara.


Foothill College

Los Altos Hills, California

Foothill College was founded in 1957 and is now located over 122 acres in Los Altos Hills, California. Their mascot is "Footsie the Owl". With an average enrollment each semester of over 17,000 students, the college still manages to maintain an average class size of just 27 students.

The college offers 79 associate degree programs and 107 specialty certificate programs. Foothill College was the first in California to offer online courses, and today they offer over 500 online college credit courses, which make it possible to reach not only students in the Bay Area, but all around the world.


Orange Coast College

Costa Mesa, California

Orange Coast College was founded in 1947, and its first classes were held in 1948 in Orange County (Costa Mesa), California. From those first classes, the school has grown to encompass an enrollment of 25,000 students.

The college offers over 135 academic and career programs, and being minutes from the SoCal beaches doesn't hurt! OCC ranks first in Orange County community colleges in transfers to the UC and CSU systems. OCC offers classes year-round, and is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.


Santa Barbara City College

Santa Barbara, California

Santa Barbara City College (SBCC) is located on a sprawling 74 acres in the city of Santa Barbara, California, right on the beach. The college has been established since 1909, and the Aspen Institute has awarded the school the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.

The award is based on four core areas: student learning outcomes, degree completion, labor market success in securing good jobs after college, and facilitating minority and low-income student success.

The college is proud of its small class sizes, strong faculty, state of the art facilities, support services for students, and, of course, the incredible location. The college has a total enrollment (including on-campus students, exclusively online students, and concurrently enrolled high school students) of just over 17,600.


Santa Rosa Junior College

Santa Rosa, California

Santa Rosa Junior College is located in the city of Santa Rosa, California. The college was founded in 1918, making it the tenth oldest community college in the state. The school is home to over 28,000 students each semester, and celebrates a strong student life with over 40 clubs, successful athletic teams, speech and debate teams, and theater arts, music and dance programs.

The college has two campuses, the over 100-acre main campus in Santa Rosa and a smaller 40-acre campus in Petaluma. SRJC also operates a 365-acre self-supporting farm near Forestville, a Technology Academy (on the Petaluma Campus), and a Culinary Arts Center in the heart of Santa Rosa.

SRJC maintains a strong General Education program, which is tailored to meet the needs of students intending to transfer to a four-year university, along with over 175 career skills certificate programs. An interesting fact about the college is that in its nearly 100 year history, there have only been five college presidents.


Diablo Valley College

Pleasant Hill, California

Diablo Valley College is a two-year community college located in Pleasant Hill, California. It is home to more than 22,000 students between its two campuses (the second newer campus is located in San Ramon, California). DVC is proud to offer over 40 degrees, and also hold articulation agreements with both the UC and CSU systems.

They offer courses both during the day and during the evening, and also short- and long-term formats. Many of their courses are offered as either online or as "hybrid" courses, allowing for flexibility for their more than 22,000 students each semester.

The college began in 1949, meeting in high schools, churches, banks and an old army camp before moving to the present site in 195, where classes were held in ten metal buildings, procured from the government for $45 a piece. Construction on the first actual building began in 1953, and since 1949, the college has enrolled over 1.5 million students. DVC leads the state of California in transfers to four-year colleges, according to a report by the California Post-secondary Educational Commission.


Ohlone College

Fremont, California

Ohlone campus, with a main campus in Fremont, California, and a secondary campus in Newark, California, is named for the native population that was living just south of the Fremont campus, in Mission, San Jose, when Mission was founded. The college is home to more than 17,000 students each year (including the Fremont and Newark campuses and online students).

Ohlone College offers 190 degrees and certificates, 23 of which are Associates Degrees for Transfer (ADT). Ohlone students transfer to four-year institutes, both in-state and out-of-state. The faculty includes around 500 members of both full and part-time professors.


Santa Ana College

Santa Ana, California

Santa Ana College was founded in 1915 and is located in Santa Ana, California. In 2002, voters approved a $337 million renovation to the school which included things like a new early childhood development center, a new exercise science locker room complex, an acreage increase from 55 to 65, sports complex renovations and library renovations.

In 2012, a new bond measure was approved to authorize up to $198 million more in upgrades and renovations to the school. These improvements have been justified by the nearly 30,000 students enrolled each semester at SAC.

Santa Ana College has been recognized by Community College Week for six consecutive years as a top 100 school in associate degrees for "total minority" students nationwide. In the fall of 2013, of the 18,000 credit students, more than 2,200 transferred on to a four-year university.


Glendale Community College

Glendale, Arizona

Glendale Community College, located in Glendale, California, was founded in 1926, when classes were first held in the buildings of Glendale Union High School. Within three years, the student population increased from the original 139 to 435, along with 27 faculty members.

The college eventually moved to its present home in 1937, and has experienced steady growth ever since. School enrollment is over 29,000, including both credit and non-credit students. Glendale boasts a 45% completion rate, which is the percentage of students who earned a degree or certificate, transferred, or became "transfer prepared" within six years of entry.

Glendale has transfer agreements in place with a multitude of schools, some of which include Pepperdine University, University of Southern California and Los Angeles Film School.


Irvine Valley College

Irvine, California

Irvine Valley College, a member of the California Community College System, is located in Irvine, California. IVC offers over 80 associate degrees, and claim the number one transfer rate of all community colleges in Orange County.

