Community Colleges Vs. Universities

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If you’re debating on whether or not to attend a junior or community college or four-year university, there are several things you may want to consider.

Ways Community College and Four-year Universities Vary

  • Class size and student-to-teacher ratio
  • Academic challenges and comparison
  • Total cost
  • Class flexibility
  • Quality of professors
  • Student life

Class Size and Student-to-teacher Ratio

According to several recent studies, students attending community colleges often participate in classroom discussion and experience one-on-one interaction with professors at a much higher rate than university students. Since the student-to-faculty ratio at most community colleges is lower than at most four-year colleges and universities, community college students often spend more time working directly with their professors. In fact, due to the large class sizes at four-year higher education institutions, there are not nearly as many opportunities for students to work directly with or even interact with their professors.

In large public universities, in particular, it is not uncommon for classes to be held in large auditoriums where one professor may lecture several hundred students at a time. Consequently, some university students tend to feel that they’re never able to develop a personal relationship with their professor.

In addition, survey results indicate that students at community colleges tend to receive direct feedback from professors at a much higher rate than students attending four-year institutions.

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Academic Challenges and Comparisons

Although jokes are often made about how easy it is to earn a good grade in a community college class, community colleges usually offer courses comparable in academic rigor and difficulty to those taught at four-year colleges and universities. In fact, since research is not conducted at community colleges, more emphasis is placed on classroom instruction, and many professors at community colleges utilize teaching methods that focus on teaching rather than research, thereby facilitating a better learning environment and experience for students. Many in the academy now believe that the quality of instruction at community colleges surpassed that of larger four-year institutions.

Professors at most community colleges love teaching, consequently, they are able to simplify complicated subjects in a way that students are better able to understand, internalize and reapply them in the real world. Many university professors are so focused on research, they do not teach as much and often leave teaching responsibilities for graduate students or teaching assistants. This is quite common at common occurrence at larger, more “esteemed”, public research universities.

On a number of different levels, many community colleges outperform their four-year peers.

Total Cost

It goes without saying that obtaining an education at community colleges is typically far less expensive than a comparable education at a four-year college or university. In fact, many university students graduate having accumulated staggering levels of debt. So if you don’t want to mortgage your future to receive a good education, attending a community college might just end up being your best option.

Because of the relatively low cost of attending community college, higher education is now available to individuals who could otherwise not afford the cost of attending a traditional four-year college or university.

Best of all, more and more community colleges are providing students with a much better value proposition than four-year institutions. Not only are community colleges less expensive, in many cases, students are able to obtain a comparable, if not better, education at a lower cost.

With the soaring costs of tuition, books and living in general, and a tighter job market a larger number of career-minded students and aspiring professionals are opting to earn their degree at a community college.

Class Flexibility

Due to financial constraints and a tightening job market, many students are finding the need to work while attending college. Hands down, community colleges are the best option for students who plan on working more than part-time while earning their degree. Community colleges typically offer a much larger selection of night courses than four-year colleges and more schedule options. In addition, class attendance is often not required as it is at many four-year institutions.

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Quality of Professors

One of the biggest criticisms that higher education accrediting agencies have voiced with regard to the quality of education at community colleges is the quality of their teaching staff. Historically, community colleges have been known for hiring under-qualified professors that were not considered to be on the same level as their university counterparts. However, this is no longer the norm. Most community colleges now require that their professors have a master’s or doctoral degree in the subject that they teach. Conversely, one of the advantages that community colleges have over universities is that their professors are often successful career professionals that are tuned into their respective industry and can provide students insights and knowledge that is directly applicable to the local job market.

Student Life

Many would-be students grow up with the notion that if they don’t attend a popular four-year college or university they’ll miss out on the traditional “college experience”. True, larger colleges and universities typically offer students greater opportunity to participate in social clubs, fraternities, on-campus events and study body organizations, but don’t be fooled. Many large community colleges offer comparable social experiences. In fact, some of the larger community colleges offer students a very vibrant on-campus student life.

Students attending community colleges are also able to live at home or remain in their local community while receiving their education, while most university students end up relocated to attend college. For students unsure about going to college, community colleges offer them the luxury of giving college a shot without having to move to a distant campus.

Since community college is less expensive and more convenient for many students, it’s just a better route to take in order to earn a college degree.

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