Best Community Colleges in California of 2022

California is home to tons of community colleges. Find out which ones offer both affordability and quality education.

Best Community Colleges in California of 2022
Zac Gudakov

If you didn’t or couldn’t attend a typical 4-year bachelor's degree-awarding college or university, then attending a community college could be a viable option to pursue instead. It’s especially a good idea if you have a job or other time constraints that prevent you from the full immersion in a 4-year bachelor's degree-awarding college. 

Community colleges are particularly popular in California, which possesses more than any other state. But what are the best community colleges in California? In order to answer this question, BrokeScholar conducted a study analyzing 122 community colleges in California, based on data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES); the main parameter for generating this list was that these colleges be institutions that are public and award 2 year degrees, typically associate degrees. The methodology for the study of the best community colleges in California included the graduation rate, cost of in-state and out-of-state tuition, number of associate degrees conferred, and the ratio of associate degrees awarded to the student population (to prevent larger community colleges from swamping the top of the list through sheer size of the number of degrees awarded); all data is for the 2021-2022 academic year.

Read on the find out the best community colleges in California.

15 Best Community Colleges in California

Geographically, many of the best community colleges in California can be found in Southern California, the Sacramento area, as well as the Central Coast region. Overall, these California community colleges tend to boast cheap in-state tuition and out-of-state tuition. They also tend to award a high number of associate degrees, as well as in proportion to the student population. Lastly, strong graduation rates are prominent, though it should be noted, very few have graduation rates in excess of 50%. Here’s a breakdown of the best community colleges in California of 2022:

1. Pasadena City College

In-state tuition: $1,212

Out-of-state tuition: $7,476

Pasadena City College is located in Pasadena, hosting more than 25,000 undergraduate students. Thanks to low in-state and out-of-state tuition costs, and a higher number of associate degrees awarded in the academic year 2021-2022 at 7,730, with a ratio of associate degrees awarded to student population of 30.9%, Pasadena City College tops our list of the best community colleges in California. It also boasts the ninth best graduation rate at 44%.

2. Golden West College

In-state tuition: $1,186

Out-of-state tuition: $8,554

Located in Huntington Beach, Golden West College came in as the No. 2 best community college in California, boasting an in-state tuition that’s less than Pasadena City College. With 4,131 associate degrees awarded against a student population of 11,396, its ratio of degrees to number of students is 36.2%, which is the best in the study. Golden West College also sports a graduation rate of 42%, just below No. 1 Pasadena City College’s graduation rate.

3. Sierra College

In-state tuition: $1,156

Out-of-state tuition: $7,900

Sierra College is in Rocklin, in the Sacramento metro area. It hosts a sizeable undergraduate student population of 17,503 and has awarded 4,776 associate degrees in the academic year 2021-2022, for a ratio of 27.3% of degrees awarded to the number of students. Sierra College’s graduation rate is 36%, which is above the average for the graduation rates of all the community colleges analyzed in the study. Some of Sierra College’s most popular associate degrees are in Social Sciences, General with 859 degrees awarded; Biological and Physical Sciences with 749 degrees awarded; Health Services/Allied Health/Health Sciences, General with 572 degrees awarded; and Business Administration and Management, General with 357 degrees awarded.

4. Imperial Valley College

In-state tuition: $1,126

Out-of-state tuition: $6,646

Imperial Valley College is very affordable, with an in-state tuition cost that’s less than the study’s overall average: $1,126 versus $1,271; and its out-of-state tuition also bests the overall average: $6,646 versus $8,898. The number of 2 year degrees awarded by Imperial Valley College was 1,958 for the 2021-2022 academic year, better than the study’s overall average. And its ratio of associate degrees awarded to student population size was a solid 27.5%, much better than the 14.7% ratio average for all 122 community colleges in the study. All these contributed to Imperial Valley College ranking as the No. 4 best community college in California.

