The Benefits of Community College Over Traditional University

In recent years, enrollment levels at community colleges across the country have been swelling. Graduation rates have been correspondingly large, and research is even beginning to show that the salaries of recent community college graduates has outpaced that of their 4-year college counterparts. So why this sudden upward trend?

Perhaps the number one driving factor in this switch to community college is the nation’s increasing frustration with student debt. Millennials are being saddled with enormous loan repayments right out of the gate in a way that is reshaping the entire economy. This debt keeps them from buying cars and houses and may be pushing those who saw all this happening into more moderately priced higher education. The high unemployment rate may also make students wary of accepting large amounts of debt they’re uncertain they could pay off.

The average tuition at most community colleges is about $5,000 per year. At a 4 year institution, that number soars to $20,000 per year. That is a huge difference that is not often justified with a comparable increase in quality of education. Even if the student started with 2 years at a community college and then transferred to a 4 year college, the savings would be incredible. This cost efficiency allows students the freedom to explore many different areas of interest to determine the career of best fit for them. At a 4 year university, one could end up paying hundreds of dollars for a single elective course, whereas a community college would charge scarcely more than one hundred dollars for the same.

Community colleges also offer smaller class sizes, which translates to more one-on-one time with the teacher and a greater understanding of the subject material. The fewer students taking the class, the more individual attention the professor can give to tailor the course to each of the students’ individual learning needs. Anyone would be hard pressed to get that kind of experience in an intro-level class of 300 freshmen at a 4 year university.

Speaking of the professors, community colleges often employ those who are outstanding in their field, but not in possession of extensive formal teaching training. This means that students are getting the benefit of experience from their teachers, rather than regurgitation of how they were taught to teach. Of course, all the professors are required to have some training and to renew it consistently, ensuring the students enjoy a quality education.

Flexibility of scheduling is a major selling point for nontraditional students who may be struggling to fit in education around their other responsibilities like work or family. Evening and night classes are widely available and admissions workers will bend over backwards to help fit in a schedule that works for everyone.

Finally, many community colleges have agreements with local universities to maintain “funnel” programs. In these programs, students complete their first two years of education at the community college, then transfer to the university to complete their Bachelor’s degree. This way, they get to graduate with a name-brand degree at nearly half the price!