As the school year gets underway, it's poised to be a year like none other, to say the least. Students, parents and educators are dealing with mass confusion and anxiety that is prevalent across all grade levels. At the college level, saving money on tuition has becoming a little more prudent, as family budgets are stretched tight among closings, lay-offs and cut-backs.

Community colleges are looking more and more attractive, with flexible schedules, low class sizes, and especially if you focus on tuition. A year of community college is nearly three times less expensive than a year at a public four-year college. The personal-finance website WalletHub recently released its report on 2020’s Best & Worst Community Colleges and they point out that full-time, in-state enrollment at a public two-year college averaged $3,730 per year versus $10,440 at a public four-year institution and $36,880 at a four-year private school. This makes it almost a "no-brainer" for students just starting out to earn their general education credits at a community college before they transfer to a 4-year university. An even better option is to earn their degree in a 2-year program that is in high demand and your tuition could be free with state-funded programs like the Future Ready Iowa Last Dollar Scholarship.

To determine where students can receive the best education at the cheapest rates, WalletHub compared 698 community colleges across 18 key indicators of cost and quality. The data set ranges from the cost of in-state tuition and fees, to student-faculty ratio, to graduation rate. Overall as a state, Iowa fared poorly, coming in at #21. (see map below)

However, we did have one community college rank in the top 10. Northwest Iowa Community College in Sheldon came in at an impressive #4 on the list. Its "Career Outcomes" rank of #2 shot them up the list. This measures the student loan default rate, median salary after attending and share of former students earning above the average earnings of a high school graduate. They were also tied for 4th for highest graduation rate. They could have probably scored even higher, but their "Cost & Financing" score wasn't good, coming in at #376.


Best Community Colleges in Iowa by rank and their total score :

Courtesy - WalletHub
Courtesy - WalletHub

Here's where state of Iowa community college finished in the overall rankings:
4. Northwest Iowa Community College
115. Iowa Lake Community College
127. North Iowa Area Community College
179. Hawkeye Community College
220. Northeast Iowa Community College
227. Kirkwood Community College
294. Indian Hills Community College
323. Western Iowa Tech Community College
339. Iowa Central Community College
364. Southeastern Community College
412. Eastern Iowa Community College
476. Marshalltown Community College
544. Iowa Western Community College

So, if you want to look at those rankings optimistically, nine of our state's community colleges finished in the top half of the 698 across the country.

Best Community College Systems by State:

Source: WalletHub
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