Before we have a look at the best community colleges in California in 2021, there are a few facts to note.
- Community colleges in California serve approximately 1.5 million students
- The colleges have an average acceptance rate of 86%
- The average tuition for community colleges in California is $1,636 p34 year for in-state students and $6,797 for out-of-state students
- Private community colleges’ average yearly tuition is $19,157
- Community colleges in California have a diversity score of 0.73
- The college’s average minority enrollment is 68%
With those facts on the table, I believe the big question you need an answer to revolves around the best community colleges in California in 2021. It’s worth considering that many of the top community colleges in California offer online courses, degree programs as well as certificate courses.
But when you intend to transfer to a 4-year-institution after completing your education in one of these colleges, you need to check out the college’s graduation and transfer rates. These are two of the big indicators that will help you decide where to enroll for your 2-year program.
Our list of the best community colleges in California is largely based on these two factors, along with other invaluable information collected from NCES.ed.gov. The data used is accurate at the time of compiling the list and will remain updated over the course of the year.
Best Community Colleges in California
Having highlighted how we arrived at naming the top 15 community colleges in California, below is the list of colleges that made the cut.
1. De Anza College
De Anza College remains the crème de la crème when ranking the best community colleges in California. Based in Cupertino, California, home to other high–technology firms such as Apple, Symantec, Sun, Hewlett–Packard, and many others, the community college had one of the highest graduation and transfer rates last year.
The college has more than 200 programs on offer, including degree and certificate programs. It is also known for its remarkably diverse student population.
De Anza College’s annual enrollment is approximately 22,000 students, with its Intercultural/International Studies program playing an integral role in helping the college attract thousands of students from more than 50 countries.
With an average transfer rate of 1,800 students, the college has more than 90 associate degree and university transfer programs, including majors such as Health and Environmental Sciences, Broadcasting, Animation, Computer Graphics, and Graphic Design.
The Kirsch Center, which opened in 2005, was the first building by a community college in the United States to receive a LEED platinum rating and is one of the favored locations for important Silicon Valley conferences and events.
The college consistently ranks #1 or #2 in California based on the number of students who transfer to California State University and University of California campuses. Apart from having been one of the best community colleges in California for so long, De Anza College was ranked 10th in CNN’s Money listing of top community colleges in 2012.
2. Santa Barbara City College
Opened in 1909 and sitting on a 74-acre campus, Santa Barbara City College (SBCC) is a public community college located in Santa Barbara, California and mainly serves the south coast of Santa Barbara County.
With an enrollment of approximately 20,000 students, the college has more than 80 degrees and 50 certificate programs. Approximately 57% of full-time students at Santa Barbara City College transfer to 4-year colleges, with more than half going on to earn a bachelor’s degree.
The college also has an agreement with more than 70 colleges (both in and out-of-state) that guarantee the transfer of SBCC credits and admission provided the student meets academic requirements.
SBCC is also known for its diverse student population, with the Hispanic population being more than 30%. To further affirm the high quality of education on offer at SBCC, the college was the recipient of the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence from Aspen Institute in 2013.
The college also ranked 23rd in the CNN Money listing of the top community colleges in 2012.
3. Foothill College
Located in Los Angeles Hills, California, Foothill College is not only one of the best community colleges in California but it has also garnered deserved praise and awards for its beautiful Japanese-inspired campus and distinctive architectural designs.
Some of the famous college facilities include the Japanese Cultural Center, Robert C Smithwick Theater, Krause Center for Innovation, Azumaya Meditation Pavilion, Bamboo Garden and Dental Health Clinic.
The college offers 107 certificate programs and 79 associate degree programs in different divisions of study and has more than 500 online courses.
With an average enrollment of 18,000 students, the college boasts rich cultural diversity, with a sizable percentage of students coming from other countries. The college currently ranks top in transfer rates with 62%.
Foothill College was ranked 29th in the CNN Money listing of best community colleges in 2012.
4. Victor Valley College
Victor Valley College is one of the top community colleges in California and is located in Victorville. The college offers associate degrees in majors such as criminal justice, business management, agriculture and natural resources, registered nursing, construction technology, welding, music, and animation.
