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

Friday, January 05, 2024
Community College Or University

For many students, the choice between matriculating into a community college and a university is difficult, with many details and implications. 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: cost, class size, and overall academic value. All these factors should be considered and laid out here for you. 



The cost variation between a community college and 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. 

This difference in cost represents a much larger variation in the overall experience that you, as the student, would be paying for. Universities tend to have better campuses, libraries, and student centers, all geared toward the success of their students. However, community colleges have made a push toward encompassing better facilities to keep up with the growing number of college students in the previous decade. 


Class Size 

Because universities have larger student bodies, class sizes are much larger than community college classes. This difference is important to consider if you prefer and benefit from one-on-one learning or if you can maneuver in 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

Besides all the amenities mentioned, your degree is the most important aspect to consider. In the end, that is why you chose that college or university in the first place. What you want to study and how far you want to go into that study will more than likely help you decide whether a community college or a university is right for you. 

Community colleges are often known as ‘2-year’ colleges that mostly offer associate’s degree programs. As the term might suggest, these programs can be completed in two years or less. Many jobs on the market only require a two-year associate’s degree rather than a four-year bachelor’s degree, including roles like an air traffic controller or a dental hygienist.

Community colleges are often considered as preparation for transfer to a larger university program, where students may pursue more time-intensive educational options

A university will likely offer longer programs such as Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral degrees. Depending on which one, these will take longer to complete. Universities typically offer a wider range of degree and program options for more specialized areas of study, which is something to be mindful of when deciding where to attend school. Think about your career aspirations before committing to a decision, and determine the path that makes the most sense for you and your future.



It is important to consider what you hope to get from your college experience, whether a community college or university. These two choices will provide a much different experience for you and impact how and what you study. If you want a more well-rounded campus experience to begin your Freshman year, then a university might be your best bet. However, community college might be a more financially-friendly, safer option if you want a more straightforward approach to learning a trade. The choice truly comes down to what you want for your life and career. Above all, it is best to remember that there is no wrong answer. It all comes down to what is best for you and your future.