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Best Community Colleges in North Carolina in 2020 (Online & On-Campus)

March 13, 2021 | Staff Writers

Community Colleges in North Carolina
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Community colleges have been the backbone of American higher education for many years providing affordable education and training. Whether students are seeking vocational training or a more affordable route to a bachelor’s degree, community colleges in North Carolina have made it more affordable and accessible. As one of the original 13 colonies, North Carolina has some of the oldest institutions for higher learning in the country. From Raleigh to Charlotte to Asheville these are the best community colleges throughout the state of North Carolina to meet the needs of upcoming generations.  

Top 5 Community Colleges in North Carolina

RankSchoolLocation
1Pamlico Community CollegeGrantsboro, North Carolina
2Mayland Community CollegeAvery County, North Carolina
3Montgomery Community CollegeTroy, North Carolina
4Stanly Community CollegeAlbemarle, North Carolina
5Cape Fear Community CollegeWilmington, North Carolina

The importance of higher education is a subject that is frequently impressed upon students by teachers and parents throughout their early education. The many benefits and opportunities presented when this subject is promoted to kids in school inevitably echoes and reverberates in their curious minds until high school graduation. The many advantages that higher education presents become ingrained in the plans of many enthusiastic and goal-driven students.

Of course, teachers, coaches, and pretty much anyone involved in education continue to hammer home the value of going to college because, put simply, its importance is undeniable. Although this advice is certainly helpful in guiding students to consider higher education after high school, selecting the most suitable path ultimately falls upon the student. 

Choosing a school and planning a future can be a rather daunting task, especially for those who aren’t sure what they want to study. Prestigious universities and state schools are expensive, and there are so many programs out there to choose from, the process of finding a program and applying is overwhelming. Add to that the fact that students have to figure out how to pay for school, and you can understand why some students shy away from the process.

A community college might be the wisest route to take, which is evident when examining the community college policy. Not only do students receive a quality education, but community colleges, especially those located in and around the state of North Carolina, offer many fantastic benefits that should be researched and considered when making this career-defining decision. For students who are worried about taking on a lot of debt from going to college, community colleges offer some of the most affordable options out there. They are ideal for students looking to pursue an associate’s degree but are a great way to take basic classes before transferring to a four-year school.

Reasons to Attend Community Colleges in North Carolina

Before we get ahead of ourselves, it’s important to first provide a few facts to give credibility to the statement alluding to community colleges in North Carolina being especially noteworthy. North Carolina is home to six of the top ten community colleges in the nation according to a 2018 study conducted by Smart Asset who took into account graduation rates, costs, and transfer rates in deciding which schools deserved to be ranked where.

This fact is rather astonishing, but it also presents some prospective students with a tough choice to make. With so many great schools to choose from, deciding which one is the best fit for you requires a fair bit of research. Besides the six nationally-ranked community colleges in North Carolina, there are a whopping fifty-two other schools with a combined total of around two-hundred and seventy-five courses of study. Narrowing down the choices is no small task.

To help students looking to attend one of the many great community colleges in North Carolina, we put together this guide. It not only shows which schools are considered the best in the state, but also demonstrates why they are the best. This information will help you to make the best choice when deciding which of the unique and impressive community college institutions in North Carolina you want to attend.

What Sets Community Colleges in North Carolina Apart

First and foremost, it’s important to understand that most students seeking out a degree in high education from a community college do so to stay close to home. The community and local aspects of these institutions have a focused curriculum based on the particular jobs and careers needed in the area. To make this list of best community colleges in North Carolina more useful to people from all corners of the state, we spread out our list by including top community colleges from all over North Carolins and not just one or two of the more populated areas.

Community colleges apply a more location-focused type of educational curriculum. They want to provide local students with educational opportunities that are presently available and will continue to be available in the region. This approach is one of the most beneficial things about these colleges. Community colleges not only offer a more reasonably priced, accessible, and flexible curriculum, but also a career and technical workforce training approach geared at finding employment at businesses located in and around the community.

For example, a community college located in a rural farming town is more likely to have a curriculum and local on-site job training programs focused on agriculture and the business and science aspects of those industries and that specific job market. Though this isn’t always the case and some community colleges do offer a more wide breadth of choices, it is still helpful to understand that the majority of the community colleges on this list are not going to offer some of the more exotic areas of study.

