Best Community Colleges in California
California is home to some of the best community colleges in the United States. California community colleges offer affordable education, flexible schedules, and a wide range of programs and services to help students achieve their academic and career aspirations.
Whether you're hoping to transfer to a four-year university or earn an associate degree to further your career, attending a California community college can help you get closer to your goals. Many California community colleges guarantee admission to the California State University system, the University of California system, or other participating four-year colleges for students who complete associate's degrees for transfer.
Most community colleges in California also provide their students with various forms of financial aid and scholarships. Through these financial aid programs, many California residents can attend community college in California on a full ride. In addition to scholarships and financial aid provided by community colleges in California, students can apply for scholarships on Bold.org by creating a free Bold.org profile!
With 116 community colleges in California, students may need help determining which community college is the right place to earn their associate's degree. In this article from Bold.org, I've compiled all the information you need to know about the best community colleges in California.
The top community colleges I've highlighted provide students with opportunities to earn unique two-year degrees and provide extensive support to help students successfully transfer to four-year universities. Furthermore, these community colleges are home to a diverse student population, extensive extracurricular offerings, and vibrant campus life.
You can learn more about scholarships for community college by reading this exclusive blog post!
Best Community Colleges in California
Santa Barbara City College - Santa Barbara, CA
Santa Barbara City College is considered one of the best community colleges in California. The college offers a variety of degree and certificate programs in areas such as business, healthcare, and technology, as well as a diverse student body and supportive learning environment.
In addition, the school offers $1,000,000 in scholarships annually through the SBCC Foundation, and over 9,000 students receive over $31 million in fee waivers, grants, loans, work-study jobs, and scholarships. Graduates from a local high school are guaranteed two years of free tuition, books, fees, and supplies.
In addition to these scholarships offered by Santa Barbara City College, students can apply for scholarships for community college students on Bold.org's exclusive scholarship platform!
Santa Barbara offers 31-transfer focused associate degrees and standalone associate degrees and certificate programs. Students who complete an Associate Degree for Transfer are guaranteed admission into the CSU system in a similar major and are guaranteed admission into participating Historically Black Colleges and Universities, fully online and out-of-state universities, and independent, non-profit universities in California.
De Anza College - Cupertino, CA
De Anza College is a large community college located in Cupertino, California. De Anza College offers 77 associate degrees, including vocational-focused programs in private security, automotive machining, and real estate and transfer-focused programs in journalism, economics, and computer science. The college boasts one of the highest transfer rates to four-year universities out of all of the community colleges in California.
De Anza College promotes community-building among its diverse student body through its school-sponsored learning communities, where students can network with classmates and faculty. These learning communities include the First-Year Experience, the Honors Program, the Humanities Mellon Scholars, and identity-focused communities like IMPACT AAPI and LEAD: Latinx Empowerment at De Anza.
Irvine Valley College - Irvine, California
Irvine Valley College is one of the best community colleges in California, with the highest transfer rate to four-year universities out of all 116 community colleges in the state. Irvine Valley College graduates have transferred to prestigious universities like UC Berkeley, UCLA, USC, Brown, Columbia, and Caltech.
Irvine Valley College offers 24 transfer-focused associate degrees and over 100 additional associate degrees and certificate programs. Students who complete an Associate Degree for Transfer and meet the minimum eligibility requirements are guaranteed admission to six schools in the University of California system: UC Davis, UC Santa Barbara, UC Merced, UC Riverside, UC Irvine, and UC Santa Cruz.
Irvine Valley College also has transfer agreements with private universities such as Chapman University, Brandman University, and Concordia University. Students who graduate with an Associate Degree for Transfer and meet the minimum eligibility requirements are guaranteed admission to a CSU.
The college offers more than $20 million in financial aid annually through scholarships, grants, and work-study. Additionally, the Irvine Valley Promise provides two years of free community college tuition for eligible first-time, full-time IVC students, along with bookstore vouchers, academic counseling services, and other career resources for Promise students.
Foothill College - Los Altos Hills, CA
Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, California, offers 82 associate degrees and 108 certificate programs. Foothill College is also home to one Bachelor's degree in dental hygiene, which prepares students to become licensed dental hygienists who work in dental offices.
Foothill is renowned for its extensive student activities program. It has dozens of pre-professional affinity groups, recreational organizations, and student identity groups, including a Black Student Union and an organization for Women in STEM. Foothill is home to twelve varsity sports teams and a dance squad for community college students looking to participate in team sports.
Furthermore, Foothill College was honored to be a leader in implementing legislation to improve student access and success in transfer-level coursework. Global Experiential Learning opportunities enable Foothill College community college students to travel abroad during the summer to study foreign languages and other subjects in neighboring countries.
Lake Tahoe Community College - Lake Tahoe, CA
Lake Tahoe Community College, considered "California's premier destination college," offers a variety of unique academic experiences for community college students, thanks to its location in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. The college offers around 20 associate degree programs, including programs in criminal and administration of justice, culinary arts, medical office assistant, and hospitality management.
