21 Community College Students Who Went on to Make Millions

Forget Four Years


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Forget Four Years


It's a well-worn piece of trivia that many of the world's most successful people were bad students or even kicked out of school while others achieved impressive university degrees, but what about those that went to community college? Though you might not hear them talk about it as much as the Harvard grads or high school dropouts, many of the world's rich and famous attended community college before making their fortunes.

Tom Hanks 2017


Before becoming one of America's most beloved actors, Tom Hanks attended Chabot Community College in California, eventually transferring to California State University in Sacramento before dropping out of secondary education. Hanks later starred in the 2011 film "Larry Crowne" based on his time at Chabot and wrote an editorial in the New York Times declaring, "That place made me what I am today." And today, Hanks is worth $350 million.

Morgan Freeman
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Before beginning his acting career and becoming one of Hollywood's most mellifluous and oft-imitated voices, Morgan Freeman served in the U.S. Air Force and took classes at Los Angeles City College. In an interview with talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, Freeman credited his time there for developing his recognizable vocal style, saying, "in that school…I had a voice and diction instructor who was very good at his job." Freeman is now worth $250 million.

Walt Disney
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Entrepreneur and animator Walt Disney attended Metropolitan Junior College in Missouri for a period of time. Thanks to the success of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," the first feature-length animated film, and subsequent Disney releases, Walt's assets were worth as much as $150 million at the time of his death in 1966, the equivalent of $1 billion today.

Eileen Collins
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NASA's first female space shuttle commander is another community college grad, attending Corning Community College before moving on to Syracuse and Stanford Universities. Collins' post-collegiate success is noteworthy — after being selected and becoming an astronaut in 1991, she logged more than 872 hours in space aboard four flights before retiring in 2006.

Jackie Robinson
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Jackie Robinson is famous for breaking down barriers as the MLB's first African American athlete in the modern era, but his impatience with racial inequality was already well-established by his time attending Pasadena Junior College (PJC) from 1937 to ‘39. While participating in four sports and serving on a student-run police organization, Robinson was arrested for vocally disputing a black friend's detention by police. After graduating, he continued pursuing athletics at UCLA and passed in 1972 with an estimated net worth of $6 million.

Arnold Schwarzenegger 2016


Now worth $400 million, the Austria-born "Terminator" star briefly studied English at Santa Monica College in the 1970s but didn't actually graduate, instead he completed his bachelor's degree in business and international economics from the University of Wisconsin-Superior in 1979.

Amy Tan
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Author Amy Tan's college career began at Linfield College in Oregon, but she abandoned the Baptist institution her mother had chosen for her to follow her then-boyfriend and future husband to San Jose City College in California. She eventually earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from San Jose State University. Thanks to the success of her bestselling works like "The Joy Luck Club" and "The Kitchen God's Wife," Tan is now worth an estimated $8 million.

George Lucas
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Not unlike Luke Skywalker, "Star Wars" director George Lucas was a suburban farm boy dreaming of something bigger. He attended Modesto Junior College, later moving on to major in film at the University of Southern California. Thanks to the enduring merchandising and cinematic popularity of the space opera series he started in 1977, Lucas is now worth an estimated $5.4 billion.

Jim And John Belushi
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The brothers Belushi both attended the College of DuPage in Illinois, graduating before joining the Second City theater troupe that would kickstart their respective careers in comedy. While John died at 33 after a period of skyrocketing fame, courtesy of Animal House and The Blues Brothers, Jim obtained a degree in speech and theater arts from Southern Illinois University and has an estimated net worth of $50 million. The College of DuPage in 2014 renamed its theater facility the Belushi Performance Hall to honor their famous alumni.

Sarah Palin
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Former Alaska governor and 2008 vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin attended five different secondary schools, including two community colleges — North Idaho College and Matanuska-Susitna College in Alaska. She eventually graduated with a degree in journalism from the University of Idaho. Palin is reportedly now worth an estimated $12 million.

