20 Best Community Colleges in California

California is one of the best states to study in. Full stop. But that’s especially true for community colleges now that you could be eligible to study for 2 years at a community college for free. If you’re a first-time student and plan to attend college full-time, that will apply to you. If not, don’t worry. Many community colleges have flexible learning options and finance plans to help you.

But choosing just 1 community college from the 115 dotted all over the golden state is not an easy task.

Do you even know where to begin?

Well, don’t worry. We’ve found the most popular community colleges in California and ranked them by their graduation rates for you to choose from! Our data was compiled in March 2021. You can always double-check for an up-to-date graduation rate from our source, by searching your college at UNIVSTATS.

Oh, and all the community colleges on our list are fully accredited and verified places to study in California.

1. East San Gabriel Valley Regional Occupational Program and Technical Center

Location: West Covina

Acceptance rate: 100%

Graduation rate: 89%

This education center in West Covina offers both high school and post-secondary education! They offer some great certificates in the healthcare sector, including child development, medical assisting, pharmacy technician training and HVAC. You can study for an associate degree or just one of their certificate programs.

To study at East San Gabriel Valley ROP/TC, you’ll need a high school diploma and the right attitude! With an 89% graduation rate according to UNIVSTATS, this small technical center has high standards and great support for students who really want to do well.

Choosing this community college also prepares you for work, with career planning, resume building and internship options all built into the courses. Plus, you’re located about 30 miles from the coast and near to the Angeles National Forest if you’re looking for things to do nearby.

Also Read: Free Online HVAC Certification For Beginners (3 Methods)

2. American College of Healthcare & Technology

Location: Riverside, Huntington Park

Acceptance rate: 100%

Graduation rate: 78%

With some of the best reviews from students you can find online, the American College of Healthcare in Riverside is undoubtedly one of the best community colleges in California. The graduation rate is approximately 78% for their healthcare programs. You have 9 programs to choose from: medical assistant, veterinary assistant, surgical technology, dental assistant, massage therapist, medical billing, pharmacy technician, HVACR technician, and CADD.

There are 2 campuses for you to choose from: this one in Riverside and another in Huntington Park, about an hour and a half away by car. Whichever campus and program you choose, you’ll be furnished with a laptop, study books and uniform (if applicable) so you can start learning and gaining experience!

There’s no application deadline for ACHT, but you should apply as soon as possible for a chance to study here.

3. Charles A Jones Career and Education Center

Location: Sacramento

Acceptance rate: 100%

Graduation rate: 76%

This education center is all about preparing you with career technical training. Although not the biggest community college, with a 76% graduation rate it’s still a really great place to study. Programs available at the Charles A Jones Career and Education Center include vocational nursing, court reporting, and refrigeration maintenance technician (you can see a list of all their programs in their catalog).

At CAJ you can also find preparation courses to take for free, such as citizenship classes and learning English as a second language. This will help you to gain eligibility for the 2-year technical programs. On the education center grounds, there’s a library and job center beside the 50 classrooms so you won’t have any trouble finding a quiet place to study and help planning your future career.

4. De Anza College

Location: Cupertino

Acceptance rate: 100%

Graduation rate: 65%

For programs, degrees, and certificates that can help you find a career or be a step towards 4-year universities, De Anza College is the best community college in Cupertino (near San Jose). The campus is amazing! Besides the programs they offer, De Anza also has art and cultural activities dotted about in the campus’s exhibition spaces. If you’re looking for a diverse, friendly and fun place to study, then De Anza is a great choice.

There are over 1600 programs on offer at this community college in California, plus 71 associate degrees and 95 certificates. Associate degrees vary from accounting and law enforcement to professional photography and real estate. There’s guaranteed to be something that you want to study at De Anza to create a career.

And if that wasn’t enough to convince you that this is one of the best community colleges in California, it’s notable alumni will – Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Teri Hatcher.