With about 12,000 students undertaking their studies full-time, it is ranked among the largest community colleges in the state of California. Students have traditional classes, online classes as well as hybrid classes to choose from.
Apart from having Instructional Programs, Arts & Letters and Humanities Divisions, the highly-rated community college also has several vocational technology labs for students undertaking agriculture, engineering, welding, construction and other courses in closely related fields.
Victor Valley College was ranked 3rd in 2012’s CNN Money listing of top community colleges in the United States.
5. Moorpark College
Located in Moorpark, Ventura County, Moorpark College is among the top community colleges in California. The college has an annual enrollment of about 14,000, including international students from more than 50 different countries. The community college also has programs in more than 70 disciplines.
Moorpark College was ranked second in California for transfer to California State University and the University of California, while other graduates transferred to private and independent colleges and universities.
Among the distinctive learning facilities at Moorpark College include the Charles Temple Observatory which hosts astronomy classes and other public programs, the Performing Arts Center where students present musical, speech, comedy and other theatrical productions, the Exotic Animal Training and Management (AETM) Program which has an on-site teaching zoo as well as the Child Development Center.
Through their partnership with Oxnard College, Moorpark College established the Camarillo Center, a bio-manufacturing facility that houses the Instructional Biotechnology Program. The 8,000 square foot center is located on California State University’s Channel Islands Campus.
6. Ohlone College
With one of its campuses in Fremont and another in Newark, Ohlone College enrolls more than 17,000 students every year. The college currently has 196 associate degrees and certificates on offer.
This includes 26 associate degrees for transfers, 45 associate degrees, 30 certificates of achievement as well as 95 certificates of accomplishment.
According to the data available on their official website, 548 Ohlone Students successfully transferred to California State University in the 2017/2018 academic year while 246 of their students joined the University of California.
The school has students from more than 40 different countries, and a good number of the students receive scholarships every year. The college also offers online programs for long-distance learners.
7. Orange Coast College
Founded in 1947, Orange Coast College is located in Costa Mesa, Southern California. It is regarded as one of the best community colleges in California and enrolls more than 25,000 students per semester.
The college offers more than 135 programs and is ranked first out of all the Orange County’s community colleges in the number of students it transfers to California State University and University of California systems.
Other students also join public and private universities within California and in other states across the United States.
8. Lake Tahoe Community College
Founded in 1975, Lake Tahoe Community College has grown to become one of the top community colleges in California. The humble beginnings of the institution saw its first classes held in an abandoned motel but have since grown to be one of the best performing community colleges.
It offers associate, vocational and transfer programs, with its fully online programs comprising of certificates in bookkeeping and accounting and associate degrees in criminal justice and anthropology.
Lake Tahoe Community College is also regarded as being one of the best institutions for online students who wish to continue on to 4-year colleges.
Among the universities that Lake Tahoe Community College has transfer agreements with include UC Davis and UC Irvine, along with other institutions in the University of California system. The college offers 31 AA degrees and 14 associate degrees for transfer.
9. Irvine Valley College
Located in Irvine, California, Irvine Valley College started as a satellite campus in 1979, before becoming an independent institution six years later. The college is part of the South Orange County Community College District and sits on a 60-acre campus.
Irvine Valley College has been accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and has 11 academic schools, 70 associate degree programs, and professional certificates. It offers day and evening classes as well as on-campus and online programs.
The public community college offers 39 Associates in Arts degrees, 21 Associates in Science degrees, 17 Associates in Arts for Transfer and 7 Associates in Science for Transfer degree programs.
It also offers 67 Occupational Certificate Programs, 27 Certificate of Achievement (12 or more units state-approved) and 44 Certificate of Proficiency (low-unit locally approved).
10. Diablo Valley College
Another institution ranked among the best community colleges in California is Diablo Valley College. The college was started in 1949 and has two campuses, the Pleasant Hill Campus, which is the main campus, and the newer San Ramon Campus.
