13 Best Community Colleges in California

The best community colleges in California have been outlined and discussed in this article to facilitate admission for those interested in attending a community college in California.

California is the third biggest state in the United States with an estimated population of 38 million so it is a vibrant state with beautiful beaches, mountains, forests, and other landmarks. This state houses Los Angeles – the seat of Hollywood – San Francisco and other cities and islands. All of these make California an interesting place to go study, you will meet different kinds of people, and equally broaden your experience.

Some of the universities and colleges ranking among the best in the whole United States and even in the world are in the state of California. Top institutions such as UCLA, Stanford University, University of California, Berkeley, etc. are here which brings more people and innovations into the state.

There is no doubt that these institutions are costly and highly competitive and if you never knew, now you do. Also, they are way more expensive and competitive to international students, and living in the state is also costly whether for domestic or international students. However, the degrees you will get from here hold international prestige.

There is still a way for you to enjoin in the vibrancy of California and still gain an education at a less expensive rate and also enjoy quality education and earn a renowned degree. This way is by attending a community college, where you will gain the skills, knowledge, and techniques to be successful in life after school.

Some students prefer community colleges and this is because of the lower tuition, less theory and more practical, and gaining skills you can apply to real-life situations. For example, if you love professions like carpentry, electrician, plumber, medical coder, physician assistant, etc., and want to venture into the career, a community college is the right place for you.

Firstly, universities and four-year colleges don’t offer programs of this kind, only community colleges do and these colleges provide students with quality hands-on practical education that would make them start working immediately after they complete their program.

Secondly, unlike universities and four-year colleges, it takes at most two years to complete a degree program at a community college and earn an Associate Degree, certificate, diploma, or the necessary qualification which is recognized and accepted by employers worldwide. Additionally, the credit from your program can be transferred to a university or four-year college.

Finally, it’s high time we got into the main subject matter and without any further ado, let’s get into it. You may want to use the table of contents below for easy navigation across the article.


What is A Community College in California?

Community colleges in California are postsecondary education system in the state of California that requires two years to complete and offers an Associate’s degree, diploma, or certificate depending on how long you studied for the program. There are 116 accredited community colleges in California

Who Can Join A Community College in California?

A resident of California can join, that is, gain admission into any of the community colleges in California if they possess a high school diploma or its equivalent and satisfy other eligibility and admissions requirements.

Non-residents, which also include international students, may also be admitted if they too possess a high school diploma or equivalent, above the age of 18, who in the judgment of the school board is capable of profiting from the instruction offered.

Furthermore, the community colleges in California may admit minors who do not hold high school diplomas or the equivalent to credit courses as special part-time or special full-time students.

What Are The Requirements To Join A Community College in California?

The requirements to apply for admission into one of the community colleges in California is easy, you simply need to have a high school diploma or its equivalent, just as discussed above. That is all the requirements you need to join a community college in California.

Best Community Colleges in California

Here are the best community colleges in California, the links to each of the institutions have been provided just in case you find any of the schools interesting, you can click on the link to learn more about the school and start applying.

There are 116 accredited community colleges in California but only the best 13 have been selected and discussed in this article.

  • Irvine Valley College
  • Lake Tahoe Community College
  • Santa Barbara City College
  • De Anza College
  • Pasadena City College
  • Moorpark College
  • Imperial Valley College
  • Hartnell College
  • Santiago Canyon College
  • Mt San Antonio College (Mt SAC)
  • Las Positas College
  • Diablo Valley College
  • West Valley College

1.      Irvine Valley College

Irvine Valley College commonly referred by to its initials as IVC was established in 1985 as a public community college in Irvine, California, and ranks on the list of best community colleges in California. Sitting on a landmass of over 60 acres of land, IVC boasts of cutting-edge facilities and equipment, dedicated staff, and an outstanding faculty dedicated to equipping students with the necessary knowledge they need to succeed in their respective careers.

