With the increasing cost of education, many students graduating high school are looking for more affordable education options. One way graduates are cutting costs is by starting out their degrees at community colleges. These institutions provide the building blocks needed for four-year degrees at a much lower price point. If you or your student are looking for a cheaper alternative to major universities, you may want to consider some of the top community colleges in the nation. Using a combination of rental data, city statistics, and looking at the top fifty community colleges in the nation, we narrowed down the list to the four top community college towns for students on a budget.
In order to make our list, each city had to host a top ranking community college, provide average one bedroom rental prices of approximately $1,000 or less, as well as boast a high quality of living. Check out these top four community college towns and consider kick-starting your college education in one of these locations.
#4: Glenwood Springs, Colorado – Colorado Mountain College
Average Rental Prices:
1 bedroom – $1,073
2 bedroom – $1,638
Credit to www.visitglenwood.com
If you are looking for a college experience paired with one of the most stunning backdrops possible, opting for the Glenwood Springs campus of Colorado Mountain College will be a sure win. This outstanding college provides students the ability to jump-start their college career without breaking the bank with the high prices of a major university. Colorado Mountain College actually boasts 11 mountainous locations, as well as online education options. This small but prestigious community college has been recognized as being in the top 13 percent of two-year colleges in the US for exceptional student performance and outcomes. In the state of Colorado, Colorado Mountain College ranks #1 among two-year colleges for graduation plus transfer rates.
As you can see from the data below if you toggle to Associate’s Degrees, compared to national numbers Glenwood Springs has a higher number of students obtaining a degree in General Natural Resources & Conservation.
The Glenwood Springs campus is one of three residential campuses and provides students with flexible class schedules and access to an outdoor enthusiast’s dream. While some mountain towns experience a slow-season, Glenwood Springs is truly open year-round. In the winter, Glenwood Springs becomes the hot spot for skiing, snow sports, and the famous Glenwood Hot Springs Pool. During the summer, the town hosts an array of river activities, such as fishing, rafting, kayaking, and a world-class whitewater activity area.
The outdoor adventures don’t end there. Residents can also take part in exploring caves, lakes, rivers, caverns, and steam baths. The area also hosts hundreds of local hiking trails with a seemingly unending supply of breathtaking, postcard-worthy views.
Not only is Glenwood Springs a great location for students who enjoy outdoor activities, it is also host to delicious restaurants, breweries, and renowned festivals such as the annual Strawberry Days Festival and Wild West Fermentation Fest.
Students who opt to study at Colorado Mountain College can either find housing through local rentals or choose to live on campus. With the majority of homes occupied by renters, the average one-bedroom rental goes for approximately $1,073 a month.
#3: Flagstaff, Arizona – Coconino Community College
Average Rental Prices:
1 bedroom – $1,009
2 bedroom – $1,297
If you are looking for an affordable but naturally stunning location to start off your college career, Flagstaff might be the place for you. The city of Flagstaff is situated at the foot of the Arizona mountains and, unlike the majority of Arizona, actually experiences mild summer temperatures. Located 7,000 feet above sea level, Flagstaff boasts 288 days of sunshine and beautiful snowy winter months. Home to Coconino Community College, students can take advantage of the lower cost of tuition at the community college to get a start on their college career.
Coconino Community College (CCC) offers an array of two-year associate degrees as well as nearly 50 certificate programs. CCC has programs that are geared towards student transition into neighboring state universities as well. Due to the success of these student transition programs, Coconino Community College has been recognized with numerous awards including a 2012 Lee Noel & Randi Levitz Retention Excellence Award and the Arizona College Access Network’s 2011 Pathways to Postsecondary Education Award.
For those who choose to study in Flagstaff, they will enjoy the vibrant college community that resides over the city. Sharing the town with Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff is geared towards the college crowd and is host to an array of dining and nightlife choices, as well as a rising craft beer scene.
For those who prefer to opt outside, Flagstaff’s location at the base of the San Francisco peaks makes this city a sure fit. For snow lovers, the nearby Arizona Snowbowl will provide exciting skiing and snowboarding options. Surrounded by the world’s largest ponderosa pine forest, there are unending opportunities for breathtaking hikes, camping trips, and mountain biking. For a weekend getaway, the Grand Canyon is only an 80-mile drive away.
