What is Community College: Exploring This Cost-Effective Option for Education

What is Community College: Exploring This Cost-Effective Option for Education

What is Community College? Exploring This Cost-Effective Option for Education

With more than 25% of all undergraduate students attending community colleges instead of large, four-year universities, it is worth investigating what community colleges have to offer in terms of education and financial savings. But what is community college?

With more than 8 million undergraduates seeking their educations from two-year institutions in the 2016-2017 academic year, community colleges will soon be equal to four-year universities in terms of attendance.

But what is community college? What makes it different from a university? Is it less expensive to attend a community college, rather than attending a university?

Not only do community colleges offer degrees and certifications for only a fraction of a university's tuition price, but they are also smaller, tighter-knit communities where everyone of any age is welcome to gain knowledge and better themselves.

What is Community College?

A community college is an educational institution that offers two-year degrees, technical certifications, and sometimes four-year degrees as well. "Community college" is a somewhat loose term that applies to any educational institution that offers college courses but is not a university.

So, the next time you ask yourself, "What is community college?", keep this in mind. Community colleges are accredited, offer a wide variety of programs and degrees, and tend to be far less expensive and far more flexible than a traditional four-year university.

How Much Does Tuition Cost?

On average, annual tuition at a community college is 1/3 of the price of a university's annual tuition. So, instead of spending $15,000 on one year of schooling, you could be paying only $5,000.

Approximately 2/3 of all undergraduate students qualify for financial aid via various grants and scholarships. The amount of assistance given depends on the student's annual household income, dependency status, and a few other factors.

Many people who struggle to live paycheck to paycheck can afford to attend community college, as their low income and independent status are most likely to garner the most grants, making a college education virtually free to obtain!

The same cannot be said for major universities. 

What Programs Offerings Are There?

Community colleges offer a wide range of programs to choose from, but most offer two-year degrees, such as an A.A., A.S., and an A.A.S.

Community colleges also offer certificate programs that are tailored to meet the needs of those looking for a quick career change or qualification to obtain employment.

Because of the wide variety of programs and certifications available from community colleges, students of all ages and types tend to attend classes together. This eclectic mix makes for a well-rounded and varied college experience.

This experience is very different from the typical university experience, where one is surrounded almost entirely by young people in their late teens and early twenties. If you are an adult who is nervous about going back to school because of your age, a community college may be the solution you've been looking for!

Continuing Education and Community Education

Community colleges tend to support the entire community in a variety of ways. Not only do they offer professional certifications and two-year degrees, but they also tend to provide a wide range of continuing education and community education classes.

what is community college: students wearing backpacks

For a small price, between $15 and $70, you can enroll in Beginning Horseback Riding or Ballroom Dancing for Elders. In many ways, community colleges now fill the role that community centers served. Educating and bettering the community is a community college's central platform.

Continuing education programs tend to focus on career-focused skills, such as business, child care, accounting, nursing, and real estate. These courses are designed for those seeking to earn or maintain certification in their field, as well as for interested individuals looking to build on their portfolio of skills.

Community education classes are far more friendly and fun, generally with many different subjects from which to choose.

Arts and crafts, dancing, sports, test prep, cooking, gardening, and language-learning are all different areas that you can improve or enjoy during a community education class. These classes tend to meet only once a week, so a busy schedule is unlikely to stop you from pursuing your passions!

Are Online Classes Available?

Most community colleges do offer online classes, yes! Because community colleges offer career-driven programs that are perfect for working adults, they also tend to offer flexible scheduling options, including online courses.

Check to see if your local community college offers online classes. You may be surprised at what you find!

Do Community Colleges Offer the Same Resources as Universities?

In most cases, community colleges offer smaller versions of the same resources provided by universities. Though they may not receive as much funding at their larger counterparts, community colleges typically offer a standard set of resources for their students to take advantage of.

Example of these resources includes Child Care (Daycare), Student Counseling, Tutoring Center, Library, Financial Aid Services, Campus Police, Student Health Care, and a Student Journal.

Most major universities offer multiple libraries, child care centers, cafeterias, student counseling centers, tutoring services, and health care options, far more student services, and resources than a community college can offer.

Though this is the case, it is essential to keep in mind that the smaller student size alleviates the need for multiple types of the same kind of student resource, such as a library.

Can I Take Classes in the Evening?

Yes! Unlike university classes, which usually take place between 7:30 am, and 5:00 pm, community colleges tend to offer late-night courses for those who work during the day.

In addition to their flexible online classes, evening classes can help someone gain a better education without having to quit their job.

what is community college: chair class college

Can You Transfer to a University from a Community College?

Absolutely! Many undergraduate students attend a community college for the first two years of their college education, earn their A.A., and then transfer to the college of their choice!

Not only does this method save you quite a lot of money, but it also ensures placement in the college of your choosing, so long as you make the appropriate grades while enrolled in community college.

Admissions standards tend to be far harsher on incoming high-school graduates than on community college graduates. As someone who possesses an A.A. or an A.S., you have already proven that you can succeed in advanced college coursework, and so you are more likely to be accepted to the university of your choosing. 

If you're unsure of what program to major in, attending a community college can relieve the pressure of making a quick or uninformed decision, as most colleges do not require that you declare a degree major. And throughout your time in community college, you will satisfy most if not all the core course requirements that are the base of any four-year bachelor's degree.

What Kind of Technical Degrees do Community Colleges Offer?

Community colleges offer many different types of technical degrees. From accounting to dental hygiene, you can learn most entry-level tech jobs from a community college.

Students interested in becoming veterinarians may find it helpful to become a veterinary technician first, which requires a two-year degree and certification. 

Those looking to work in a daycare center, or perhaps teach young children in the future, may find that an A.S. in Early Childhood Education is just what they needed to get hired at their dream job.

And someone interested in getting started in nursing may want to specialize in a field before attending school to become an RN. Community colleges offer A.S. degrees in Radiography, Health Information Technology, Emergency Medical Services, and Diagnostic Medical Sonography, as well as so much more, giving you an edge on your peers when going to apply for a position at a clinic or hospital.

For those seeking immediate gainful employment, a community college is a vehicle that will transport you to your goal. The only thing you need is the will power and patience. 

Can You Get a Four-Year Degree at a Community College?

Sometimes. While many community colleges are beginning to offer specific bachelor's degrees, usually in a technical or healthcare-related field, not all have caught up.

Be sure to check with your local community college for more information on the four-year degrees they may offer. 

Community Colleges Versus Universities

Let's explore some of the Pros and Cons of community colleges and universities to find how they compare.

Community Colleges

Perfect for transferring to a university.Limited types of programs.
Inexpensive tuition.Usually, no bachelor's degree program is offered.
Smaller campuses and class sizes.No dorm experiences.
Online classes.Typically, without fraternities or sororities.
Flexible course scheduling.
Friendly and helpful counselors.
Simpler, less-stressful coursework.
School-sponsored sports and activities.


Lively atmosphere, beautiful and historic campuses.Extremely competitive.
Offers many social activities in which to engage.Intense workload and coursework.
Can choose to live on-campus in a dorm.Can be a financial burden that lasts for decades.
Fraternities and Sororities.Difficult to gain admission.
Abundance of resourcesLarge schools may cause you to feel isolated and alone. 
Several opportunities to network with professionals
Many programs to explore and choose.