5. Foothill College

Location: Los Altos Hills

Acceptance rate: 100%

Graduation rate: 63%

Without a doubt, this is one of the most beautiful community college campuses in CA. It’s also considered the best community colleges if you want to take your classes remotely, via their online service. Whether you turn up to campus or study from home, Foothill College is a brilliant choice.

There is a wide range of programs to select from, including art history, Japanese, sociology, geography, technology and many more. You’ll also be impressed with the associate degree options available.

The graduation rate for Foothill College is approximately 63% which is very respectable. The college accepts international students and has a great online portal to manage your studying alongside everyday life. The clubs and athletics available are awesome too if you want to be part of the Foothill College community.

6. Glendale Career College

Location: Glendale, San Diego

Acceptance rate: 100%

Graduation rate: 55%

If you’re looking for a high-quality community college to prepare you for a career in the medical industry, you should definitely consider Glendale Career College. Undergraduate enrollment is typically around 500 students and the approximate graduation rate is 55%.

From vocational nursing to dental assistant courses, you can apply to Glendale. There are campuses in Glendale and San Diego, plus an eCampus and resources to find online. While you can take some of your classes online, you won’t want to miss the hands-on training that GCC provides, so you can gain experience in your chosen field.

However you choose to study, you’ve got access to a career services team for career placement assistance. If you want assurance that you’ll be able to find work after you’ve finished studying, Glendale Career College can help. Seriously, career is literally in the title.

7. Fremont College

Location: Cerritos

Acceptance rate: 100%

Graduation rate: 48%

Fremont College is a for-profit college in Cerritos CA. There are 12 programs available, including 5 associate degrees in paralegal studies, digital marketing, health information technology, business management, and finally, sports and rehabilitation therapy.

With almost a 50% graduation rate, this is one of the best community colleges in California that doesn’t focus on healthcare-related programs. The campus in Cerritos offers flexible studying options as well as hands-on training, so you can take some classes at home to fit around your schedule while still receiving the best training.

Fremont’s employment partners are very impressive too. The US Olympic Team, UFC, and various other respected employers partner with Fremont College to provide career placements for the top graduates. You’ll need to work hard, but Fremont College already has all the resources and support you need to forge a brilliant career.

8. Irvine Valley College

Location: Irvine

Acceptance rate: 100%

Graduation rate: 46%

The most popular courses available at the Irvine Valley College are in the liberal arts and humanities, but you can also study a whole plethora of different programs here. In fact, there are over 70 programs that you can take for your 2-year associate degrees, and extra career and technical programs if those don’t catch your eye.

The faculty and facilities available on the Irvine Valley College are extensive and top-of-the-range. Although they maintain small classes and a community-like environment, IVC has the best equipment to hand and the best expertise to help you achieve more with your studies. Their campus covers over 60 acres in South Orange County and undeniably beautiful.

Unlike the prestigious Irvine University with a 37% acceptance rate, Irvine Valley College has a 100% acceptance rate and a respectable 46% graduation rate.

9. Diablo Valley College

Location: Pleasant Hill, San Ramon

Acceptance rate: 100%

Graduation rate: 46%

Diablo Valley College (DVC) has 2 campuses, one in Pleasant Hill and the other in San Ramon. There’s a library, study rooms, computer labs and a huge range of student resources that can almost beat every other Californian community college on this list.

As for the programs you can study at DVC, you have a choice of certificate programs or associate degrees. DVC isn’t a specialized community college like some of the others on our list that focus on one industry (usually the healthcare industry). Instead, you can find programs that range from biological science and business to Spanish and special education.

This is a great college to get involved with the community as well. DVC hosts events all year round and has special community courses for kids and adults to get involved.

You can tour around Diablo Valley College to find out if it’s the right community college in California for you.

10. Ohlone College

Location: Fremont, Newark

Acceptance rate: 100%

Graduation rate: 44%

Ohlone College’s motto is ‘A World of Culture United in Learning’ and that really sums up this community college. With campuses in Fremont and Newark, plus an online portal for you to study remotely, over 15,000 diverse students study with Ohlone every year.

