Top 10 Community Colleges in California

Top Community Colleges in CA

Check out our updated list for 2014!

For many Americans, a bachelor’s degree is still a common stop along the way to better paying jobs. As college tuition rates continue to rise, many students consider transferring from a community college to a four-year college or university a practical option. While community colleges are a great way to earn college credit at home before going to a bigger school, there are a number of factors to consider before choosing a community college that is right for you. If a major university is your end goal, the success rate and transfer rate of a college should be your number one priority. These two rates are representative of how well students do in the school, and whether or not they are able to transfer from the community college to a four-year school. Higher success rates may indicate a better quality of education, and a good relationship with local universities. Keep an eye out for schools that have honors programs. Even if a community college has a lower success rate, the honors program will make transferring easier. Another factor to consider is whether or not courses and credits will transfer from community college to four-year school programs. Many community colleges have transfer programs and arrangements to universities in their area, with some even offering guaranteed transfers. These programs are an easier path than traditional transfer methods, saving time and money in the long run. The state of California has a program named “Assist” that is geared towards providing equivalency information for all colleges and universities in the state. If at all possible, find out beforehand if the university you want to go to will accept class credits from a community college.

California Community College Rankings 2013

California as a whole ranks 24th nationally in community college graduation and transfer rates. Don’t let this number fool you though. Ultimately, the ability to transfer from community college to university falls on you, as a student. Your performance and getting good grades makes a difference. The following is a list of some of the top community colleges in California based on graduation and transfer rates, as well as academic standard. 

De Anza College

Top Community Colleges in California

De Anza College tops the list with one of the highest graduation and transfer rates in the state, coming in with a solid 72%.  Located in Cupertino, California, this community college is known as being an essential part of the Silicon Valley community.  Students of this institution often transfer to many of the California State and University of California campuses across the state. Beyond their high transfer rates, De Anza College boasts a diverse student population and an excellent animation program that is ranked among programs from top universities like New York University, UCLA and USC.

Foothill College

Top California Community College - Foothill College

Source:[/caption] Foothill College is located in Los Altos Hills, California and is known for its fantastic, award-winning architecture. Part of the Silicon Valley community, this institution offers many programs and facilities to its community including a Japanese Cultural Center, an Observatory, an all-weather track and more. Beyond its offerings, Foothill College is among one of the most successful community colleges in California with a transfer and success rate of 68.2%, making it one of the top three community colleges in the state.

Santa Barbara City College

SBCC Campus - Top California Community College

Recently winning the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence and was ranked as the best community college in the nation by the Aspen Institute. An educational institute dedicated to understanding and improving public programs, Santa Barbara City College is a campus known for success. SBCC prepares its students for university degrees with excellent support programs like writing centers and academic support.  Many students that attend SBCC transfer to University of California Santa Barbara. SBCC boasts a completion and transfer rate of close to 64%.

Irvine Valley College

California Community College - Irvine Valley College

Irvine Valley College is strategically located within fifty miles of nine Californian universities. In fact, it was because of this location that this community college was originally opened. Irvine Valley College, located in Irvine, California, is a key community college to those seeking to transfer into California’s top universities. Irvine Valley College is consistently ranked within the top ten of Californian community colleges with a solid 52.7% graduation and transfer rate. IVC also features a robust honors program that allows students to have top priority to UCLA, UCI and other universities in the area.

Orange Coast College

Orange Coast College

Orange Coast College finds its home in Orange County, California and offers two-year degrees in the arts and sciences as well as a wide variety of certifications. Located in Costa Mesa, more than 25,000 students enroll in this bustling community college each semester. This college is minutes away from beautiful beaches and famed Disneyland.  Orange Coast College is also ranked highest in transfers, out of the other nine community colleges in Orange County, with students transferring to University of California schools, California State University campuses as well as schools across the country.

Pasadena City College

Pasadena City College - California

Pasadena City College is one of the largest community colleges in the United States, and is steadily ranked in the top 10 of community colleges in the state of California. Thanks to its location in Los Angeles County, students of PCC have easy access to schools like UCLA, USC, and the well-respected Art Center College of Design. In fact, some claim that PCC is a shortcut to the prestigious Art Center.  Pasadena City College’s programs are among the best in the country, preparing students for future degrees in mathematics, ethnic studies, music, health care, product design, visual arts, publishing and television and radio.

Cuesta College

Cuesta College

Source:[/caption] Cuesta College is a well-regarded institution near the central coast of California.  Considered a medium sized community college, this college offers 76 associate degree programs in the sciences and arts as well as 96 certificate programs in a wide variety of subjects. Students from Cuesta College often transfer to California State Polytechnic University.  Cuesta College is a major part of the San Luis Obispo County and takes an interest in the future of its residents. To this end, this college hosts career exploration summer camps for seventh and eighth graders allowing them hands-on experience in business, health, welding, and information sciences.

Sierra College


Sierra College

Source:[/caption] Named for the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Sierra College is located in the foothills of Rocklin, California. Home to beautiful scenery and nearby Lake Tahoe, this college campus offers associate degrees geared towards transferring in addition to specific courses that are accepted by the California State Universities. Due to its proximity to Sacramento and San Francisco, students of Sierra College often move on to universities in these cities.

Ohlone College

Ohlone College California Community College

Ohlone College is a multi-campus college found in Fremont, California—better known as San Francisco’s East Bay.  Its proximity to top schools like Stanford and UC Berkeley attracts many students to this college. In fact, Ohlone College is an incredibly diverse college with students from 30 different countries. Ohlone is also known for its Center for Deaf Studies, an outstanding program to help deaf and hard of hearing students obtain an education.

Mount San Antonio College

Mount San Antonio College

Mount San Antonio College, or Mt. SAC to city locals, is located in the quiet Los Angeles suburb of Walnut, California. What makes Mt. SAC unique among community colleges is its partnership with a number of four-year institutions that allows students to earn a bachelor degree. Additionally, Mt. SAC is well known for its training programs that train students to become air traffic controllers for the FAA. The school maintains its own hangar, and its aviation program offers an on-campus partnership with Southern Illinois University for a Bachelor of Science in Aviation Management. Sources: Top image source:

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