5. Irvine Valley College

In-state tuition: $1,148

Out-of-state tuition: $8,828

Irvine Valley College stands out for having the third highest graduation rate of all 122 community colleges analyzed, at 54%. With an in-state tuition of $1,148, it beats the overall average for all colleges in the study; its out-of-state tuition is also slightly cheaper than the overall average of $8,898. Irvine Valley College gave out 2,665 associate degrees in the 2021-2022 academic year, against an undergraduate population of 12,199, equating to a ratio of 21.8% of associate degrees conferred to the student population, far better than the overall average for the study of 14.7%. 

6. Santa Barbara City College

In-state tuition: $1,232

Out-of-state tuition: $8,912

With a graduation rate of 45%, Santa Barbara City College easily ranks among the best community colleges in California. Along with this, the college has an affordable in-state tuition that beats the overall study average of $1,271. Santa Barbara City College also awarded a large number of 2 year degrees, with 3,238 associate degrees conferred in the 2021-2022 academic year. With an undergraduate population of 12,525, the number of associate degrees awarded to student population was a ratio of 25.9%, an excellent ratio that’s much higher than the 14.7% average for the 122 colleges assessed in this study of the best community colleges in California.

7. Allan Hancock College

In-state tuition: $1,146

Out-of-state tuition: $7,842

Allan Hancock College is located in Santa Maria and charges a very low in-state tuition of $1,146. Its out-of-state pf $7,842 is also better than the study’s overall average of $8,898. With almost 2,600 associate degrees awarded in the 2021-2022 academic year against an undergraduate population of 10,248, the ratio of 2 year degrees awarded to student population was a strong 25.3%. 

8. Moorpark College

In-state tuition: $1,398

Out-of-state tuition: $8,146

Moorpark College boasts a robust 44% graduation rate, which makes it in rank among the highest out of all the best community colleges in California. Its in-state tuition is slightly more than the average for the study overall, but its out-of-state tuition is cheaper than average. Moorpark College also sports a high ratio of 2 year degrees awarded to student population at 23.2%, with 3,337 associate degrees being conferred in the 2021-2022 academic year.

9. El Camino Community College District

In-state tuition: $1,144

Out-of-state tuition: $8,008

El Camino Community College, located in Torrance, has one of the lowest in-state tuition costs, which at $1,144, makes in rank in the top 10 colleges with the cheapest tuitions out of all 122 community colleges in the study. Its out-of-state tuition costs are affordable as well, which at $8,008, is almost $900 less than the study’s overall average for out-of-state tuitions. El Camino Community College also boasts an above-average graduation rate, and has awarded 3,273 associate degrees for the academic year 2021-2020, better than the 1,735 average degrees awarded for the entire 122 community colleges analyzed in this study of the best community colleges in California.

10. Fullerton College

In-state tuition: $1,154

Out-of-state tuition: $7,802

Fullerton College has some of the cheapest tuition costs in our study of the best community colleges in California. Costing $1,154 for in-state tuition and $7,802 for out-of-state tuition, Fullerton College’s tuition rates both beat the study’s overall averages for in-state and out-of-state tuition for all 122 schools. Its graduation rate of 34% could be higher, but it’s ultimately still better than the overall average. It’s also conferred an impressive 3,422 associate degrees in the 2021-2022 academic year. By far, the most popular 2 year degrees awarded are in Multi-/Interdisciplinary Studies, Other, at 1,089 for the academic year 2021-2022. This is followed in a distant second by 2 year degrees in Business Administration and Management, General, with 322 being awarded.

11. Citrus College

In-state tuition: $1,196

Out-of-state tuition: $8,804

Citrus College in Glendora combined high graduation rates with affordable tuition and large numbers of associate degrees awarded. Its graduation rate is 40%, much better than the study’s overall graduation rate. And its in-state tuition costs come in lower than the overall average of $1,271. With 2,430 associate degrees conferred against a student population of 11,863, the ratio of 2 year degrees awarded to the undergraduate population was 20.5% for the 2021-2022 academic year.