It is one of the three publicly supported 2-year community colleges in the Contra Costa Community College District and serves more than 28,000 students each term.
The college has been accredited by Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) and the U.S. Department of Education.
Diablo Valley College is ranked 1st in the state for transfers to UC Berkeley and UC Davis. It is ranked 2nd in the state in transfers to CSU East Bay, UC Santa Cruz, and all NINE UC campuses overall. It is also ranked 3rd overall in the state for Associate Degrees for Transfer.
DVC also received the 2019 Champion of Higher Education award for exemplary work in implementing the Associate Degree for Transfer (ADT). The award was issued by The Campaign for College Opportunity, a non-profit that works to enhance the quality of education in California.
11. Saddleback College
Located in Mission Viejo, Saddleback College has been accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC), the branch of Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), which accredits community and junior colleges.
The college offers more than 300 associate degrees, academic certificates, and occupational skills awards and has one of the highest UC transfer rates. Some of the University of California colleges their students can transfer to include Davis, Irvine, Riverside, Santa Cruz, Merced, and Santa Barbara.
Apart from offering on-campus programs, the college also offers about 40 online programs for distance learners. The college also has an Emeritus Institute tasked with creating lifelong learning opportunities for students who are not seeking a degree.
The college provides childcare services for students with young kids, while on-campus radio and TV stations help horn the skills of learners who wish to venture into the journalism and media industry.
12. Pasadena City College
Pasadena City College is a public community college in San Gabriel Valley, Pasadena, California that serves more than 30,000 students each semester with different academic programs including degrees, transfer programs, and certificates.
The college started in 1924 with an initial student enrollment of 267 and was one of the first junior colleges in the Southwest United States.
With more than 90 academic areas of study, Pasadena City College is top for the number of Associate Degrees granted, the most Associate Degrees for Transfer, the most Associate Degrees earned by minorities and the most Associate Degrees earned by Asian Americans.
Apart from being accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Pasadena City College has also been accredited by more than 10 external organizations.
Some of the external accreditations are from The American Society of Anesthesia Technologists and Technicians, California’s Board of Registered Nursing, National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), American Dental Association (ADA) Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) and Board of Vocational Nursing & Psychiatric Technicians in California.
The college was ranked among the Top 10 by Aspen Institute for the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, a clear indication of why it deserves to be in our list of the best community colleges in California in 2021.
13. Taft College
Located in Taft, California, the college has been accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, a division of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Taft College is one of the few community colleges in California with on-campus accommodation.
The college has approximately 43 degrees and 30 certificate programs, including Associates in Sciences, Associates in Arts and Certificate programs. The college also has 15 transfer options that enable their students to be admitted to California’s 4-year institutions.
Among the unique academic programs at Taft College include kinesiology, energy technology, and dental hygiene. It’s worth noting that the dental hygiene program is open to only 20 students per year at the college.
14. Golden West College
Located in Huntington Beach, California, Golden West College is part of the Coast Community College District. The college is one of the best community colleges in California and offers more than 100 academic programs, including on-campus and distance learning programs.
The college, which has been accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, also awards more than 100 scholarships to eligible students, including high school students who opt for dual-enrollment.
The college’s external accreditations include the California Board of Registered Nursing, Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN), California Board of Barbering and Cosmetology and National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF).
15. San Diego Miramar College
Founded in 1969, San Diego Miramar College serves approximately 14,000 students and offers more than 150 academic programs, including associate degrees and certificates. Students can transfer to 4-year institutions in California and out-of-state.
In-state tuition at San Diego Miramar College costs $1,142 while out-of-state tuition is $5,894. Some of the fields of study at the college include Accountancy, Automotive Technology, Aviation Maintenance Technology, Business, Child Development, Paralegal, Anthropology, Biotechnology, and many others.
Top Community Colleges in California
With the knowledge that there are more than 100 community colleges in California, choosing the right one to join is very important. Among the things you need to consider would be their respective graduation and transfer rates as well as the educational facilities and financial aid available at your disposal as a student. In a nutshell, we have just highlighted the 15 of the best community colleges in California, but there are more that can make the cut.