This approach to education does not in any way lessen the quality of education students receive from these schools, and though our list is a bit more wide-ranging, every school described is considered by students, local business owners, and many others to be top of the line. To properly determine which schools were good enough to make this list, we looked for which colleges were the best at what is most important in any community college. These include but aren’t limited to, cost, curriculum, campus location, and graduation rate. So, without further delay here is our list of the best community colleges in North Carolina.

Best 17 Community Colleges in North Carolina

1

Pamlico Community College

  • Grantsboro, North Carolina
  • Graduation Rate: 69%
Pamlico Community College Community Colleges in North Carolina

Pamlico Community College has been recognized as one of the top community colleges in North Carolina and the nation for many reasons. With small class sizes and high graduation and transfer rates, students of Pamlico succeed first in their studies and their careers. With academic programs, continuing education programs, and public safety and emergency management programs Pamlico Community College offers a wide array of degrees and certifications to meet the needs of its diverse students. Students can either use their education at Pamlico to begin their career upon graduation or use it as a springboard to transfer to a larger university to pursue a bachelor’s degree.  

School Overview

Location: Grantsboro, North Carolina
Tuition: $1,216 per Semester
Financial Aid: Yes
Online: Yes
Graduation Rate: 69%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 9:1
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2

Mayland Community College

  • Avery County, North Carolina
  • Graduation Rate: 62%

A public institution, Mayland Community College is one of the 58 institutions in the North Carolina Community College System. Nestled in the Appalachian Mountains, Mayland provides education, training, and courses for many in the community. Mayland offers an open admissions policy that allows students as young as 14 to enroll in their concurrent enrollment programs. They also provide continuing education programs for senior citizens and younger ones. There are also numerous workforce training programs to support the needs for vocational education and training that help revitalize and boost economic development in the surrounding area. 

School Overview

Location: Avery County, North Carolina
Tuition: $2,558
Financial Aid: Yes
Online: Yes
Graduation Rate: 62%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 13:1
Visit School Website
3

Montgomery Community College

  • Troy, North Carolina
  • Graduation Rate: 51%

A public community college, Montgomery Community College is part of the more than 50 community colleges of the North Carolina Community College System. With over 130 college-level programs, students can enroll in one that fits their goals and talents. Students can also choose to enroll in short-term job training programs such as emergency management and heating and air among others. Students that are seeking to transfer to a larger university upon graduation to earn their bachelor’s degree can enroll in one of the transfer programs. For those seeking to learn vocational skills in welding, electricity, or HVAC can enroll in those training programs and earn certifications. There are also continuing education programs offered for those simply seeking to learn something new, like pottery and fitness.   

School Overview

Location: Troy, North Carolina
Tuition: $2,537
Financial Aid: Yes
Online: Yes
Graduation Rate: 51%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 8:1
Visit School Website
4

Stanly Community College

  • Albemarle, North Carolina
  • Graduation Rate: 37%

A public institution, Stanly Community College is part of the North Carolina Community College System. Stanly offers a variety of programs including automotive, nursing aid, accounting, real estate licensing, welding, and more. With 12 programs available online and the rest delivered in person on campus there are options to meet most students interested and talents. There are transfer programs and vocational training programs for certification in areas like emergency management.  

School Overview

Location: Albemarle, North Carolina
Tuition: $2,673
Financial Aid: Yes
Online: Yes
Graduation Rate: 37%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 13:1
Visit School Website
5

Cape Fear Community College

  • Wilmington, North Carolina
  • Graduation Rate: 34%

A public institution, Cape Fear Community College has been providing high-quality education and workforce training for more than six decades. To help ensure student success, Cape Fear Community College has fully accredited faculty members and provides small classes where students are not just another number. Support services are in place to help students navigate their courses and time to reach their academic goals and personal challenges they may face. Students can choose from many programs including marine technology, health sciences, university transfer, career and technical, fine arts, film, and design are just a few.  

School Overview

Location: Wilmington, North Carolina
Tuition: $2,748
Financial Aid: Yes
Online: Yes
Graduation Rate: 34%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 14:1
Visit School Website

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6

Wayne Community College

  • Goldsboro, North Carolina
  • Graduation Rate: 31%

A public community college, Wayne Community College has been educating students for over 60 years. Many graduates transfer to universities following their time at Wayne Community College, though some do enter careers upon graduation. Programs include associate degrees in business, public health, safety, and more. WCC offers a variety of vocational and technical programs as well. Students that complete their associate degree or transfer program at Wayne save up to 80% on tuition when compared to other larger institutions for higher learning. 