12. Los Angeles Harbor College

In-state tuition: $1,238

Out-of-state tuition: $9,012

In-state tuition costs at Los Angeles Harbor College is more affordable than the study’s overall average. And this community college conferred 2,134 associate degrees, which against an undergraduate population, works out to a solid 26.3% ratio of degrees awarded to the student population. Los Angeles Harbor College has a strong liberal arts program, with 903 Liberal Arts and Sciences/Liberal Studies associate degrees being awarded in the academic year 2021-2020. Associate degrees in Humanities/Humanistic Studies totaled 381, and degrees in Biological and Physical Sciences amounted to 364.

13. College of the Canyons

In-state tuition: $1,146

Out-of-state tuition: $8,682

College of the Canyons, found in Santa Clarita, possesses an in-state tuition that’s affordable and less than the study’s overall average of $1,271. Its out-of-state tuition is also slightly less than the overall average of $8,898. In terms of 2 year degrees awarded, a full 3,200 associate degrees were conferred in the 2021-2020 academic year. Lastly, the graduation rate at College of the Canyons is 42%, besting the overall graduation rate average of 33% for the 122 schools in the study, helping this college rank among the best community colleges in California.

14. Antelope Valley Community College District

In-state tuition: $1,124

Out-of-state tuition: $6,980

Antelope Valley Community College is located in Lancaster, north of Los Angeles. It has one of the lowest in-state tuition costs and the third lowest out-of-state tuition costs. The community college awarded a high number of 2 year degrees in the 2021-2022 academic year, at 1,883. Also, with this community college, 4 year degrees are possible as well.

15. Barstow Community College

In-state tuition: $1,104

Out-of-state tuition: $8,952

Barstow Community College boasts the lowest in-state tuition at $1,104 for the academic year 2021-2022. The college awarded 571 associate degrees, and with a student population of 2,444, this works out to a ratio of 23.4% of associate degrees awarded to the undergraduate population. On the negative side, its graduation rate is only 28% for the 2021-2022 academic year, which helped prevent Barstow Community College from ranking higher in our study.

Table of the Best Community Colleges in California

Below is a table detailing the top 15 best community colleges in California. All figures reflect the academic year 2021-2022, sourced from the NCES.

Community College

In-state Tuition

Out-of-State

Number of Associates Degrees Awards Conferred

Associates Awards/Students Ratio

Graduation Rate

Pasadena City College

$1,212

$7,476

7,730 

30.9%

44%

Golden West College

$1,186

$8,554

4,131 

36.2%

42%

Sierra College

$1,156

$7,900

4,776 

27.3%

36%

Imperial Valley College

$1,126

$6,646

1,958 

27.5%

36%

Irvine Valley College

$1,148

$8,828

2,665 

21.8%

54%

Santa Barbara City College

$1,232

$8,912

3,238 

25.9%

45%

Allan Hancock College

$1,146

$7,842

2,597 

25.3%

28%

Moorpark College

$1,398

$8,146

3,337 

23.2%

44%

El Camino Community College District

$1,144

$8,008

3,273 

16.0%

38%

Fullerton College

$1,154

$7,802

3,422 

16.0%

34%

Citrus College

$1,196

$8,804

2,430 

20.5%

40%

Los Angeles Harbor College

$1,238

$9,012

2,134 

26.3%

27%

College of the Canyons

$1,146

$8,682

3,200 

15.6%

42%

Antelope Valley Community College District

$1,124

$6,980

1,883 

15.6%

29%

Barstow Community College

$1,104

$8,952

571 

23.4%

28%

The Bottom Line on the Best Community Colleges in California

These 15 colleges offer some of the best associate degrees in terms of numbers awarded and breadth of fields offered. When it comes to choosing a community college in California to attend, take a close look at the cost of tuition and make sure it fits in your budget. Also, review the number and variety of associate degrees that these community colleges have to offer to make sure it’s the right fit for what you want to study. Since money is such a crucial part of attending college, be sure to check out the student discounts offered by BrokeScholar to help cut down on the cost of purchases you might make when attending your community college of choice. And be sure to investigate the vast library of scholarships compiled on BrokeScholar that can help you save even more money.