As you can imagine, the campus is well stocked with everything the students and 500 faculty need to learn. The programs on offer include 45 associate degrees, 27 associate degrees for transfer and a whole load more certificates to choose from. All the usual subject areas are available, starting with Accounting and ending with Web design.

You probably noticed the alpacas in the picture above – not an uncommon occurrence at this community college! Check the events schedule at Ohlone to see the fun events coming up on campus to enrich your learning… or just have a bit of fun while you study.

11. Santiago Canyon College

Location: Orange

Acceptance rate: 100%

Graduation rate: 42%

As part of the Rancho Santiago Community College, this option is great for those who want a fuller college experience. You can really get involved with the athletics at Santiago Canyon College!

The campus is home to the hawks and has a women’s soccer team, softball team, volleyball team, basketball team… the list goes on. As for the academic programs you can study here, you have a choice of certificates, degrees and even apprenticeships to grow your skills for a prosperous career.

SCC has many of the popular college programs you’d expect, as well as some more niche programs that can help you build a specific career. Astronomy, women’s studies, and water utility science are just some that are available.

The college is a good option with a 44% graduation rate. You should definitely check this college out if you’re looking to study something interesting in the Orange County area.

12. College of San Mateo

Location: San Mateo

Acceptance rate: 100%

Graduation rate: 42%

Located in Silicon Valley, the College of San Mateo is a really beautiful place to study with a stunning campus that can rival even some of the most beautiful university campuses.

Here you can study over 140 degree or certificate programs, including a range of subjects that vary from addiction studies to political science. 67 of these programs are full associate degrees that can take you onto university or a fantastic career.

This is one of the best community colleges in California for the breadth of services available to all their students. Whether you’re a young student, veteran, a full-time mom, or have a disability, the College of San Mateo has the facilities to help you get the most from your studies no matter your circumstances. And don’t forget to join the Bulldog Athletics programs!

13. Orange Coast College

Location: Costa Mesa

Acceptance rate: 100%

Graduation rate: 41%

Oh yes, it’s the college of choice for Diane Keaton and Patrick Warburton. Need we say more?

Orange Coast College is a public community college that’s been operating since the 1940s, helping people study for brilliant lifetime careers. It has a stunning coastal campus that’s continuously updated to keep it modern and ready to meet the expectations of the 800 students that live there. This is one of the only community colleges in California that offers campus student housing.

It’s no wonder that OCC is one of the top transfer colleges in the USA. With just over a 40% graduation rate and a 100% acceptance rate, this should be considered if you are near the Costa Mesa area. Their range of 2-year associate degree programs are designed to help you transfer to a 4-year college to further your education.

14. College of the Canyons

Location: Valencia, Canyon County

Acceptance rate: 100%

Graduation rate: 40%

This is the college you should choose if you’re looking to achieve excellence. College of the Canyons, with two campuses in Santa Clarita, has become renowned for developing education through leadership. The results for students are great – impressive job creation and retention skills. Going to this community college is great for forging a career with a 2-year degree program.

The college splits its programs into 7 categories: the arts, business, humanities, kinesiology, math science and health, social sciences, and technology. There’s also a performing arts center! Both campuses host events regularly, from farmer’s markets to art galleries.

This college has a good spectrum of programs within those categories that can help you find a specific career path. Automotive technology, culinary arts, and public safety are just examples of the programs you can take here.

15. Palo Verde College

Location: Blythe

Acceptance rate: 100%

Graduation rate: 39%

This public community college in Blythe, California, has a large 200-acre campus in a rural setting, so you can find some peace and quiet with nature while you study! For over 40 years, Palo Verde College has been teaching excellence. They offer a good range of programs, including both 2-year associate degrees and certificates that lead to many different career paths.