Their faculty is made up of over 300 full-time and 120 part-time ("professional expert") professors, and classes are offered in day, evening and online format. Among the student population of over 14,500 there are representatives from over 50 countries, and more than 300 of the students are veterans, qualifying the school to be named as a "Military Friendly" school.

The college also is proud of its 12 athletic teams, adding over 200 student-athletes to the population. IVC also values performing arts, as is evidenced by their new $40 million state-of-the-art Performing Arts Center.


Evergreen Valley College

San Jose, California

Evergreen Valley College is located in the southeastern foothills of San Jose in California. Their campus, a 175-acre locale, opened its doors in 1975. At that time, the campus was home to 3,000 students. Today enrollment has grown to more than 15,000 students hailing from over 70 countries.

The campus itself also has experienced recent significant grown, as the school has received grants to build new classrooms and labs for their science and nursing programs, a sprawling library, a center to promote vibrant student life culture, and a new observatory. They were also able to open a new Center for the Arts in 2009.


College of the Siskiyous

Weed, California

College of the Siskiyous, a two-year college, has two campuses, both located in Northern California: the main campus in Weed, and a newer campus in Yreka.

The college is a public one, which held its first classes in 1959 for 67 students. COS, while especially proud of their Fire / Emergency Response, Paramedic / Emergency Medical Technician and Nursing programs, is also widely known for their humanities and arts, science and technology programs.

The school also values athletics, as is evidenced by their supreme location for outdoor recreation. Hiking, camping, disc golf, running, swimming, mountain biking, white water rafting and rock climbing are all available near the college.


Las Positas College

Livermore, California

Las Positas College is home to the Hawks and is located in Livermore in Alameda County, which is about 40 miles southeast of San Francisco. The community college was founded in 1963 and now has a 147 acre campus to call home.

The college has grown quickly in its 54 years of existence - there are now over 8,500 students who participate in either day or evening classes, and students can select from 17 associate degrees for transfer, which provide the first two years of a four-year degree. These degrees include administration of justice, biology, business administration, geography, geology, kinesiology, journalism, and mathematics, among others.


Napa Valley College

Napa, California

Napa Valley College, known at its founding in 1942 as "Napa Junior College", then "Napa Community College", before settling on it's current name. During that first year, also the first year of WWII, the first class was only eight students, only one of whom was male. NVC is located in Napa, California, on a 160-acre site which overlooks the Napa River, right in the heart of the Napa wine producing region.

Napa Valley College was recognized in 2015 by BestColleges.com as the #1 2-year college in California. The school currently offers 16 "Associates Degrees - Transfer" (AD-T) that are specifically for students looking to jump start their four-year degree through a two-year degree at a community college.

Those AD-T degrees include but are not limited to: Administration of Justice, Business Administration, English, Kinesiology, Political Science and Theater.


Lake Tahoe Community College

South Lake Tahoe, California

At 6,229 in South Lake Tahoe, California, Lake Tahoe Community College is positioned at the highest elevation of any college in California. The 164-acre wooded campus opened in 1975 and is now home to 3,000 students each semester.

The college is continuing to grow, as they have added a 26,000 square foot gymnasium and a Student Center, including a commercial-grade kitchen for the culinary arts program, and a new library and adjoining art gallery have all been added since 2002.

The college has three 12-week long programs during the year, and a six-week summer program throughout the year. UC and CSU programs consider qualifying programs as fully-transferrable towards four-year degrees. The college offers more than 30 associate degree options, such as business administration, criminal justice, digital media and wilderness education.

The campus is primely located for many outdoor activities, including skiing, fishing, hiking and mountain biking. South Lake Tahoe, a town with a population of around 21,000, has sunny days 75% of the year, so students have ample opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors and all the college has to offer.


Taft College

Taft, California

Taft College, located in Taft, California, was founded in 1922 and is now situated on a 39 acre campus, where it serves over 2,500 students per academic year. The students of Taft College looking to transfer to a four-year university can choose from 46 associate degrees, 12 of which are Associate Degrees for Transfer.

In more recent years, the college is putting more time, money and energy into developing both a Career Center and a dedicated office and support services for veterans. The average class size at Taft is 21 students, and the average age of the student body is 29.


Mission College

Santa Clara, California

Mission College is a community college located in Santa Clara, California, which is part of Silicon Valley. The college, founded in 1975, currently offers 15 associate degrees for transfer, some of which include business, communication studies, physics, and kinesiology.

Mission College prides itself on providing not just equality to its students, but equity - and to take that one step further to liberation. Their mission is to facilitate a more fair and just world by improving conditions for all. The college is home to nearly 15,000 students.

Every spring, Mission College holds the largest bay area college fair in an effort to assist students looking to transfer to a four-year university.


College of San Mateo

San Mateo, California

The College of San Mateo is located in San Mateo, California, where it serves around 10,000 students per semester. The college opened its current location in 1963 on a sprawling 153 acres.

CSM, which overlooks the San Francisco Bay area, seeks to enrich student life with over 30 clubs and organizations and 21 Associate Degrees for Transfer. Among these ADTs are administration for justice, art history, business administration, physics, and kinesiology, among others.

The college also is a strong competitor in intercollegiate athletics, including baseball, basketball, football and softball, to name a few.

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