11 academic schools in Irvine Valley College offer an associate degree in more than 70 majors in business, arts, integrated design, and social sciences. There are also 60 career and technical programs that offer a certificate for those who want to train for a particular job or take courses for their personal development.

The college equally has a distance (online) education program that allows students to take and complete classes online. IVC has approximately 15,000 students including 550 students from outside the state and country, so, they accept international students. The tuition cost here is $14,415 to $20,577.

Official Website

2.      Lake Tahoe Community College

Lake Tahoe Community College was established in1975 to serve the residents of South Lake Tahoe in California. The college offers an associate in arts and science degrees in a wide range of academic programs which are over 40 and includes business, social sciences, and natural sciences which you can do a credit transfer to a four-year institution of your choice.

If you are also interested in earning a certificate or diploma in a career or technical course LTTC also offers more than 20 certificate programs for interested students to choose from. International students are now accepted into any of these certificate and degree programs. The tuition fee for non-residents of California, out-of-state students, and international students is $205 per unit while tuition is waived for residents of California who also attend a high school in California.

Official Website

3.      Santa Barbara City College

Santa Barbara City College is one of the best community colleges in California, it was established in 1909 making it one of the oldest community colleges in California. The college has three campuses that are just a few hours’ drives apart from each other. The main campus is in Cliff Drive, Schott Campus is on Padre Street, and the third is on, Wake Campus at Turnpike Road, all in Santa Barbara.

The college offers different credit programs which are designed to fit just the kind of education that any student may want. There is the Associate in Arts for Transfer (AA-T) degree and Associate in Science for Transfer (AS-T) degree, this is for students who want to transfer credit to a university or four-year college.

Then there are also the normal Associate in Arts (AA) and Associate in Science (AS) degree programs which offer a wide range of academic programs ranging from communication and liberal arts to humanities and natural sciences. The college also offers the Certificate of Achievement Award, Skills Competency Award, and Department Award. Online learning is also available.

Official Website

4.      De Anza College

De Anza is one of the best community colleges in California, the public college is located in Cupertino and was established in 1967. Over 21,500 students are enrolled in this school pursuing associate degrees and vocational certificates in automotive technology, energy management, and building science, wildlife science technician, etc. which offer credit transfers to California State Schools.

At De Anza College you can earn a degree or certificate, transfer to a university, or get career training. The school is top in transfer, accepts international students, and provides financial aid opportunities for everyone. The cost of education here ranges from $12,300 to $19,302.

Official Website

5.      Pasadena City College

This is a public community college in Pasadena, California, the USA founded in 1924 with a current enrollment of approximately 29,200 students pursuing degrees, transfer programs, and certificates which are over 200 programs. Through these academic programs, the college provides high quality, innovative, and dynamic learning environment that inspires student success.

Pasadena City College is also recognized by many ranking platforms as one of the best community colleges in California. Furthermore, the college has a main campus, a satellite campus, a community education center, and a child development center dedicated to the Pasadena community. With over 1,200 students from around the world enrolled here, the college opens its doors to international students.

Official Website

6.      Moorpark College

Moorpark College is ranked among the best colleges in California and has about 12,000 students enrolled in its various academic degree programs and vocational certificate which students can decide to complete on-campus, online, or in a hybrid setting. The different study options are designed to allow students to choose a flexible study type that suits them best while meeting their educational goals.

The college is located in Los Angeles, living here would sure be expensive, and offers students the adequate education they need to attain their academic and professional aims. Associate and transfer degree options and certificates are provided in many of the school’s departments such as information, health, and wellness, business, accounting, biotechnology, etc.

Official Website

7.      Imperial Valley College

As Asian as this college name may seem, it is a public community college in California, USA, and one of the best at that. Unlike the populated colleges above with over 20,000 undergraduates, this college has only 7,000 undergraduate students and the reason for this low amount of students could be because of the 50 academic degree and certificate programs it offers.

