Are you having difficulty deciding whether to attend a community college or a university? What are the differences in a university versus a community college? This article will help you compare community college and university benefits.

Going to a university can mean different things in different situations. For some people it's a four-year stint in the context of a university setting far from their home with an eye to even more education afterwards. For others, its two years spent at a local community college. Why choose a university program over a community college program or vice versa? Keep reading to find out the draws of each option.

Differences After High School

Just as children differ when they start school, with some already able to say the alphabet or even read, tie their shoes, count to 25, and write their names while others haven't yet attained these milestones, high school graduates differ as well. High school graduates differ in their accomplishments during their K - 12 education, in their goals for their futures, and in their economic resources. All of these three items can affect their choice of whether a university degree or community college attendance is the best choice for them.

Accomplishments and Next Steps

Not everyone does equally well in high school, and there are a number of reasons for this. Some people just don't function well in an academic setting: their strengths are elsewhere. Others may not have been as developmentally ready for the demands of high school. And some may have had the events of life interrupt their high school careers, for one reason or another, diminishing their performance.

While their peers may be prepared for the rigors and responsibilities of a college degree, these students may not feel that they have a firm enough grasp of high school material or possibly the grades to allow them to gain admission to a university program and doing well in it. For students such as these, a community college may offer a way to continue their education and strengthen their educational foundations. For those who wish to go on, community college can form an important transition between high school and a university setting.

There are also people who are returning to education a good while after their high school graduation. Although they may have done well enough when they were teenagers, they may feel that a gentler reintroduction to academic life is more their style, and so rather than plunging into a university degree, they may choose to enroll at or perhaps just sample courses at a community college by way of reintroduction to life in school.

On the other hand, high school graduates who had the emotional maturity and academic skills to perform well in high school may be raring to go on to a university degree right away. Besides having a good enough track record to gain admission, such students may also have a clear enough idea of their personal strengths that they already have an idea about what their vocational choice is likely to be.

Looking at One's Goals

There are other reasons why the choice of a community college over a university might make sense. One of these is being uncertain of one's future direction. This could happen for several reasons. A person could be choosing between a technical degree and a liberal arts degree and not be sure of what kind of four-year institution he or she wished to attend.

Or a person might be drawn to multiple career choices and wish to find out more about them all by taking preliminary courses. In this case, sampling at a community college could be done at less cost and the person could then choose to apply to a university that would support his or her considered career decision.

Because one can take courses inexpensively at community colleges and because attaining a community college degree and then transferring is a well-worn path to a B.A., a community college can be a good transitional program. On the other hand, some high school graduates simply want a career that is best served by a community college degree. The associates degree that they need in their field may not even be offered at a university. In this case, the choice of a community college is abundantly clear. For others, their occupational goals dictate attendance at a university program, and that's the path they choose to pursue.

Money and Choices

People who cannot afford to go to school full time and therefore need an institution with a flexible schedule so that they can work may find that a community college is better adapted to their needs. With a student population that is typically less traditional than a university, a community college is more likely to schedule classes with students' other commitments in mind. Not only are 59% of community college students enrolled part time, but distance learning and off-campus courses may be possibilities.

If university costs are just too much, even with scholarship, grant, and other assistance, then community college can also offer an alternative that allows full-time attendance (if that's what's wanted) for far less cost.  Those who need a university education to meet their career goals may be able to attend a community college part time while they work and save up. Then, when they transfer to a university for their final two years, they may have saved enough that with financial aid, they can pursue their four-year degree.


American Association of Community Colleges