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Community College Vs University Cost

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If you are trying to get answers to the community college Vs University cost debate, you are in the right place. This piece gives a detailed comparison of the two that will make your decision making easier. The differences entail costs, course duration and programs offered, class sizes, education quality, and admission requirements.

Joining an institution of higher learning is a dream come true for most learners. You might already know what you want to study and are eager to begin your college journey. However, beyond that, there are many considerations to make before deciding which institution to join. One of the greatest of them is to choose between a community college and a university. Making this decision is no easy job, and you might find yourself in a dilemma. Fortunately, this article discusses the community college Vs University cost in detail. It will help you make smart choices regarding your higher education. The following table summarizes the major differences that are discussed herein.

Community CollegeUniversity
Cheaper compared to university High cost of education compared to community colleges
Most offer two-year associate certificate and diploma programs Most offer Bachelor’s, Masters, or doctorate programs with longer durations of 4 years or more
The number of programs offered is smaller compared to universitiesLarger range of programs offered
Less strict admission requirementsAdmission requirements are stricter than those of most community colleges
Smaller class sizesLarger class sizes
The major differences between community college and university

The differences: community college vs university cost

Programs offered

One main difference between community college and university lies in the courses offered. Community colleges mainly offer associate degree programs and are also known as 2-year colleges. A student can finish a course in two years or less. Of course, this is subject to whether he is a part-time or full-time student. These associate programs can be used to get jobs that require such qualifications. They are mainly diploma and certificate courses that offer training in specific careers.

In contrast, universities offer advanced programs that include bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate programs whose duration is four or more years. In as much as both institutions provide students with a variety of courses, university programs are more diverse. They have a bigger range of courses, and some even have smaller schools within them. 

It is vital to do extensive research to know if your local college or university offers your dream course. If so, dig deeper into the particularities of the program. Identify the modules and scope involved to know which option is most valuable for you. You might find your course being offered by the two institutions, yet one provides a comprehensive approach than the other. Therefore, be keen and take note of the smaller details as well.


The biggest difference between universities and community colleges is cost. According to the College Board, the average yearly cost for a public four-year course is about $9400 for in-state learners and about $24000 for out-of-state students. You expect to spend about $32400 annually on fees and tuition if you join a private university. On the contrary, the average annual cost in a public community college is about $3400. 

Besides, the living arrangements also contribute to the cost differences. Most community colleges do not give students housing, but universities do as they have dormitories and student apartments. Also, meal plans are offered. Having access to such services is beneficial, but it adds to the overall cost of school. This is usually referred to as room and board. In a research by the College Board, a room and board 4-year university student in a public university pays about $10,000 annually while one in a private university pays about $11,500.

On the other hand, most learners that attend community colleges live at home and save a lot of money. Others get accommodation closer to their school, and they cater to food and rent expenses. This option is likely to be cheaper than room and board. Nonetheless, it all depends on your budget.

The figures are proof enough that universities are way more expensive than colleges. For this reason, most learners prefer to enroll in two-year degree programs in local community colleges and transfer to a university to finish their higher degrees. However, if you are contemplating this, ensure that your credits will be transferable when the right time comes.

Admission conditions

Universities tend to be strict when it comes to admission processes. You will be required to earn specific grades in some preferred subjects, submitting essays, and even getting the minimum required SAT or ACT scores. Likewise, your application is screened accordingly before you are finally admitted.

The case is slightly different for community colleges. The admission conditions are less strict, with many colleges having open admissions. Therefore, most high school graduates have a chance to apply and get admission. Nonetheless, some programs have stricter admission policies, particularly those that pertain to engineering, nursing, law, and even medicine. It is essential to work with your college to know what is required of you.

Class size

Class size is another significant difference between community colleges and universities. Universities usually have bigger class sizes because they accommodate many students. That means that there is less one on one interaction between lecturers and students.

Community colleges have smaller student populations, and that means smaller class sizes. On average, each class has 25-30 students compared to the average of 150-300 students in a university class. These figures are according to the IPEDS (Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System). Hence, the teacher-learner interaction is greater than that in the universities. If you love a personalized learning approach, then a community college would be good for you.

When it comes to the community college Vs University cost discussion, there is no wrong answer or decision. Having understood the core differences between the two institutions, it is up to you to decide what you want. Take into consideration the costs involved, class sizes, admission requirements, and the programs offered and make your choice.

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