For many students, enrolling at a community college versus a university is a hard choice to make, with many details and implications to consider.
If you are planning to pursue the path of higher education and do not know whether a community college or university experience is right for you, consider the following factors, including cost, class size, and overall academic value.
Are Community Colleges Are More Affordable?
According to the Community College Review, the average tuition for full-time, in-state students in 2018-19 is $4,836. This is half the average cost of attending a public university as an in-state student. While this doesn’t cover the cost of fees and books needed, it is a smaller starting figure.
If the option is available, you can also save even more money by attending a community college near home. This gives you the ability to live at home rather than spend more money on rent. For students that need to work while attending school, flexible community college schedules can make it easier to work part-time.
The variance between attending a community college versus attending a university can vary widely and is usually the biggest difference between the two entities. Across all areas, community colleges are less expensive to attend than universities.
To put it into perspective, community college tuition can be as little as $3,500 per year, compared to upwards of $35,000 for out of-state-students attending a public university. While costs vary and depend on many factors, it is safe to say that community college is the lower-cost option for those who consider price a major determining factor.
Community Colleges Have Smaller Class Sizes
You have probably seen they stereotypical large lecture hall freshman class in movies. It is not that from the truth for intro courses at large universities. In comparison, community college classes are generally much smaller.
A smaller class size benefits both the students and teachers. Teachers can give more individual attention to students and customize the experience to fit the needs of a smaller group. Students will also have the opportunity to get to know their classmates, ask questions during the lesson, and have one-on-one conversations with professors in a smaller classroom environment.
Because universities have larger student bodies, class sizes are significancy bigger compared to community college class sizes. This distinction is important to consider if you prefer and benefit from one-on-one learning or if you can handle a more hands-off learning style. Consider how essential this aspect is to your academic success and if you know you do better with personalized feedback in a smaller setting, you should consider the community college route
Less Strict Admission Requirements
Community colleges are ideally suited for students who want to earn a degree but may not have a competitive high school GPA for applications. By providing students an opportunity to improve their grades and earn credits towards a degree, community colleges are helping students become better candidates for university admission requirements.
One important thing to remember if you are hoping to transition to a four-year school for your BA is how your credits will transfer. You want to make sure you don’t pay for a class you already took at a higher price tag.
Improved Academic Quality at Community Colleges
In the past, community colleges were thought of unfavorably by some, and were not considered a solid academic experience. That has been changing, and while there is still variety in the student experience, community colleges are more generally accepted as a way to complete your gen ed courses before transferring to a four-year program.
Community colleges have enhanced their academic standards to attract more students and meet the transfer requirements of large universities. This creates the opportunity for students already attending a four-year university to take summer classes at local community colleges for a lower cost.
Easier Transition from High School to College
Typically, the transition to community college is easier on students leaving high school. With smaller classrooms, flexible schedules, and entry-level courses, students who are worried about getting lost in a large school might find community college a better fit.
It’s also important to remember the stress of leaving home and the newly discovered independence of living on your own that can be disruptive for students.
Overall Academic Value
The difference between the kind of degrees and programs offered and the quality of those degrees and programs vary across community colleges and universities. In Many Cases, community colleges are known as ‘2-year’ colleges that offer associate’s degree programs that might be completed in two years or less. There are many jobs only require a two-year associate’s degree, rather than a four-year bachelor’s degree, including positions like an air traffic controller or a dental hygienist.
In many instances, community colleges are regarded as preparation for transfer to a more extensive university program, in which students can engage in more time-intensive educational options.
A university offers lengthier programs: bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees, which take longer to complete. Universities generally offer a more comprehensive range of degree and program options for more specialized areas of study. Think about your career aspirations before committing to a decision, and decide the path that makes the most sense for you and your future.
Finally, it is essential to consider what you want to get out of your college experience, whether that be a community college or university. If you want to be medical doctor, you should follow a four-year university program that sets you and your resume up for success when you apply to medical school. The choice really comes down to what you want for your life and career, and there is no wrong answer.