School Overview

Location: Goldsboro, North Carolina
Tuition: $1,216 per Semester
Financial Aid: Yes
Online: Yes
Graduation Rate: 31%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 12:1
Visit School Website
7

Brunswick Community College

  • Bolivia, North Carolina
  • Graduation Rate: 32%

A public institution for higher learning, Brunswick Community College was originally opened as Brunswick Technical Institute and is part of the North Carolina Community College System. For those who are seeking to transfer to a larger four-year college to pursue a bachelor’s degree Brunswick offers an Associate in Arts, an Associate in Science, and an Associate in Engineering. These degrees provide a seamless course to transfer to many of the universities in North Carolina and even institutions in other states. Brunswick also offers a wide array of diplomas, certificates, and degrees in a variety of fields for students seeking career training and technical skills for entry-level positions upon program completion.  

School Overview

Location: Bolivia, North Carolina
Tuition: $2,532
Financial Aid: Yes
Online: Yes
Graduation Rate: 32%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 9:1
Visit School Website
8

Asheville – Buncombe Technical Community College

  • Asheville, North Carolina
  • Graduation Rate: 33%

A public institution for higher learning, Asheville-Buncombe Community College offers dynamic quality education to enhance academic, workforce, and personal development. A-B Tech provides a welcoming and inclusive culture of respect and support for all who participate or educate in their programs. Students can earn an associate degree, diploma, or certificate in a variety of fields including accounting, HVAC, automotive, brewing distillation and fermentation, aviation management, computer information, and more. There are programs for those pursuing a transfer degree as well as those seeking workforce development.  

School Overview

Location: Asheville, North Carolina
Tuition: $2,632
Financial Aid: Yes
Online: No
Graduation Rate: 33%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 14:1
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9

Western Piedmont Community College

  • Morganton, North Carolina
  • Graduation Rate: 30%

A public institution, Western Piedmont Community College is part of the North Carolina Community College System. Situated on a beautiful 300-acre campus, Western Piedmont offers over 36 associate degree programs and three transfer degrees in science, art, and the fine arts. Other programs available are adult education, general education completion courses, continuing education, and English as a second language, computer technology, crafts, and woodworking. WPCC graduates students with high success rates in degree performance and completion.

School Overview

Location: Morganton, North Carolina
Tuition: $2,577
Financial Aid: Yes
Online: Yes
Graduation Rate: 30%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 10:1
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10

Richmond Community College

  • Hamlet, North Carolina
  • Graduation Rate: 31%

A public institution, Richmond Community College has served the surrounding area of Hamlet for over 50 years as part of the North Carolina Community College System. Originally serving as a technical college Richmond has evolved to become a comprehensive community college offering both technical training and liberal arts courses for transfer degree options. With 34 academic programs, adult education programs, English as Second Language programs, and online courses Richmond meets the diverse interests and needs of the students attending. Students receive personal mentoring in developing their education plans to help them achieve their goals. 

School Overview

Location: Hamlet, North Carolina
Tuition: $2,516
Financial Aid: Yes
Online: Yes
Graduation Rate: 31% 
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 15:1
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11

Wake Technical Community College

  • Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Graduation Rate: 28%

In the heart of Raleigh, Wake Technical Community College is a public institution that is part of the North Carolina Community College System. As the largest community college in North Carolina, Wake Tech serves more than 74,000 adults annually. Wake Tech is fully accredited and offers an astounding 200 associate’s degrees, diplomas, and certificates. Students seeking to transfer to a larger institution to pursue a bachelor’s degree can choose an associate’s degree that helps them transfer seamlessly to most universities. Those seeking vocational training have a wide array of options from automotive, accounting, culinary arts, engineering, cloud infrastructure, dental hygiene and so many more! Wake Tech also offers non-credit training programs for small business support, customized corporate training, and basic skills.  

School Overview

Location: Raleigh, North Carolina
Tuition: $2,768
Financial Aid: Yes
Online: Yes
Graduation Rate: 28%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 18:1
Visit School Website
12

Rockingham Community College

  • Wentworth, North Carolina
  • Graduation Rate: 27%

A public institution, Rockingham Community College is part of the North Carolina Community College System. With 50 programs of study students have access to courses that only interest them but degrees to help them in their future careers. RCC offers four transfer degrees and over 20 associate degrees in various fields of study. Some of the most popular programs include Early College High School and the Associate in Arts programs. RCC also offers a wide array of workforce development programs to help adults desiring continued education in a vocation field. RCC is a fully accredited institution. 

