Community College vs University: Pros and Cons of Cost, Class Size, and Student Experience

Friday, September 13, 2019
Community College Or University

For many students, the choice between matriculating into a community college versus a university is a difficult choice to make, with many details and implications to consider. 

If you plan to pursue the path of higher education and do not know whether a community college or university experience is right for you, consider the following factors, including cost, class size, and overall academic value. 



The cost variation between attending a community college as opposed to attending a university can vary widely, and is typically the biggest difference between the two entities. Across the board, community colleges are less expensive to attend than universities.

To put it into perspective, community college tuition can be as little as around $3,500 per year, compared to up to around $35,000 for out of-state-students attending a public university. While costs are varied and depend upon a myriad of factors, it is safe to say that community college is the lower cost option, for those who consider price a major decision-informing factor. 


Class Size 

Because universities have larger student bodies, class sizes are much larger compared to community college class sizes. This difference is important to consider if you prefer and benefit from one-on-one learning, or if you can maneuver a more hands-off learning style. Consider how important this factor is to your academic success--if you know you will crave personalized feedback in a smaller setting, perhaps you should consider the community college route. 


Overall Academic Value

The difference between the kind of degrees and programs offered, and the quality of those degrees and programs differ across community colleges and universities. Oftentimes, community colleges are known as ‘2 year’ colleges that mostly offer associate’s degree programs that may be completed in two years or less. There are many jobs on the market that only require a two-year associate’s degree, rather than a four-bachelor’s degree, including roles like an air traffic controller or a dental hygienist.

In many cases, community colleges are considered as preparation for transfer to a larger university program, in which students may pursue more time intensive educational options. 

A university offers longer programs: bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees, which take longer to complete. Universities typically offer a wider range of degree and program options for more specialized areas of study. Think about your career aspirations before committing to a decision, and determine the path that makes the most sense for you and your future.

Finally, it is important to consider what you hope to get out of your college experience, whether that be a community college or university. If you wish to be a medical doctor, you should likely follow a four year university program that sets you and your resume up for success when you eventually apply to medical school. The choice truly comes down to what you want for your life and career, and there is no wrong answer.