Community colleges are often viewed as second-rate, low quality, and inferior to universities in every way—but how much of this is true? Community college, sometimes called junior college, is not what it used to be. In fact, many students who studied and earned degrees from junior colleges lead successful lives and have fulfilling careers. Let’s examine the pros and cons of attending a community college compared to studying at a four-year university.

PROS

At a glance: Community college is a great transitional step between high school and university studies, and is highly affordable and flexible while giving students additional time to decide what they want to study.

  • The cost of tuition is drastically smaller at community college. According to the College Board, the national average is less than $3,000 per semester, with many schools falling well under this figure. This is significantly smaller than the average cost of one semester at the university level, whether public or private. This ignores other large expenses of university study including books and room and board.
  • Junior college offers very flexible scheduling options, including many evening classes. This is designed to benefit students to wish to work and attend school at the same time.
  • Since community colleges are smaller institutions, class sizes are naturally smaller as well. Community college students are provided with more direct interaction with their professors and other faculty members, which is sometimes a rare luxury at large universities.
  • While community college students pay significantly less money than university students, the quality of the instruction they receive is not detrimentally lower. This is especially true at accredited schools with close relationships to four-year universities.
  • Junior college can offer a “second chance” for students who would find it difficult to become accepted at a four-year school fresh out of high school. Students aiming to overcome a history of poor GPA or lousy test scores can easily get their academic careers back on track with junior college studies—when viewed by admission boards as a transfer student, any sort of college credit greatly overshadows high school performance.
  • Perhaps the greatest benefit of attending community college is that it serves as a transitional step between high school and university studies. This transitional step provides students more time to determine what they want to study in the future with relatively low financial risk and flexible scheduling. This greatly reduces the risk of a dilemma many college freshman face: figuring out they don’t know exactly what they want to study and, fearing they will waste large sums of money in higher education without a plan, dropping out of university with debt—sometimes permanently ending their academic careers.

CONS

At a glance: There are some critiques of community college, largely originating from the fact that it is most effective when used in tandem with transferring to a 4-year institution. To put it another way, junior college is not considered to be competitive when standing alone.

  • Community colleges usually have limited curriculums compared to universities. Therefore, students typically decide to pursue a transfer to a four-year school to remain competitive and marketable when looking for jobs.
  • Also falling under the transitional critique umbrella, workloads are significantly lighter at community colleges. The argument can be made that this doesn’t properly prepare students for university studies.
  • The biggest criticism of community college can be the dichotomy that exists between students that do and do not plan on having an academic future beyond community college. This can cause tension in the classroom for both professors and students, as it can create conflict in regards to class discussions and expectations. Therefore, it is important for dedicated students to engage with their professors and take extra steps to get the most out of their junior college experiences.
  • Community colleges often don’t have the campus life that many large universities do. Campus life is one of the largest culture shocks between high school and college, and community college often does not adequately prepare students for this aspect of higher education.
  • Lastly, a warning: while many junior colleges have close ties to universities and transfer credits fairly easily, this is not always the case. If you plan to transfer to another school, check with an advisor and make sure that the classes you enroll in will transfer with you.

In summary, junior college is a great opportunity for students to cost-effectively acquire college credit without jumping right into the thick of the college experience. However, the answer to the question “should I attend community college?” is different for everyone. For more information on this topic, click here.

What do you think about community college?

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