In addition, Lake Tahoe Community College houses an Associate of Arts Degree in Wilderness Education and Outdoor Leadership and an Associate of Science Degree in Fire Science. Students in the new Associate of Science in Forestry, which began in 2022, participate in an internship and part-time work with local forestry organizations and are eligible to receive scholarships from the Tahoe Fund.
Lake Tahoe Community College is also home to a Rising Scholars program, which educates and supports students involved with the criminal justice program.
Las Positas College - Livermore, CA
Las Positas College in Livermore, California, is among the highest-ranked California community colleges. With 24 occupational-focused associate degrees, 44 certificate programs, and 17 transfer-focused associate degrees, Las Positas houses a variety of academic and vocational pathways for its students.
The college offers small class sizes and lab sizes. It has a variety of academic and career pathways designed to help students select a program of study and speed their progress toward completing their degree. Las Positas's performing arts program is particularly well-known, with associate degrees in theatre arts and music and various clubs and organizations focused on music, dance, and art.
Additionally, Las Positas offers a Free Tuition Promise that covers full tuition for first-time, full-time college students who complete 12 or more units per semester in their first year. The college is also a sanctuary campus for undocumented students.
Students at Las Positas Community College who graduate with transfer-focused associate degrees are guaranteed admission to over 50 colleges and universities across the United States.
Pasadena City College - Pasadena, CA
Pasadena City College offers over 200 associate degree programs and certificate programs that help prepare students to earn a bachelor's degree or enter new career paths.
The college offers career communities that allow students to learn with peers with similar career goals. These communities include STEM, Business and Industry, Health and Wellness, Liberal Arts, Social and Behavioral Sciences, and Arts, Communication, and Design. Career communities equip students with internship opportunities, clubs, and the support of their counselors, tutors, and success coaches to break into the career field of their choice.
Additionally, the Transfer Center offers a variety of resources to help community college students transfer to a four-year university. Pasadena City College Students who earn an Associate Degree for Transfer are guaranteed admission into the California State University (CSU) system and participating HBCUs and non-profit, independent universities. With these resources and the support of their career communities, Pasadena City College students are thoroughly prepared to earn a bachelor's degree and enter the industry.
Mt. San Antonio College - Walnut, California
Mt. San Antonio College is another highly regarded community college in California that offers a wide range of associate degree programs, certificate programs, and bachelor's degree programs through partnerships with four-year universities.
The college has a federal designation as a Hispanic Serving Institution and Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institution--a testament to the diversity of its student population.
Mt. San Antonio College houses robust online programs, with over 3,000 online classes that provide an affordable and convenient way for students with family or employment obligations to earn their degrees. Additionally, the college offers a variety of associate degrees for transfer in subjects such as business administration, early childhood education, English, Social Justice Studies, and Mathematics.
The bachelor's degree programs offered by Mt. San Antonio include three bachelor's degrees available through partnerships with Southern Illinois University. Through these programs, students can earn a bachelor's degree in Aviation Management, Health Care Management, and Radiologic Sciences. Furthermore, graduates of Mt. San Antonio College's associate degree in nursing can receive a bachelor's degree in nursing through their online RN-to-BSM bachelor's degree.
Moorpark College - Moorpark, CA
Moorpark College is another highly-ranked community college in California. The college offers over 70-degree programs and has a strong athletics program with 19 intercollegiate sports teams.
Moorpark College offers various student support services such as tutoring, counseling, and career services to help students achieve their academic and career goals. The campus is home to a zoo run by the college's Exotic Animal Training and Management program.
Moorpark College is dedicated to sustainability and has implemented initiatives to reduce waste and promote energy conservation. Additionally, the college offers online programs and hybrid courses for flexibility in scheduling for community college students with family or work obligations.
Frequently Asked Questions About Community Colleges in California
How do I transfer from a California community college to a four-year university?
Many of California's community colleges have guaranteed transfer agreements with four-year colleges, including colleges in California and out-of-state colleges. For example, several community colleges in California have these transfer agreements with the California State University (CSU) system and the University of California (UC) system. Community college students can also transfer to Historically Black Colleges and Universities and private and public universities out-of-state.
To attend a four-year university, transfer students must complete an Associate's Degree for Transfer and meet the minimum requirements for eligibility to the university they want to transfer to. Be sure to research and speak with staff members at your community college's Transfer Center to learn more.
Do community colleges in California offer housing options?
Prior to 2019, only a small number of community colleges in California provided student housing, mainly in rural areas with capacities of under 200 students. However, in recent years, community colleges in urban and suburban regions have also started to explore housing options. Contact the community college you are interested in to learn more about housing options.
How much does tuition cost at California community colleges?
Tuition is typically very affordable at most California community colleges, ranging from $30-$50 per college credit. Local California residents who are first-time, full-time students can often receive full rides through California community colleges' scholarship programs.