The colleges above offer about 200 associate degrees and certificate programs and because of its wide range of programs, it is common for more students to apply there while this one with lesser programs will have a smaller amount of students. However, popular programs such as agriculture, business, and STEM are offered here.

Additionally, the college offers academic opportunities for students who want to transfer to a university or four-year college. IVC – located east of San Diego – offers on-campus and online flexible learning options and allows students from all and sundry to fire police, and correctional training programs.

Official Website

8.      Hartnell College

Established in 1920 and located in Salinas, California, Hartnell College is dedicated to expanding educational opportunities to underserved populations. It is a Hispanic-Serving post-secondary institution that offers associate degrees and professional certificates in academic programs such as STEM, nursing, health sciences, fine and performing arts, and a lot more many of which can be completed via online learning options.

Hartnell College is recognized among the best colleges in California and has a current undergraduate student of approximately 17,000 which means that it has a wide range of degree and certificate programs. International students who want to earn either an associate of art or associate of science degree or a professional certificate in any of the best community colleges in California are welcomed to apply here.

Official Website

9.      Santiago Canyon College

Interested in entering the workforce, sharpening your skill, transferring to a four-year institution, climbing up the academic ladder, or become more professional? Then the Santiago Canyon College just might be the right place for you. The college provides associate degrees in arts and science and professional certificates in a wide range of academic disciplines designed to meet any of the needs above.

Some of the academic programs include economics, nursing, music, cosmetology, business, astronomy, medical coder, accounting, etc. and you can choose to learn online if you are holding some responsibilities.

Official Website

10. Mt San Antonio College (Mt SAC)

Mt SAC, located in the city of Walnut, is one of the best community colleges in California providing over 260 various academic and vocational training programs and over 3,000 online classes. The associate and certificate programs here include addictions counseling, applied laboratory science technology, fire and technology, computer systems technology, and more.

You can transfer to a four-year institution at the end of your program to help you save costs and quickly earn your bachelor’s degree. If you want to enter the workforce instead the skills and knowledge you will gain along with your degree or certificate will make you a top choice for employers.

Official Website

11. Las Positas College

Does the online mode of learning or face-to-face study option suit you better? Whichever one it is, Las Positas College provides it for students who want to pursue and earn either an associate degree or professional certificate in no time in an environment that they find much conducive. The programs offered at this institution are designed to get you a high-paying job or transfer you to a four-year institution.

Las Positas College is located in Livermore and it is one of the best community colleges in California, has enrolled around 6,500 students annually and provides students services such as financial aid and mental health services.

Official Website

12. Diablo Valley College

Home to a diverse population of learners, including high school graduates, transfer students, and lifelong learners, Diablo Valley College is one of the best community colleges in California. It has campuses in Pleasant Hill and San Ramon providing students with over 80 associate degrees and certificate programs.

Classes are offered via traditional and online formats but here in this college, you can complete an associate degree 100% online in areas such as administration of justice, business, and history.

Official Website

13. West Valley College

On our final list of best community colleges in California in the West Valley College. It is located in Saratoga, San Francisco Bay Area, with a low student population of 2,510 undergraduates. There are over 120 associate degree, certificate, and selected transfer programs that you can choose from. Some of the programs include accounting, marketing, engineering, paralegal, dance specialist, and more.

Official Website

These are the details of the 13 best community colleges in California, look up further info on any of the colleges that piques your interest by following the provided links attached.

FAQs on the Best Community Colleges in California

What is the number 1 community college in California?

The number 1 or top community college in California is Irvine Valley College.

Which California community college has the highest graduation and transfer rates?

Diablo Valley College is the community college in California with the highest graduation and transfer rates.

What is the best community college to transfer to UCLA?

Over 100 community colleges in California send transfer students to UCLA but the Santa Monica College is the best to do this, sending about 400 to 500 students annually to UCLA.

Is a 3.7 GPA good in community college in California?

The average GPA for community colleges in California is 3.0 so, having a 3.7 GPA is significantly above and is good in community college in California.