Community Colleges vs. Traditional Colleges & Universities

There will always be those that favor traditional 4-year colleges and universities over community colleges and vice-versa. However, the important thing to keep in mind is that each student’s needs are different and the decision as to which type of educational institution to enroll is should be made according to their preferences. When it comes to the differences between the two, most people typically don’t have a complete picture. Below are some of the major ways community colleges differ from traditional colleges and universities. Knowing this information beforehand can help students make better informed decisions when they are ready to begin applying to schools.

Cost of College

Perhaps the most obvious difference between community colleges and traditional colleges is how much it costs to enroll. Although community colleges are prone to tuition hikes like 4-year colleges, in general the fee per unit is much less. The cost of attending a 4-year college or university is oftentimes twice as much–if not more–compared to that of community colleges. Students hoping to get into a private college can definitely expect to pay higher fees for tuition and other related expenses as well.

College Admissions

While regular colleges and universities have a very complex and involved admissions process, community colleges operate on what could be referred to as an “open door policy.” This basically means that virtually anyone can become a student. Although there is still an admissions process that must be followed, the guidelines and criteria are much more flexible. Even high school students have the ability to enroll in a few classes at the local community college. Even though not everyone is guaranteed to get accepted, the chances of enrolling are much higher compared to a traditional college or university.

Enrollment Status & Student Body

Oftentimes those that attend community colleges only do so part-time while holding down a job. Because this kind of educational institution is not strict about enrollment status, students have the flexibility to choose a full course load or simply take one or two classes per semester. Because of the costs associated with being at a 4-year college or university, students often take a full load.

Students that enroll in community colleges 9 times out of 10 are already residents of the area. This means they do not have to go far to pursue their college education and can stay close to home, which cuts down on transportation and housing costs. Traditional colleges and universities are often located in cities that require students to move from home and sometimes even to another state in order to attend. Additionally, the makeup of the student body is also different. While community colleges typically have local students and working professionals on its campuses, 4-year colleges and universities often have a student body made up of people from not just other states but even other countries as well.

College Class Size

Those seeking a smaller classroom setting will find attending a community college more preferable. Most class sizes at community colleges are anywhere from 25-40 students. It is not uncommon for traditional colleges and universities to have stadium seating for its most popular courses, which could mean being one in a sea of 50 to even 100+ other students.