10 Best U.S. Two-Year Colleges That Actually Pay Off

For community college students of the nation's top-ranked schools, two years in school can land them careers with salaries worth the extra two years of post-high school study time.

In general, public community colleges tend to produce higher earners than their private two-year college peers, a good statistic for those looking for an affordable education. Public schools are generally less expensive to attend and all but one in the top-earning graduates list are indeed public schools.

Public two-year colleges in New York -- including Cuny-New York City College of Technology and Fashion Institute of Technology -- are among the best this year in terms of producing the highest paying graduates, although private school ITT Technical Institute in Seattle, Wash., ranks in the top tier as well.

In general, not only do two-year colleges offer degrees save students money by requiring only half the time to graduate, but they simply cost less. The average cost of a year at a public two-year college was $3,347 for 2014-2015 school year versus $9,139 for a year at a four-year college or university, according to the College Board.

Here are the top 10 two-year colleges as ranked by PayScale, which reviewed the salaries of alumni from more than 460 two-year institutions across the county:

Cuny-New York City College of Technology
Early Career Pay: $40.60
Mid-Career Pay: $72,700

As the two-year U.S. college with the highest paid mid-career alumni in 2015, former students from Cuny-New York City's College of Technology, nicknamed "City Tech," draw an average of $72,200 by mid-career, or about 10 years after graduation, according to PayScale.

The Brooklyn-based school, which also offers bachelor's degrees, enrolls 16,860 undergraduate students. Unfortunately, its graduation rate is only 14%.

Fashion Institute of Technology
Early Career Pay: $41,500
Mid-Career Pay: $72,100

Fashion Institute of Technology students go on to become fashion designers, product development managers and graphic designers among many other careers. Technical apparel designers, with an average median salary of $71,469, are among the best paid professions among students from FIT.

Nestled in the heart of New York City, Fashion Institute of Technology boasts 9,566 undergraduates with a graduation rate of 70%.

De Anza College
Early Career Pay: $49,800
Mid-Career Pay: $69,800

De Anza graduates earning more in early career pay than any other students in the top 10 list of U.S. two-year colleges. And they're mid-career salaries, with an average of $69,800, aren't too shabby either.

Many De Anza students go on to become registered nurses, with an average hourly rate of $42.50, or administrative assistants, with an average hourly rate of $16.50.

Bakersfield College
Early Career Pay: $41,900
Mid-Career Pay: $69,800

Bakersfield College in Bakersfield, Calif., offers students a healthy average early career salary of $41,900, with more than half of alumni saying they feel like their job has meaning.

Bakersfield offers students a range of vocations to explore, from communications services to manufacturing and clinical care. A majority of students actually remain in Bakersfield for their careers.

Alvin Community College
Early Career Pay: $43,000
Mid-Career Pay: $68,400

Alvin Community College graduates can earn a variety of degrees, from nursing to liberal arts. Its registered nurses make an average of $36 per hour while its registered polysomnographic technologist alumni earn about $23 per hour.

Lamar University
Early Career Pay: $40,300
Mid-Career Pay: $67,000

At Lamar University in Texas, 61% of alumni say they have landed meaningful jobs in fields such as engineering, business development and account management.

Lamar University's alumni also include high school teacher and retail store managers, who make on average more than $40,000 a year.

ITT Technical Institute-Seattle
Early Career Pay: $42,400
Mid-Career Pay: $66,500

ITT Technical Institute-Seattle, the only private for-profit college on the Top 10 list, offers its students something perhaps more valuable than top salaries -- rewarding careers.

The majority of alumni from this college -- about 92% -- report feeling that their job makes the world a better place. That's well above any other two-year college on the top-10 list. In fact, this college ranks fourth in terms of alumni reporting rewarding careers only after its sister ITT Technical Institute schools in San Antonio, West Houston and San Diego.

NHTI-Concord's Community College
Early Career Pay: $39,000
Mid-Career Pay: $66,400

NHTI-Concord's Community College students in Concord, N.H., go on to become registered nurses and radiologic technologist among other professions.

Alumni report feeling a high sense of meaning with their jobs, with 69% saying they have careers that make a difference in the world.

CUNY-Kingsborough Community College
Early Career Pay: $35,400
Mid-Career Pay: $66,100

Students at CUNY-KIngsborough Community College in Brooklyn, can earn associate degrees in fields like accounting, business administration and applied sciences.

Many alumni now work at State Farm Insurance Company or JC Ehrlich Co., with students generally living in New York City or Albany.

CUNY Queensborough
Early Career Pay: $37,300
Mid-Career Pay: $65,500

CUNY Queensborough in Bayside, N.Y., can earn an average mid-career salary of about $65,000, with many alumni becoming executive assistants.

CUNY Queensborough, a college of the City University of New York, offers liberal arts and science curriculum's as well as pre-professional courses.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.

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