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School Rankings

Best Community Colleges in Chicago

Mercy Ugonna Njoku - February 20, 2022


Community college is a great way to get a high-quality education with lower tuition costs and more flexibility. Academic programs at junior colleges aim to prepare students to enter a career or to transfer into a four-year school. If you live in Illinois, you’re probably wondering,“What are the best community colleges in Chicago?”

If you already live in Chicago or are interested in relocating to this impressive city for college, you’re in luck. The city is full of community colleges with great associate degree programs, partner programs, technical education programs, and more. In this article, we’ll break down our picks for the top 10 community colleges in the city, the best community colleges for nursing in Chicago, and the best online community colleges in the Windy City.

How We Defined Our Chicago Community College Rankings

We considered a multitude of factors when making this list. To begin with, we made sure all the colleges we picked are accredited, affordable, and have extracurricular activities that can contribute to a student’s professional growth. That’s not all, though.

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Other factors we considered were the graduation and transfer rate, cost of attendance, the number of programs each school offered, plus the types of scholarships and financial aid options available. We also took into consideration whether they offered online courses and career training programs.

The Top 10 Community Colleges in Chicago

  1. Triton College
  2. Kennedy-King College
  3. Wilbur Wright College
  4. Harper College
  5. Malcolm X College
  6. Harry S. Truman College
  7. Olive-Harvey College
  8. Harold Washington College
  9. Richard J.Daley University
  10. Moraine Valley Community College

The Best Community Colleges in Chicago: Explained

A library on a college campus 
Chicago’s community colleges offer a wide range of associate degree and certificate programs that enable students to build academic and professional experience.

1. Triton College

Triton College is a regionally accredited two-year institution offering prospective students the opportunity to learn with the support of scholarship opportunities, financial aid options, modern facilities, great teaching staff, and diverse program curricula. Founded in 1964, this junior college offers prospective learners over 110 degrees and certifications, as well as academic advising to help them make the right course selection.

Best Triton College Programs

  • Associate of Science in Nursing
  • Associate of Science in Radiologic Technology
  • Associate of Science in Biological Science
  • Associate of Arts in Art
  • Associate of Arts in Criminal Justice Administration

2. Kennedy-King College

Kennedy-King College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and is one of the seven two-year community colleges that are part of the City Colleges of Chicago system. It is a more than 100 year old college that has more than 100 industry-recognized degree and certificate programs for prospective students to choose from. These include both onsite and online classes. Earning credits at this school will make transitioning to a four-year college easy.

Best Kennedy-King College Programs

  • Associate of Arts in Theater Arts
  • Associate of Arts in Accounting
  • Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Arts
  • Associate of Applied Science in Hotel Management
  • Associate in Applied Science in Cybersecurity

3. Wilbur Wright College

Wilbur Wright College was established in 1934 and is also part of City Colleges of Chicago. Today, it is one of the most notable community colleges in the US. It provides quality education to over 80,000 students from diverse cultural backgrounds. It is accredited by multiple institutions, including the HLC.

Best Wilbur Wright College Programs

  • Associate in Engineering Science
  • Associate in Science in Computer Science
  • Associate in Arts in Communications
  • Associate in Arts in Psychology
  • Associate in Science in Biology

4. Harper College

Harper College is one of the most notable community colleges in the Chicago area. It was founded in 1965 and currently has over 35,000 students and offers more than 100 certificate programs, 10 associate degrees, 100 transfer partner programs, and 40 career programs. This college also has a low tuition cost of $133.50 per credit hour for students in the district. This college is great for those looking to gain professional experience as they study.

Best Harper College Programs

  • Associate in Arts – Art, Design and Performing Arts
  • Associate in Arts – Humanities
  • Certified Nursing Assistant Program
  • Associate in Science – Biology
  • Associate of Applied Sciences – Health Information Technology

5. Malcolm X College

Malcolm X College, one of the seven City Colleges of Chicago, was founded in 1911 as a two-year college. It provides fantastic academic support services such as the ACCESS center for disabled students, free classes for adults, and academic advisors. Based on the 2016 cohort, it had a transfer-out rate of 13 percent and a graduation rate of 24 percent.

Best Malcolm X College Programs

  • Basic Nursing Assistant Training Program
  • Associate in Arts – Theater Arts
  • Associate in Applied Science – Emergency Medical Services
  • Basic Certificate Program – Personal Fitness Training
  • Medical Coding Program – Advanced Certificate

6. Harry S. Truman College

Previously known as Mayfair College, Harry S. Truman College started as a night school in the 1950s. Now it offers many more quality academic services and hands-on experiences to college students who wish to launch a career after graduating high school or transfer to four-year universities.

Truman College provides free English classes to students who are studying it as their second language. It has a 19 percent graduation rate and 21 percent of school graduates transfer to four-year institutions.

Best Harry S. Truman College Programs

  • Associate of Arts in Education, Human Development and Family Studies
  • Associate in Fine Arts – Studio Art
  • Advanced Certificate in Completion – General Business
  • Associate in Applied Science – Computer and Information Sciences
  • Associate in Applied Science – Nursing

7. Olive-Harvey College

Olive-Harvey College is one of the seven City Colleges of Chicago and is located in Cook County. This career college offers associate degrees, short-term career training, and certificate programs in in-demand fields. All of its academic program choices are great for those looking to gain professional experience before graduating. As of 2018, it has a 24 percent graduation rate and a 14 percent transfer rate to four-year schools.