School Overview

Location: Wentworth, North Carolina
Tuition: $1,966
Financial Aid: Yes
Online: Yes
Graduation Rate 27%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 13:1
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13

Surry Community College

  • Dobson, North Carolina
  • Graduation Rate: 24%

A public institution for higher learning, Surry Community College is part of the North Carolina Community College System and is fully accredited. Those seeking to join Law Enforcement can gain the necessary training and certification at Surry Community College. There are also transfer degrees available for students seeking to transfer to a larger institution for a bachelor’s degree upon completion. Other areas of programs include Fire and Rescue, Agricultural Science, Construction Technologies, Business Computer Technologies, and more. Students have access to career planning resources to help ensure their success beyond the classroom.  

School Overview

Location: Dobson, North Carolina
Tuition: $2,540
Financial Aid: Yes
Online: Yes
Graduation Rate: 24%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 13:1 
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14

Durham Technical Community College

  • Durham, North Carolina
  • Graduation Rate: 23%

A public institution for higher learning, Durham Technical Community Colleges is fully accredited and serves over 18,000 students across seven campuses between Orange and Durham counties. Students can choose from over 100 degrees and certificates to either transfer to a four-year institution to earn a bachelor’s degree or to gain training and skills to enter the workforce. Durham Tech offers a wide array for programs including the arts, education, engineering, education, technologies, health, public safety, and more. Durham Tech also provides the community with various continuing education courses for residents.    

School Overview

Location: Durham, North Carolina
Tuition: $1,958
Financial Aid: Yes
Online: Yes
Graduation Rate: 23%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 13:1
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15

Craven Community College

  • New Bern, North Carolina
  • Graduation Rate: 29%

Craven Community College (Craven CC) is a dynamic two-year institution that serves over 4,000 curriculum students and more than 11,000 individuals in workforce development training programs per year. With campuses in both New Bern and Havelock, the Volt Center workforce training hub in downtown New Bern, and a strong presence at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, Craven CC is committed to meeting Eastern North Carolina’s education and training needs. The college offers a wide range of associate degree and certificate programs, college transfer courses, career readiness offerings, partnerships with numerous four-year universities, developmental studies, and College & Career Readiness.

School Overview

Location: New Bern, North Carolina
Tuition: $2,023
Financial Aid: Yes
Online: Yes
Graduation Rate: 29%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 14:1
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16

Southwestern Community College

  • Sylva, North Carolina
  • Graduation Rate: 17%

A public institution, Southwestern Community College has been providing quality education to students for over 55 years. Southwestern has been anticipating and responding to the local educational needs of the community and providing growth opportunities. SCC offers a variety of curriculums and programs. Offering degree, certificate, and diploma programs they fall into three academic divisions: Arts and Sciences, Career Technologies, and Health Sciences. Career training and continuing education courses are also offered on campus to serve the residents in the surrounding area. Students seeking to transfer to a larger university to earn a bachelor’s degree can do so seamlessly through one of the institution’s transfer articulation agreements.  

School Overview

Location: Sylva, North Carolina
Tuition: $2,213
Financial Aid: Yes
Online: Yes
Graduation Rate: 17%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 10:1
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17

Vance Granville Community College

  • Henderson, North Carolina
  • Graduation Rate: 43%

A public institution, Vance-Granville Community College is one of the institutions that is part of the North Carolina Community College System. Offering more than 40 programs that lead students to degrees, diplomas, or certifications, Vance-Granville Community College has four campuses to meet the needs of students in four counties. Courses are offered during the day, evening, and online to better meet the needs of students. Students can attend to either gain technical training, earn certification for continuing education or earn their transfer degree and transfer to a larger university to earn a bachelor’s degree.  

School Overview

Location: Henderson, North Carolina
Tuition: $1,948
Financial Aid: Yes
Online: Yes
Graduation Rate: 43%
Faculty-to-Student Ratio: 13:1
Visit School Website

The benefits of community colleges are many and vary from school to school, but almost always they provide high-quality education at an affordable price. The community colleges in North Carolina provide a pathway for careers and affordable education. Students seeking to use their associate degree as a springboard to earning a bachelor’s degree elsewhere can do so at a much lower cost. Students seeking technical or vocational training will find a wide array of fields to study to earn the necessary certifications and degrees for entry-level employment.  

Community Colleges in North Carolina have been ranked using a matrix of cost, graduation rate, and faculty to student ratio. Other community colleges in North Carolina did not make it on this list.

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