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Best 15 Community Colleges in Southern California in 2021

April 5, 2021 | Staff Writers

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Community colleges and two-year programs provide many excellent choices, both educationally and vocationally. Students can use community colleges in Southern California as an affordable way to prepare for a major university or bachelor’s program and a good way to tackle many of the prerequisites required by 4-year degrees. 

Community colleges also avail many vocational opportunities for working adults and students. Many positions and trades in areas like the medical or technical fields often require two-year degrees or some type of post-secondary education or training. That also requires finding good colleges like those on our list of the top community colleges in Southern California.

Best 15 Community Colleges in Southern California

1. Irvine Valley College (95 points)

This two-year school is located in Irvine and offers one of the most affordable programs on our list of the top community colleges in Southern California. An impressive retention rate also helps Irvine Valley College to claim the top spot on our list. 

In-state tuition: $1,144        

Retention rate: 78%              

2. Pasadena City College (94 points)

Another great choice for students or working adults seeking a two-year program is Pasadena City College. This college in Pasadena also has highly-competitive tuition costs that are also aided by very strong student retention rates, earning this Pasadena City College a lofty showing on our list of the top community colleges in Southern California.

In-state tuition: $1,168             

Retention rate: 79%              

2. El Camino College (94 points)

Vying for a tie for the second spot on our list of the top community colleges in Southern California is El Camino College in Torrence. This program also offers students one of the most affordable programs to go along with near 80% retention rates.

In-state tuition: $1,144      

Retention rate: 77%    

4. Glendale Community College (91 points)

This attractively priced school is based in Glendale and is another strong choice for students seeking a good community college or two-year program. Those tuition costs, along with impressive student retention rates earn Glendale Community College a high ranking on our list of the top community colleges in Southern California.

In-state tuition: $1,175                      

Retention rate: 78%         

5. Fullerton College (89 points)

Among the many great shooling options students and working adults in California have to pursue a two-year program or degree, Fullerton College should be counted among them. This college in Fullerton offers students both competitive tuition rates and strong student retention rates.

In-state tuition: $1,142             

Retention rate: 71%                   

5. Santiago Canyon College (89 points)

Students seeking a good community college or a two-year program will appreciate the manageable tuition costs at this school in Orange. A plus 70% retention rate is also an encouraging sign for enrolling students and also make this a top school on our list of the top community colleges in Southern California.

In-state tuition: $1,154             

Retention rate: 73%               

7. Crafton Hills College (88 points)

Along with one of the more affordable tuition fees among the schools on our list, Crafton Hills College in Yucaipa can boast of having solid student retention rate numbers. When it is all added up, that makes this program a top choice for students looking for community colleges in Southern California.

In-state tuition: $1,144         

Retention rate: 71%        

7. Taft College (88 points)

At Taft College in Taft, California, students can pursue a two-year degree while enjoying friendly tuition costs that help to offset so-so student retention rates. Those retention numbers also prevent this solid program from ranking higher, but they are good enough to earn Taft College a second look and a place on our list of the top community colleges in Southern California.

In-state tuition: $1,104        

Retention rate: 66%              

9. Orange Coast College (87 points)

Three-quarters of the students who enroll at Orange Coast College return to complete their degrees. Retention numbers like that, along with highly competitive tuition rates make this Costa Mesa program a top pick on our list of the top two-year schools in Southern California.

In-state tuition: $1,188               

Retention rate: 75%   

10. Chaffey College (86 points)

Chaffey College – a nationally recognized center of learning – offers more than 170 degrees and certificates, including 28 degrees that transfer to four-year universities and colleges. Students can take classes at three campuses located in the Inland Empire region of Southern California. Chaffey, considered a Hispanic-Serving Institution, has a diverse student body that reflects the diversity of Southern California.

In-state tuition: $1,172            

Retention rate: 72%      

11. Mt. San Antonio College (84 points)

A range of two-year degrees are available at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut. Good tuition fees are bolstered by a list-leading student retention rate, earning this community college a place on our list of the top two-year programs in Southern California.

In-state tuition: $1,350                  

Retention rate: 80%   

12. Barstow Community College (83 points)

Like the other great community college options on our list, Barstow Community College offers students the opportunity to earn a two-year degree at affordable rates. Only sub 60% student retention numbers prevent this program from a better showing on our list of the top community colleges in Southern California.

In-state tuition: $1,104            

Retention rate: 58%                  

12. Copper Mountain College (83 points)

Students at Copper Mountain College in Joshua Tree, California, will appreciate good tuition rates as they pursue a two-year degree at this public institution. Less-than-great retention rates don’t help this program’s ranking but don’t prevent it from our list of the top community colleges in Southern California either.

In-state tuition: $1,112              

Retention rate: 61%                    

12. Saddleback College (83 points)

Solid tuition rates and an array of two-year programs make Saddleback College in Mission Viejo another great choice for students seeking a two-year or associate’s degree. This program also touts a 76% student retention rate that bodes well for enrolling students.

In-state tuition: $1,330                 

Retention rate: 76%         

15. East Los Angeles College (82 points)

Closing out our list of the top community colleges in Southern California is East Los Angeles College in Monterey Park. This school affords students two-year degree opportunities at affordable rates, and strong student retention rates don’t hurt this program’s argument for being listed among the top two-year programs in Southern California.

In-state tuition: $1,220          

Retention rate: 72%     

The Methodology and System Used to Rank the Schools

Ranking the schools on our list of the top community colleges in Southern California, we used a basic point system. The methodology uses two factors (tuition and retention rate) that each account for one half of the total score, and that eliminates biases predicated on sole considerations. The points for each factor were tallied and the total point values were assigned to the corresponding schools, which were then ranked accordingly.

We aim to provide information that is useful, informative, and most of all helpful to our readers. Our readers, however, should be aware that the information provided is based on data that is constantly changing. That also means that readers should view this information as approximations, and as with any school being considered, further research about those schools is required.

If you notice any errors or information that needs to be updated, please contact us, so we can continue to provide the most accurate and recent data available. We also welcome any questions or comments regarding any of the schools or programs on our lists, and good luck in all of your educational pursuits. 

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