Is Community College Better Than University?

community college campus USA

Is it better to consider a Michigan Community College rather than a Michigan University? With the steady increase in price of tuition and other related expenses is this may be so.

A four-year university is the dream for most, if not all students, as they are told to work hard at high school so they can achieve the best grade point average, join the best clubs and sports, hang out with the right kids in order to  gain acceptance to the best universities.

But, what if a graduating senior doesn’t want to jump right into a $40,000-per-year college when they don’t know what they want to do? As a seventeen or eighteen-year-old student, society puts pressure on many to know what you’re going to do with the rest of your life, and justify this by spending over $100,000 in student loans that you’ll use most of your life trying to repay. What if that’s not what you want right now? What if you need more time, but don’t want to waste it either? If you’re worried about the future, and rightfully so, then community college may be a good fit for you.

Students are brought up to think a certain way about higher education, including that attending four-year universities is the most direct route to success; any other will only lead to heartache, setbacks and unhappiness. When reviewing one’s future options, the term “a good education” is rarely said in the same breath as the term “community colleges.”

A key factor that more students should be made aware of when it comes to community college is the overall cost. In the real world, the university you attend is not everything. Your ability to excel in your chosen particular field, while you manage your post college finances including student debt, also play decisive roles in your ability to prosper in the real world. 

Community college (on-campus or online) offers the same level of educational experience, but does so in more practical ways. They have the same class offerings (English, Psychology, Biology, Calculus) but at a more affordable cost.

So why are so many students and parents willing to give away thousands of dollars each semester? Perhaps so their degree has the name of a four-year university on it, or maybe to have the “traditional college experience” that many envision in high school. Perhaps a family member or friend is an alumnus of a certain institution? However, all that and more can still be achieved by going to a community college.

What’s better, community college or university?

The main difference between university and college is that a university also offers post- graduate programs leading towards masters or doctoral degrees. They are generally larger in enrollment and physical campus than colleges and offer a wider range of advanced courses. 

Attending a community college, you’re taught directly by your highly qualified and experienced professors, many who are currently working in their fields. Classroom size is never larger than twenty-five to thirty students. This means you’ll be able to build a greater rapport with your professors. At many four-year universities, you would be lucky if the professor knows you exist. In fact, sometimes you would be quite fortunate to see a full professor within your first two years, since Teaching Assistants do most of the teaching of intro level classes. You wouldn’t want to pay thousands of dollars each semester to be taught by another student, would you?

A recent study published in the Journal of College Student Development found that in regard to the impact it has on their freshmen students, more and more four-year universities are actually trying to imitate the interpersonal environments found at community colleges, because they lead to a higher percentage of graduation and academic success. Community colleges must be doing something right if four-year colleges, which ask you for thousands of dollars a year, need guidance for how to structure their classroom environments.

Four-year universities are not without merit, they often have outstanding faculty members who represent the best in their given field. However, you don’t typically receive access to those specific professors until you are in your junior or senior years, with courses that are directly related to your major. Does it really matter who teaches you Algebra or English Lit in college? Perhaps not. Your junior and senior years hold the most weight, as you are soundly immersed in your program. Most community colleges offer Associate of Arts/Science degrees rather than a Bachelor Degree. Transferring to a University is most students’ ultimate outcome who want a Bachelors degree, so why not save a couple hundred thousand and spare your parents the heart attack? If you’re paying your tuition, you could save yourself from decades of debt. 

Is community college just as good as a university?

Community college used to have a reputation of being less academically serious than traditional four-year universities. The choice of community college vs. university really depends on your overall plan for higher education. There are many benefits to beginning your college career at a community college. Most students attending community college do so for only two years before transferring to a four-year university. In the end, when they get their degree, it’s not going to say “spent only two years at Harvard,” it will say they graduated from Harvard (or whatever it says on degrees). If you are the slightest bit concerned or embarrassed to admit your community-college history to future employers or friends, don’t be. There won’t be a trace of it on your public record.

What is the advantage of community college?

Community college can be a perfect choice for students who wish to save money and reduce their dependence on student loans. It’s also a good way to help recent high school graduates ease into college life and build successful learning strategies before they transfer to a bigger – and more expensive – institution. In reality, the stigma around community colleges is just a stigma and nothing more. Local campuses offer the same level of education a four-year university does. They may not carry the prestige and honor a hundred-year-old university such as Harvard or Yale might, but in terms of quality, few valid arguments can be made against them.

With that said, there is nothing to be embarrassed about. Attending a community college means you are making a smart and informed decision for your future. It makes you wise if anything, because you’re saving thousands of dollars for the first two years to enroll in the same core classes you would have at a four-year institution. Students should be proud of their choice.

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