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Approximately 13 million students are enrolled in community colleges across the United States. Nearly 45% of all students earning a bachelor’s degree attended a community college.

Transfers and Training

In fact, many university advisors recommend that students attend community college "college transfer" programs first, and then transfer to universities for the final two years. Students transfer or use their credits from community colleges to earn a four-year degree. Many community colleges and four-year institutions also have articulation agreements to make transferring even easier.

For example, when students apply for admission to the Seattle Community Colleges, they may request a Transfer Admission Guarantee from the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School. Students spend their first two years at the Seattle Community Colleges, then transfer to finish their degrees at Johns Hopkins.

In addition, community colleges often host “transfer fairs” and invite four-year institutions to come and recruit their students to complete the bachelor’s degree.

In addition to college transfer programs, U.S. community colleges offer a wide range of workforce (job-training) programs. These programs train students in hundreds of careers: business administration, computer programming, nursing, fashion design, hotel and restaurant management, nanotechnology, commercial photography, engineering or advertising art. Students who complete these courses earn degrees or certificates. International students who complete a workforce program that is a minimum of nine months are then eligible to apply for Optional Practical Training and gain some paid working experience in their field.

Helping the Local Community

Community colleges meet the educational and vocational needs of local communities. Almost all community colleges in the USA are government-supported. By maintaining an "open door policy" with low tuition costs and few entrance requirements, community colleges have offered many U.S. citizens a chance to get a college education. **

What’s the Difference?

Community Colleges and four-year universities are different. Here’s how:

Admission is easier. TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) scores and academic requirements are usually lower for admission to U.S. community colleges than to four-year institutions. Many community colleges also offer ESL (English as a Second Language) programs or developmental math for students whose scores are too low to begin academic studies immediately.
Costs are lower. Tuition at community colleges can be as much as 20% to 80% less than at four-year American universities and colleges. This is a tremendous cost savings for the first two years of the bachelor’s degree.
Student enrollment in classes, or at the institution in general, is often smaller than at four-year schools. Teachers and advisors are able to provide more one-on-one attention to students. Many U.S. and international students say that attending smaller schools for the first two years helped them make a good transition into larger four-year schools for the final two years.
Classroom environments are more supportive. In the U.S. educational system, students often compete for good grades. International students who do not speak English fluently are at a disadvantage. Often, they do better and feel more comfortable in smaller classes where there is less competition. In addition, community colleges typically offer free tutoring to support students’ success.
Adjusting is easier. Two years at a community college can help an international student improve English language skills and grow accustomed to the U.S. educational system and culture.


What is community college?

Community college is the most common type of two-year college. These colleges offer many types of educational programs, including those that lead to associate degrees and certificates. Certificates and some types of associate degrees focus on career readiness. Other types of associate degrees are good preparation for study at a four-year college where graduates can earn a bachelor’s degree.

Can I get financial aid?

Even though tuition at community colleges is usually low, financial aid is available. The Federal Pell Grant, for example, is open to students attending any accredited postsecondary institution. You can even qualify if you go part time.[Play Video]
What’s the path from a 2-year to 4-year college?
Earl Johnson, Associate Vice President and Dean of Admission, University of Tulsa

Who goes to community college?

More than 40 percent of U.S. undergraduate students attend community colleges. Students who are 18 to 24 years old make up the largest age group. Community colleges also attract working adults, retirees and others who want to learn.

Why should I consider going to one?

At a community college, you can:

Save money. Costs are generally much lower than those at four-year colleges. On average, tuition and fees at public two-year colleges are $3,347 a year.

Prepare for transfer to a four-year college. Many community college graduates decide to transfer and complete their bachelor’s degrees. Planning in advance can help ensure that the credits you earn will count toward your degree at the four-year college you hope to attend. Get more information about transferring.

Get ready for a career. If you want to enter the workforce sooner, you can earn a certificate or degree in a career-oriented field, such as firefighting or engineering technology.

Try out college. Most programs are open admission. This means that you can go to college even if your high school grades aren’t strong. A community college is also a good option if you’re not sure you’re ready for college. You’ll have a chance to challenge yourself and see if college is right for you.

Take advantage of a flexible schedule. Most community colleges are convenient — you can attend full time or part time, and you can schedule your courses around home and work commitments. There’s a campus within a short driving distance of almost every town in the United States.

You can use College Search to find a community college that is a good fit for you.

How can a community college help me decide what to do with my life?

You can explore different subjects before committing to a program, without having to be too concerned about tuition costs. If you take a wide range of courses — including those in the liberal arts and those that are career oriented — you can check out many different options in one place. Many community colleges offer intensive counseling that can help you assess your abilities, interests and education options.

Why do I have to work hard in high school if open admission is common?

In order to succeed in college, you need a solid foundation in reading, writing and math skills. Unless you build them in high school, you may have to take remedial, or catch-up, courses when you arrive at a community college. They are also called developmental or basic skills courses. These courses don’t count toward your degree, so graduating will take you longer and cost you more if you’re not prepared.

You’ll probably take placement tests when you start college. The results will show whether you need to take any catch-up courses before beginning college-level study.

Is there an on-campus community?

Unlike residential colleges, many community colleges lack on-campus housing — most students live nearby. Therefore, many of these colleges make a special effort to build a sense of community on campus. You’ll find a wide variety of activities, similar to those at four-year colleges.

Has anyone famous gone to community college?

Plenty of high achievers started out at community college. Here's a short list of successful alumni:

Gwendolyn Brooks, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet
Eileen Collins, former National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) astronaut
Joyce Luther Kennard, California Supreme Court justice
Jeanne Kirkpatrick, former United Nations ambassador
Nolan Ryan, retired Major League Baseball professional athlete
Jim Lehrer, news anchor
Robert Moses, choreographer and dance company founder
Sam Shepard, Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright
James Sinegal, cofounder and chief executive officer of Costco
Maxwell Taylor, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff