Can Community Colleges Compete?

Community colleges have gained a reputation over the years for being less academically serious than private colleges. However, a lot has changed with regards to community colleges recently. Academic standards have risen incredibly as have the qualifications of the teachers.

Making the choice between a community and private college is dependent on your overall plan for higher education. There are some benefits that can be gained by choosing a community college including the quality of education that is now on par with traditional colleges; the tuition is a lot cheaper, and the education program is far more flexible.


Many students are still drawn towards the four-year universities as they do still offer many things that the community colleges don’t such as:

  • Campus facilities
  • Robust student lifestyle
  • Sports

However, community colleges are changing the way they provide higher education and can now offer students a far greater choice with regards to gaining their degree.

Transfer credits

The majority of students will attend a two-year community college program to gain their associates degree and the credits that they earn can be put towards the four-year course to earn a bachelor’s degree. All of the community colleges have changed and made tremendous advancements make sure that their associate degrees match the university requirements.


The main reason that the community colleges have gained such a following is that they have significantly improved their academic standards over the past twenty years. An associate’s degree from a community college was once looked down upon as the academic standards were far lower. These days it is accepted that students can learn just as much, in some cases even more at a community college. The curriculum is on par with universities and classes just as challenging. The students still have plenty of variety, and it has been proven that students who transfer from a community college go on to outperform many of those that started at university.

Community colleges now require all professors to have gained a master’s or doctorate in their given subjects, and while there may be some less experienced teachers, as a rule, the community college teaching staff are now seasoned professionals.

Probably the biggest difference when it comes to the academics at a community college and universities is that the community college does not have research grants. However, just because the professor has not written some books in their chosen subject is not enough in my opinion to discount the community college.


Class sizes

While you may expect the class sizes in the community college to be far larger than that of universities, it is quite the opposite with less than twenty students in most classes. This allows for plenty of interaction and constructive debates rather than a one-sided monolog that one would expect from the majority of universities. The small classes also contribute to the overall quality of the teaching as professors in small classes are compelled to make the learning more engaging and interactive.

When you compare the big public research universities with the community colleges, it appears that they both follow a curriculum that is very similar and therefore it seems that the community college would provide a more unique and personal learning experience.

Tuition fees

There is no doubt that the public and private universities are far more expensive to attend than a community college with the latest rises in tuition fees outpacing inflation. Attending a public university will start from approximately $8,000 per year for tuition fees. However, this coupled with the other out of pocket expenses is more realistically going to cost an average of $20,000.

Community colleges are far more affordable with the average prices being at least half when compared to the universities. This is partly due to the community colleges offering a more no-frills approach to education. The biggest saving made by those choosing a community college is that the students usually choose to live at home.


Another huge advantage that is offered by the community colleges is the flexibility as the colleges are designed to cater to students who either have jobs or families that they need to fit around their studies.

Campus life

Campus life is one area where the universities beat college community’s hands down, as the majority of community colleges don’t invest in the school facilities, sport and student clubs and organizations. This makes them far more affordable however there are still a huge number of students that feel the campus life makes their “college experience.”

Students that complete their education requirements at community colleges have many advantages over those choosing a four-year university program. They will pay a lot less to attend a community college that will offer flexible, small classes which now provide the same high quality of education. The students won’t undergo the traditional college experience. However, they will also avoid a large chunk of the student debt too.

If the student is dead set on attending a traditional university and has the funds available, it can certainly be a rewarding experience that they will never forget. If on the other hand the student, only wants to receive a good education while saving money, they should explore community colleges in their area.