What Is the Typical Cost of Community College?

Community colleges receive funding from federal, state and local governments. Revenue received from these sources directly influences the cost of community college. Community college costs also include expenses that vary by college and degree program.

Cost of Community College

Community colleges are typically 2-year colleges that offer credit and non-credit courses and associate degree programs. The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) says there are about 1,050 public, independent and tribal community colleges in the U.S. as of 2019 (aacc.nche.edu). The in-district tuition cost for these community colleges averaged about $3,660 for the 2017-2018 academic year. This is about $6,570 less than the average public 4-year college tuition, says the AACC. Tuition costs are charged per credit, so the more credits taken, the higher the tuition.

Important Facts about Community Colleges

Common Courses Accounting, interior decorating, payroll, computer programming, substance abuse, psychology, anatomy, nutrition, leadership dynamics
Degree Levels Certificates and diploma programs, associate's degrees
Degree Fields Music business, management, language studies, general business, judicial studies, retail, Web design, emergency management, general studies
Online Availability Many schools offer online options

Community College Cost Basis

About 27.8% of community college revenue came from student tuition and fees in 2016-17, according to the AACC. Federal, state and local governments subsidize public community colleges. The funds received from these sources affect student tuition and fees. Local funding is usually derived from property taxes, while state money is often granted on a per-student basis. If property taxes are high and the housing market is good, then more money may be available for community colleges, potentially lowering student tuition costs. Students attending a community college within the jurisdiction where they live usually pay less than non-residents. If attendance is high, then the community college may receive more state funding and tuition may drop.

Other Costs of Community Colleges

In addition to tuition, community college students incur other costs, such as room and board, transportation, parking, books, supplies and laboratory fees. Most community colleges are designed to serve students who commute, but a few community colleges provide on-campus housing and meal plans for resident students, at an additional cost. Students in healthcare programs may have to obtain personal professional liability insurance at their own expense. Additional costs for typical community colleges may include:

  • Graduation fees
  • Activity fees
  • Health insurance
  • Technology fees
  • Facilities fees

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