Guy Fieri


Guy Fieri — the Food Network celebrity whose frosted tips you're probably familiar with whether you watch "Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives" or not — attended two community colleges out of high school, American River College and College of the Redwoods in California. He later transferred to the University of Las Vegas and put his bachelor's degree in hospitality management to good use as co-owner of five California restaurants. He's now reportedly worth $8.5 million.

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Billy Crystal
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Billy Crystal attended community college in the middle of his academic career, after his baseball scholarship to Marshall University in West Virginia was axed but before graduating with a degree in fine arts from NYU. It was while majoring in theater at Nassau Community College in Long Island's Garden City that he fell in love with dancer Janice Goldfinger, whom he married in 1970. Today they have two daughters, and Crystal is also a film star, comedian, and multiple Oscar host worth $45 million.

Jim Lehrer
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Jim Lehrer is a journalist and novelist best known his 36 years hosting "PBS NewsHour" as well as serving as debate moderator for 12 presidential debates. He started his secondary education earning an associate degree from Victoria College in Texas, then earned a degree in journalism from the University of Missouri before serving in the Marines.

Ross Perot, Sr.
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Another failed presidential candidate that lived on in the public imagination, Texas billionaire Ross Perot also started his academic career in community college. He attended Texarkana Junior College before joining the Navy and graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy. After starting work at IBM and later founding two successful tech companies of his own, Perot ran as an Independent candidate in the 1992 presidential race, winning an unlikely 19 percent of the vote. Today the 88-year-old Perot is worth $3.7 billion.

Benjamin Cayetano


Before serving as governor of Hawaii from 1994 to 2002, politician Benjamin Cayetano had barely graduated high school due to bad grades and worked in a handful of technical fields. He began his secondary education in earnest by moving to California, pursuing a degree in political science from Los Angeles Harbor College before moving on to UCLA. There's little info on the former governor's net worth today, but in 2016 his first lady Vicky Cayetano earned $44.5 million for the sales of her company's properties.

Lynn Nolan Ryan, Jr.
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Nolan Ryan, born Lynn Nolan Ryan, Jr., was a formidable fastball pitcher before becoming the present CEO of the Texas Rangers. Before being drafted by the Mets in 1966, Ryan attended Alvin Community College. He retained ties with his old school, hosting the college baseball team's annual fundraising dinner and auction in 2007. His assets are now estimated to be worth a collective $60 million.

John Walsh
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John Walsh is a television personality and criminal investigator most known for hosting "America's Most Wanted" beginning in 1988, seven years after his own son was abducted and murdered in a case that remained unsolved for almost three decades. Before making a career of anti-crime activism, Walsh attended Cayuga Community College and graduated from the University of Buffalo, both near his hometown of Auburn. He's now worth $20 million.

Jim Sinegal
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Jim Sinegal attended San Diego City College before moving on to San Diego State University and later co-founding Costco Wholesale. Now among the most successful CC alumnus in entrepreneurship, the former Costco CEO credits the college with helping him regain his focus and says it was "a fantastic time for me." Sinegal is now worth $2 billion.

Aaron Rodgers
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Aaron Rodgers was drafted into the NFL from the University of California Berkeley in 2005, but the quarterback began his college ball career in Chico's Butte College, after failing to receive any Division I scholarships out of high school. He became a Butte Roadrunner before moving on to the UC and entering the draft before graduating. Now a one-time Super Bowl winner and MVP with the Green Bay Packers, Rodgers's net worth stands at an estimated $70 million.

Gwendolyn Brooks
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Though she taught at such acclaimed universities as Columbia, Elmhurst, and the University of Wisconsin, African-American poet Gwendolyn Brooks' first foray into secondary education took place at Wilson Junior College in Chicago, from which she graduated in 1936. She went on to author more than 20 books of poetry and won a Pulitzer for her second, "Annie Allen," in 1949.

J. Craig Venter
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Before becoming the first to sequence the human genome and create a cell using a synthetic genome, J. Craig Venter attended the College of San Mateo in California. After receiving his undergraduate degree in biochemistry and a PhD in physiology and pharmacology from UC San Diego, Nolan's genomic work as well as the institute and companies he founded to pursue it earned him a place on past Time magazine's lists of the world's most influential people and a net worth Venter himself estimated to be in the tens of millions.