Junior colleges--or community colleges--take on one of the toughest jobs in higher education: giving low-income students a college education, according to Washington Monthly. Many people who cannot afford or who want to prepare for a four-year college or university attend junior college. Junior colleges are also beneficial for students attending a university who want to take prerequisites and/or basic courses but not pay university prices. The United States has a number of exceptional junior colleges.

Atlanta Technical College

Atlanta Technical College is ranked the best junior college in the United States, according to Washington Monthly in 2010. ATC offers more than 80 programs in health and human services, business, media and information technology, skilled trades and technical areas--and prepares students for well-paid careers in their chosen industry. In 2009, the junior college built the Cleveland L. Dennard Building, a state-of-the-art conference center, educational resource and business facility. The college attracts students of all types--different backgrounds, ethnicity, interests--who can earn associate degrees, technical certificates and diplomas in just two years.

Atlanta Technical College 1560 Metropolitan Parkway, SW Atlanta, GA 30310 404-225-4400 atlantatech.edu

Cascadia Community College

Cascadia Community College in Bothell, Wash., is ranked the second-best junior college in the country by Washington Monthly. CCC prepares students not for a job but for a career that will last the rest of their lives, according to the website. Along with the coursework for an associate degree, students are given the opportunity to work in small groups, communicate effectively, engage in problem solving and interact with many different types of people. CCC shares its facilities with the University of Washington in Bothell, where students have access to the university's technology, library system and aesthetically pleasing campus. The college offers dozens of associate and preparatory options, from engineering and information technology to health care and business, which often leads to admission to a four-year university.

Cascadia Community College 18345 Campus Way NE Bothell, WA 98011 425-352-8000 cascadia.edu

Southern University at Shreveport

Southern University at Shreveport--ranked the third-best two-year junior college in Washington Monthly--is a fast-growing institution that offers eight Associate of Applied Science degrees, 11 Associate of Science degrees, 13 Certificate of Technical Studies degrees, plus other certificate programs. Students at Southern can earn degrees, diplomas and certificates in an array of topics--from accounting and mathematics to criminal justice and nursing--and many of the two-year school's students go on to attend four-year universities and earn bachelor's degrees. The campus is part of the Baton Rouge-based Southern University System.

Southern University at Shreveport 3050 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive Shreveport, LA 71107 318-670-6000 susla.edu