University education is out of reach for many Americans, especially those from low-income households. But thanks to community colleges, higher education is more accessible than ever. Compared with public four-year institutions, where tuition and fees cost almost three times as much on average, community colleges offer many savings for students.

Some states make community college even more accessible than usual. Multiple states and numerous cities across the U.S. have started “College Promise” programs that give residents free rides to community college. New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Tennessee are some of the states that have joined so far. Such initiatives are proving to be more critical than ever, with college tuition increases outpacing inflation and the need for post-secondary training in most jobs protected to grow through 2020.

Community colleges will be able to help meet that demand. But despite the fact that community colleges offer significant cost advantages, not every state offers schools of the same quality. Drawing on the findings of WalletHub of the best and worst individual community colleges in the U.S., we present a state-by-state ranking of community-college systems below. Read on for the results and a detailed description of our methodology.

Main Findings

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Best Community College Systems

Overall Rank
(1 = Best)


Overall Rank
(1 = Best)


1 Washington 26 Oklahoma
2 South Dakota 27 Missouri
3 Minnesota 28 New Hampshire
4 Colorado 29 Nebraska
5 Arkansas 30 Arizona
6 Maryland 31 Kansas
7 New York 32 Louisiana
8 Wyoming 33 Texas
9 Kentucky 34 Virginia
10 Tennessee 35 Connecticut
11 New Jersey 36 Idaho
12 Mississippi 37 Massachusetts
13 Hawaii 38 North Carolina
14 Iowa 39 South Carolina
15 Montana 40 Illinois
16 West Virginia 41 Ohio
17 Oregon 42 Pennsylvania
18 California N/A Alaska
19 New Mexico N/A Delaware
20 North Dakota N/A Florida
21 Maine N/A Indiana
22 Alabama N/A Nevada
23 Georgia N/A Rhode Island
24 Wisconsin N/A Utah
25 Michigan N/A Vermont


In order to determine the best and worst community-college systems in the U.S., we drew upon our analysis of 2019’s Best & Worst Community Colleges, which was conducted at the individual-school level across a sample of 710 institutions and 19 key metrics.

For our state-by-state analysis, we calculated a weighted average of the scores earned by the community colleges in each state and the number of students enrolled in each school. The state with the highest average corresponds with a rank of No. 1, or the best community-college system. We also took into account only the states that had at least two community colleges present in our sample of the Best & Worst Community Colleges in order to ensure comparability of results.

Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from the National Center for Education Statistics, CNBC, U.S. Department of Education, Council for Community & Economic Research and College Measures.

Image: Tyler Olson /

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