The graduation rate isn’t the best but considering that on average only 13% of community college students will graduate in 2 years across the whole US, it’s still pretty good. And with a 100% acceptance rate, you have little to lose by sending in your application.

There are 15 different fields to choose from, including programs in the humanities, arts, technology, and science. Located in eastern California, close to Arizona, this is a great college to pick if you aren’t fussed about being close to the coast!

16. Los Medanos College

Location: Pittsburg

Acceptance rate: 100%

Graduation rate: 39%

Another great public community college! Los Medanos College in Pittsburg California has just under a 40% graduation rate and a brilliant 100% acceptance rate. The modern 140-acre campus in East County is very lovely to study at and has all the facilities needed to let you shine while studying one of their programs. Los Medanos College has over 30 programs to select from for both certificate and associate degree levels.

Currently available in their catalog is 5 history courses to cover different areas of the world, various science and language programs, plus nursing and healthcare industry courses. Besides the degree and certificate programs, you can also find some simple courses to take to prepare you for employment and your chosen career.

LMC was also listed as one of the top 150 community colleges for excellence by Aspen.

17. San Diego Miramar College

Location: San Diego

Acceptance rate: 100%

Graduation rate: 38%

Located in San Diego, Miramar College is an impressive community college to select. With over 150 courses to select from, moving to San Diego for this college alone is tempting! Notable programs at SDMC include aviation technology, diesel technology, and economics, besides all the usual community college courses. Both certificate and associate degree programs are within reach if you apply for this community college in California.

Not only does San Diego Miramar College have a well-stocked library, but it also has its own bookstore (pictured) where you can easily find all the textbooks you need for your chosen course. The campus is large, including a café and fitness center for the SDMC athletes on the grounds. There’s also a careers office and plenty of student resources to help you transition from being a student to being an employee.

18. Saddleback College

Location: Mission Viejo

Acceptance rate: 100%

Graduation rate: 38%

This public community college in Mission Viejo has a staggering number of 2-year associate degrees, certificates and occupational skill programs for you to study. There’s over 300 of them!

Saddleback College is known for being one of the best community colleges in Orange County and has an exceptional nursing program. So, if you’re looking for a career in the healthcare industry, this community college is a good place to start.

Other programs available that you won’t find at just any college include interior design, marine science technology, oceanography, dance, and even fashion merchandising.

Furthermore, the college has a whole host of activities to enjoy, from athletics to theater. TED talks are also hosted on campus and there’s a free shuttle so you can avoid the nightmare of parking on the busy campus and commute to college sustainably.

19. Moorpark College

Location: Moorpark

Acceptance rate: 100%

Graduation rate: 38%

This public community college has a thriving campus (although they also have classes and courses available online if you wish to work remotely) with programs to help you achieve a baccalaureate degree, associate degree, or certificate of achievement. Over 15,000 students study here, taking classes during the day or evening, including both local and foreign students from all over the world.

What really makes Moorpark College stand out from the crowd is the exotic animal training and management center, which makes natural science and/or zoological study programs exceptional at this community college. On campus you’ll also find an observatory for astronomy studies, bookstore, food court, golf range (yes, seriously), performing arts center, baseball field and so much more. Moorpark College wraps up your education with all these fun activities perfectly. They really put the community into community college.

20. Las Positas College

Location: Livermore

Acceptance rate: 100%

Graduation rate: 38%

Las Positas College is last on our list but is certainly still a great option. In fact, a 38% graduation rate is still way above the average and indicates that this community college really cares about its students and will push you to achieve greatness. With small class and lab sizes, you’ll find the learning experience here is much more personal and effective.

Located in Livermore, Alameda County, Las Positas College is a public community college with programs for your associate degree or associate degree for transfer, with several certificate of achievement courses available too.

Study programs from American sign language to fire service technology, besides the usual community college programs, are available to study on campus with some classes and resources available for students to access online. You’ll also find a library and various athletic and sport clubs to join on campus too.

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