With average two-bedroom rental prices beneath $1,300, finding a roommate and starting off your college career at Coconino Community College can be an excellent way to lower your college degree costs. Less than half the housing units in Flagstaff are owner-occupied, much lower than the national average. This is a testament to the young, college-focused community.
#2: Rock Springs, Wyoming – Western Wyoming Community College
Average Rental Prices:
1 bedroom – $710
2 bedroom – $830
Images courtesy of Downtown Rock Springs (www.downtownrs.com)
Head up north to the open vistas of Wyoming and you will find this community college gem. Western Wyoming Community College has received numerous accolades, including a ranking on CNN Money’s list of top community colleges. With close to 70 percent of students participating in transfer programs, this affordable college is an excellent way to experience the West while cutting costs on school bills. With average rental prices far below national averages, opting for a two bedroom rental will only cost you around $830 a month.
Western Wyoming Community College (WWCC) offers 36 different one-year certificates and an array of degree-related programs including humanities and fine arts, health science, social science, business, technology and industry, and science and mathematics. The school also boasts a strong international students program with many local families in Rock Springs acting as host families.
For students who opt to kick-start their college career in Rock Springs, they will enjoy the small-town comfort of the location paired with a host of enjoyable amenities. For entertainment, residents flock to the newly refurbished Broadway Theater. This live performance venue is host to a variety of concerts and special events. Festivals take place year round. For a chance to sip on local brews, check out the Sweetwater Blues N’ Brews. To stock up on local goods, check out the Main Street Market, an evening farmer’s market which takes place from July through September.
Students can also spend their downtime exploring nearby natural wonders, such as the Killpecker Sand Dunes. These unique dunes provide a host of fun outdoor activities including hiking, sand skiing, ATVing, and more. For a step back in time, check out the White Mountain Petroglyphs where carvings from the Plains and Great Basin Indians are found.
#1: Mitchell, South Dakota – Mitchell Technical Institute
Average Rental Prices:
1 bedroom – $465
2 bedroom – $741
Images courtesy of Mitchell Convention & Visitors Bureau
For students looking to kick-start their college career with an affordable option, residing in Mitchell, South Dakota, could prove the perfect solution. This small town provides rental rates college students on a budget can afford. With average two bedroom rentals at $741, living with a roommate in Mitchell and beginning a degree program at Mitchell Technical Institute (MTI) can help set you up for success without loads of debt. Due to the low cost of living, the prestige of MTI, and the quality of lifestyle, Mitchell, South Dakota, takes the number one spot as the best community college town in the nation.
Recognized by the Aspen Institute as ranking among the top 10 percent of U.S. community colleges, this small but esteemed college provides six study areas including agricultural and transportation technologies, business and service industries, construction and manufacturing technologies, energy production and transmission, engineering technologies, and health sciences.
One of the reasons MTI stands out from the crowd is due to their job placement success. This community college boasts a 99 percent job placement rate for MTI graduates. More than 89 percent of MTI students receive financial aid, making it an excellent option and the top of our list for students working within a budget.
Not only can students take part in the high level of academic offerings from this college, they can also enjoy living in the friendly and laid-back town of Mitchell. With a population of 15,543, Mitchell provides a small-town feel paired with exceptional amenities and attractions. One well-known attraction in Mitchell is the Corn Palace. This eye-catching building is decorated with murals created with corn cobs and not only provides a unique tourist attraction for Mitchell but also is host to concerts, basketball games, graduations, and other events.
Mitchell also boasts an array of restaurants, shopping, and recreational options and acts as a central hub for the surrounding communities. Students can enjoy local coffee house favorites like the Bean Box Espresso or Cafe Teresa for an added study boost. Catch up on sports games at the Scoreboard Pub and Grille.
For outdoor enthusiasts, the presence of Lake Mitchell will be a highlight of this Midwest town. The city’s lake provides residents with access to camping, hiking trails, canoeing, kayaking, water-skiing, and fishing. Bordering the south side of the lake is the Lakeview Municipal Golf Courses, one of the best municipal courses in South Dakota.
A little over 50 percent of homes are owner-occupied, with a healthy rental market. The low cost of living means that finding an affordable rental option as a college student is easier than in many college town markets.