Best Olive-Harvey College Programs

  • Associate in Arts – Humanities
  • Associate in Applied Science – Management/Marketing
  • Associate in Science – Mathematics
  • Advanced Certificate – Automotive Technology
  • Associate in Arts – Criminal Justice

8. Harold Washington College

Harold Washington College is a public community college located within Chicago city limits. This college provides career training programs as well as transfer degree programs for prospective students who wish to further their education in a four-year institution. These associate transfer degree programs get students halfway through their bachelor degree studies at an affordable rate.

Best Harold Washington College Programs

  • Associate in Fine Arts – Music Education
  • Associate in Science – Biological Sciences
  • Associate in Arts – General Studies
  • Associate in Science – Business and Information Systems
  • Associate in Applied Science – Architecture

9. Richard J. Daley College

Richard J. Daley College is a two-year public college in Chicago. This city college is known for providing educational services to the Hispanic community and 77 percent of its student body is Hispanic . It offers associate degree transfer programs, adult education, career training certificates, and continuing education. It also provides financial resources to help students get closer to educational success.

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Best Richard J. Daley College Programs

  • Associate in Applied Science – Electrical Construction Technology
  • Basic Certificate – Networking Systems and Technology
  • Associate in Applied Science – Nursing
  • Associate in Applied Science – Management/Marketing
  • Advanced Certificate – Computer Numerical Control Machining

10. Moraine Valley Community College

Moraine Valley Community College is one of the best learning institutions in the Chicago area. The Palos Hills school was founded in 1967 as a two-year community college. It has a student body of about 24,000 and offers over 130 educational options, such as degrees and certificates. It has a transfer rate of around 22 percent and a graduation rate of 29 percent. Forty percent of its career and transfer students receive some form of financial assistance.

Best Moraine Valley Community College Programs

  • Associate in Applied Science – Automation and Engineering Technology
  • Associate in Science – Computer Science
  • Associate in Science – Business Administration
  • Associate in Science – Nursing
  • Therapeutic Massage Certificate

Other Chicago Community College Rankings

A college student studies from a textbook in a school study area.
Community colleges are known for their fantastic student support services and financial assistance opportunities that enable students to enter the workforce without the burden of four years of university tuition.

Some of the best colleges in Chicago are also online community colleges. If you’re interested in completing your associate degree or certificate program in Chicago but would rather do it remotely, check out our picks below of the best online colleges in Chicago. As nursing is a popular area of study at Chicago community colleges, we’ve also highlighted the five best nursing programs.

Best Online Community Colleges in Chicago

  1. Moraine Valley Community College. The online learning program at Moraine Valley Community College offers online and hybrid courses in almost every subject. The classes are meant for distance learners who need flexibility in their study schedules.
  2. Harry S. Truman College. Taking online classes at Harry S. Truman College is just as effective as the school’s onsite classes. The online courses come with the same academic requirements and cover various disciplines.
  3. Elgin Community College. Elgin Community College offers online courses in in-demand fields to its online learners. These online courses come with reliable resources and services to facilitate students’ individual learning journeys.
  4. MacCormac College. MacCormac College is a great private community college in the Chicago area. It offers online associate degrees to prospective learners in subjects such as business, criminal justice, and court reporting.
  5. Harper College. Harper College offers synchronous and asynchronous course content 100 percent virtually. Students in its online academic programs will learn through video tutorials and digital materials, or scheduled virtual classes.

Best Community Colleges for Nursing in Chicago

  1. Triton College. The comprehensive registered nurse program offered by Triton College provides online and on-campus learners with knowledge of nursing theory and techniques, as well as biology education.
  2. Harper College. This school provides incoming learners with the opportunity to train to become registered nurses and nursing assistants through an associate degree or certificate.
  3. Moraine Community College. The nursing program at Moraine Community College is quite competitive. This two-year program is taught by industry professionals using cutting-edge technologies to provide students with real-world experience.
  4. Malcolm X College. The nursing program at Malcolm X College provides a comprehensive certificate program to students who wish to start entry-level jobs as nurses and is perfect for those looking to gain hands-on experience.
  5. Elgin Community College. The nursing program at this school has been training professional nurses for the past 50 years. It offers both a basic certificate in nursing assistance and an associate degree in registered nursing.

Should You Attend Community College in Chicago?

Yes, you should. The city of Chicago has shown through its City Colleges of Chicago System  and its other dedicated two-year colleges that it is committed to the academic and career growth of its residents. Chicago colleges help students choose career paths , complete remote or in-person learning programs, and offer them plenty of financial aid options while they do it.

Best Chicago Community Colleges FAQ

Is community college free in Chicago?

No, it’s not free. However, most of the community college students in Chicago can take advantage of the financial aid, payment plans, and additional scholarships offered by their school.

Does community college always take two years to complete?

No, it depends on the program you choose to enroll in. Community colleges offer associate degree programs that take about two years, plus certificate programs and other technical training programs that can take anywhere from a few months to two years.

Is community college easy?

Community college is easy to get into because there are very few application requirements. However, this doesn’t mean the course content of a community college’s programs won’t require any effort.

Is community college a good idea?

Yes, it’s a good idea to consider community college if you’re interested in taking advantage of a low cost way to pursue a college education. It’s also an ideal way of gaining admission to a prestigious four-year school by transferring in from a community college.

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Mercy Ugonna Njoku

About the author: Mercy has a background in accounting and is a veteran content writer who holds a BSc in Business Management from Abia State University. In her writing, Mercy helps people navigate unfamiliar and complex situations in their professional lives so they can thrive. Her hobbies include drawing, working on startup projects, and engaging in discussions.

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