What Are the Advantages of Community Colleges?

You don't have to enroll at an expensive university to get a higher education. Community colleges offer many degree and certificate programs at low cost. Some programs can be completed in as little as one semester, and they can lead to better job opportunities and other advantages.

Advantages of Attending Community College

Postsecondary education is key to qualifying for better jobs and earning higher pay. According to Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity, studies have shown that people with associate's degrees earn 30% more than those who have only a high school diploma (www.spotlightonpoverty.org). This is one of several advantages community colleges can offer.

Important Facts About Community Colleges

Prerequisites High school diploma and/or transcripts of postsecondary work
Certifications Certifications are available for various careers
Online Availability Distance learning courses are available
Continuing Education Continuing education courses offered for a variety of careers and interests

Cost of Tuition

Tuition costs at community colleges are typically much lower than those at 4-year schools. The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) reports that the average annual tuition for a public community college was $3,130 as of 2013, compared to $8,660 for a public 4-year college that same year (www.aacc.nche.edu).

Availability of Education

Community colleges also provide increased accessibility. For many students, a community college is located closer to home than the nearest university, reducing travel time and lessening the need for on-campus housing. Community colleges don't restrict enrollment, so students don't have to meet strict testing standards to obtain an education. Many community colleges use the Internet to further increase accessibility. The AACC found that 41% of public community colleges have degree programs that can be completed entirely online. 92% have at least one online course.

Local Focus

Community colleges might be better prepared than state colleges and universities to focus on local community needs. Community colleges may work with local businesses to develop training programs specific to what those businesses need. These connections can help graduates find jobs.

Preparation for 4-Year Colleges

Students who graduate from a community college have the option of transferring their completed work to a 4-year college program. Even if a student plans from the start to earn a 4-year degree, taking prerequisites and general education courses at community college can make the process easier and less expensive. Check with your community college and your target 4-year school to ensure that your credits would transfer. Some community colleges have also begun offering bachelor's degrees of their own.

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