Traditionally, community colleges catered to students living within reasonable driving distance of the school. Some states even passed laws prohibiting two-year schools from offering student housing. Dorms were considered unnecessary for cost-conscious students who could save money by living at home.

While that arrangement worked for some students, lengthy and costly commutes posed an insurmountable barrier to those living at a distance, including international students. Dorms starting springing up at community colleges to accommodate the needs of increasingly diverse students.


Today, 28 percent of community colleges have dorms, according to the American Association of Community Colleges. Options are more limited in Illinois, however.

Illinois Central College

Illinois Central College is one of the best community colleges with dorms that can provide a solid education and nice student housing. Dozens of two-year degrees and vocational certificates are offered in practical areas that may lead to good jobs. Examples of popular programs include agriculture, criminal justice, dental hygiene, information technology, horticulture and law enforcement.

On-campus students also achieve higher GPAs and are more likely to finish their studies. Many housing options include attractive rooms and high-tech amenities. Residents also enjoy an excellent basketball court, gazebo with grilling areas and access to the campus recreation center. According to U.S. News & World Report's college profiles, 10,770 students attend ICC in East Peoria.

About Lincoln College

Lincoln College in Lincoln, Illinois is a private school chartered in 1865. For part of its history, Lincoln College operated as a community college. Today, Lincoln is considered a hybrid school that offers bachelor’s degrees along with many robust associate degree programs. Living on campus offers all students the full college experience. Lincoln College residence halls provide friendly, welcoming staff and engaging programs to support academic success.

Students who sign up to live in a living learning community are housed with other students who share similar interests and goals. Lifelong friendships may result. Students also enjoy a fun social scene. Lincoln College is a small but growing school. In 2017, Lincoln College reported a record high enrollment of 710 students, up from 4.9 percent the previous year.

Joliet Junior College Housing

Founded in 1901, Joliet Junior College has the proud distinction of being the first community college in the country. Enrollment tops 38,000 students who are enrolled in more than 180 two-year degree programs and certificates. Opportunities abound for joining clubs and organizations, watching successful athletic teams in competition and getting to know faculty well.

Hoping to attract students from all over the country and the world, Joliet Junior College was a leader in offering college-affiliated housing. In 2002, Centennial Commons was built on land owned by the JJC Foundation. A management company was hired to run the student apartment complex because Illinois state law prohibited community colleges from owning or operating dorms.

Centennial Commons struggled financially due to low occupancy rates. The facility was placed under court-ordered receivership in 2018. The fate of the Centennial Commons complex and the future of Joliet Junior College housing is up in the air.

Other Options to Consider

You may want to set aside money for future off-campus housing costs even if you have no interest in pursuing a bachelor's degree. Illinois doesn't have many two-year colleges with dorms, but schools do offer excellent training at an affordable cost and resources for finding off-campus apartments.

For instance, Parkland College in Urbana Champaign has more than 185 academic programs and a student life office with information on student-friendly housing next to campus. You might enjoy a studio apartment in a quaint historic apartment building. U.S. News & World Report estimates that 8,437 students are enrolled at Parkland College.

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