Best Community Colleges In California

Community colleges are an effective stepping stone towards a bachelor’s degree. I’m speaking from personal experience here, as I transferred to UC Davis after three years at a California community college.

In fact, my first three months at a university cost as much as three years at a community college!

With that said, these are some of the best community colleges in California. I chose these assuming that you want to transfer to a four year institution after completing community college. These are also in no particular order, as I tried to find the best community colleges from all over the state of California.

De Anza College – Cupertino

This college, located in the South Bay Area and Silicon Valley, is not only one of the best community colleges in  California, but it’s also one of the top community colleges in the country in terms of transfers. A June 2012 article on CNN Money noted that 74% of the freshman class that started in 2007 had transferred to a four year by 2010; it’s one of three dozen community colleges in the nation with a transfer rate of over 70%.

Besides its status as a destination for transfer students, De Anza enjoys academic acclaim as well. It appeared on Washington Monthly’s list of Top 50 Community Colleges at #45, the only college from California on the list. De Anza offers 60 associate degree programs and has a notable animation program that was ranked as one of the Top 15 in the country according to Animation Magazine.

In addition, De Anza also features 19 different sports programs for both men and women. According to their website, they have won the Coast Conference’s All Sports Trophy 18 times in the last 28 years.

Foothill College – Los Altos

Foothill College, also located in the South Bay, is about as good at transferring students as its neighbor De Anza, as 62% of the freshman class of 2003 transferred within seven years according to a Yahoo! Report.

Foothill offers 79 associate degree programs with 352 full time employees. In terms of athletics, Foothill offers five men’s programs and seven women’s programs. Their men’s soccer program is ranked #7 in the nation. In addition, they offer over 500 online courses; they were also the very first community college in California to offer online courses.

Santa Monica College – Santa Monica

Located in the Greater Los Angeles Area, Santa Monica College was voted by readers of the Los Angeles Times as the “Best Community College” in the Southern California area in 2011. According to the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, Santa Monica College sent 2,176 students to a UC or a CSU in 2012, more than any other community college in the state. In addition, 13% of USC’s 1,658 transfers in 2012 came from this school.

SMC offers 80 fields of study and is the home of the Academy of Entertainment and Technology, which offers courses in game design, animation, graphic design and interior architectural design. SMC has 16 sports teams, and is the home of 89.9 FM KCRW, an NPR affiliate in Los Angeles and Orange County.

Diablo Valley College – Pleasant Hill

Full disclosure: this was my old community college. However, it is worth mentioning because it transfers more students to UC Berkeley than any other two year institution in the country. In fact, I knew someone who moved to the East Bay to attend that school simply because she was more likely to get into Cal that way.

DVC operates on two campuses: the main one in Pleasant Hill and an extension in nearby San Ramon. The Pleasant Hill campus is undergoing extensive remodeling, which will give it a modern look when it is complete. Their transfer center is filled with experts on the process; I can assure you that I wouldn’t have been able to transfer to UC Davis without their help.

I can’t find the precise number of associate degree programs they offer, but you can see the list of programs they offer here.

Sierra College – Rocklin

This college, primarily based in Rocklin but with additional campuses in Roseville, Truckee and Grass Valley, claims to be the #1 community college in northern California in transfers to the UC and CSU systems. The entire college district covers 3,200 square miles, which in their words is larger than the state of Delaware!

Sierra College offers 83 associate degree programs and 73 certificate programs. One really cool thing about Sierra College is that the Rocklin campus has two on-campus dormitories, one of the few community colleges in the state to have such facilities. Since there are only eight community colleges in California north of Rocklin, those of you in northern California who are serious about education should check that out.

San Diego Mesa College – San Diego

Mesa College is one of the best community colleges in California and the strongest community college in the San Diego area in terms of transfers. From 2010 to 2012, Mesa transferred 2,079 students to a four-year university, boasting a transfer rate of 44%. Students from Mesa College have attended San Diego State, UCSD, University of Phoenix, UCLA and UC Berkeley.

Mesa offers 152 associate degree and certificate programs. In addition, they received the 2011-2012 Chet DeVore trophy, the highest award for a community college athletics program in California. Their school also features a $20 million, 107,000 square foot building called the Learning Resource Center, which houses the school library, audiovisual center and study hall.

This list is by no means exhaustive or complete, and the transfer rates should be taken with a grain of salt as I noticed that different schools were using different means to calculate their rates.

In addition, I should note that, while there is a strong correlation between attending these schools and transferring to four years, it is impossible to determine whether this is caused by the school’s academic quality or if these schools attract the best students.

Still, these six schools are generally some of the best community colleges in California.

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John Kesler

John Kesler

John Kesler is a senior studying communication at the University of California, Davis. If he is on campus, he can be found in the basement offices of the newspaper or the radio station. At home, he enjoys listening to whatever music he can, reading whatever books he can, and taking walks wherever he can.
John Kesler

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