Last Updated: September 24, 2021
Universities vs Community Colleges
Choosing the best educational institution, or rather, even the process of decision making can be taxing and time-consuming when it comes to educational careers. There are several important factors one should keep in mind while deciding, such as one's area(s) of interest, career prospects, type of degree, and most importantly, the type of institution. Before coming to a conclusion, a student must think carefully about various aspects related to the different types of institutions, that is if it suits their career, budget, lifestyle or work schedule, and so on. This article discusses the different types of educational institutions, along with their differences, and misconceptions in detail.
What are Universities?
Universities are post-secondary educational institutes that offer specialized education with a variety of degree programs, courses, and disciplines, on a large scale. They are mostly recognized for their size, diverse course options, and spirited campus culture. Universities have been existing for ages. The world's very first university is the University of Karueein, Morocco. Founded in 859 AD it is the oldest institute of higher learning that still operates.
Types of Universities
There are two major types of universities:
- Public/State Universities: A state or public university is an institute of higher learning that is funded by the state government and the state's taxpayers.
- Private Universities: Private universities are institutes of higher learning that are mostly funded through donations by philanthropists or sponsors, and through students' fee. These universities are further classified into for-profit and non-profit universities.
What are Community Colleges?
Community colleges or junior colleges are educational institutions that offer 2-year degree programs on a small scale or at a regional level. They are widely known for their affordability, and skill training programs that help students acquire entry-level jobs. They also help high school graduates to either prepare for a job or to transfer to a four-year institution.
Major Differences Between Universities and Community Colleges
Here are the primary differences between universities and community colleges:
When deciding to spend for higher education it is essential to take into account one's budget. In case one wishes to pursue a degree program in a short period, community colleges are the best choice. In fact, community colleges are widely known for their affordable rates with the added benefit of financial aid and grants for students. Expenses for housing and food are generally not required for studying in a community college. Universities tend to be costlier. Public institutes will be most expensive for out-of-state students but affordable for in-state students, whereas a private university education will be expensive for all. However, universities also provide numerous scholarships to make classes more economical.
Process of Admission
The admission process to apply for a university tends to be rigorous and often tedious. They are highly selective and require students to perform extremely well during their high school graduation days and maintain those scores as well. Apart from high school transcripts, factors like essays, letters of recommendation, personal statements, high SAT or ACT scores are all extremely important to get into a university. Contrary to this, getting into a community college is not much of a hassle. Even though there are stricter rules for certain programs, it is not as rigid as certain university admission procedures.
Community colleges are in high demand because of the flexibility it offers, where students get the chance to choose timings that are most convenient for them. Students who work full-time or have to take care of a family find it helpful to pursue a degree in community colleges because of the opportunity to choose the time and duration. Universities do offer the option to pursue a degree on a part-time or full-time basis but it may not be enough for students to concentrate on both work and study, or other obligations at the same time, as they need to earn a certain number of credits as well.
Type of Degree
Universities are known for their extensive 4-year undergraduate programs and 2 to 3- year master's programs. Most of these institutions also offer doctoral programs along with various research and work-study opportunities. They also offer diverse options for courses and have several colleges and departments under them. Community colleges mostly offer 2-year associate degrees that help students to finish the course in a shorter period and gain the required skills for the job they desire. However, the courses may lack detailed research work.
Universities are popularly known for the series of extracurricular activities that students can engage in, be it sports, or entertainment. This gives students the scope to socialize with different communities and departments while developing skills not pertaining to just academics. Community colleges do offer a wide range of activities but they are mostly restricted to practical fieldwork more than extracurricular activities. The campus culture is not usually as highly spirited as universities.
With regards to class size, community colleges are not very different from private universities. The student body is generally lesser compared to public universities, and the student-to-teacher ratio is mostly 11:1 or 12:1. In a public university, a class may consist of more than 100 students. The campus size is another factor that highlights the difference between universities and community colleges. Universities tend to have vast campuses with extensive sports grounds and bigger facilities, whereas community college campuses are smaller area-wise.
Universities offer extensive programs that may extend up to seven years. They also promise a strong background for students aspiring for lucrative career opportunities. Community colleges typically offer two-year associate programs for various courses that prepare students for entry-level jobs. They also offer certificates for certain skill-based programs. There are lucrative entry-level jobs that a community college degree can offer. However, there may be other job opportunities that may require students to get an undergraduate degree at the least.
Universities are vast, and thousands of students get enrolled every year. Therefore, the facilities in universities are huge, and most of them have great libraries, laboratories, research facilities, and a lot more. Community colleges are small when compared to universities, and considering the funds they constitute, they have limited facilities and resources, but enough to assist the number of students in the college.
Universities generally provide boarding facilities for students to stay while pursuing their 2-year to 4-year courses. This not only gives students the exposure and experience to live with unknown college mates or alone but also instills a sense of independence and responsibility. Community colleges do not offer boardings for their students and thus they have to stay with parents or be dependent on relatives.
Making decisions about higher education is of great importance. However, it is equally essential to not blindly believe every assumption people make about educational institutions. People often give away false reviews or prejudiced opinions about colleges and universities that tend to confuse young students and make it difficult for them to make a wise choice. To clarify such doubts, here is a list of major misconceptions about community colleges and universities.
- It is a common opinion that community college education serves no purpose and that it has no value. However, it is quite the opposite as these courses predominantly train students to focus on important skills required for a specific career. Even if community colleges offer 2-year degrees, it has enough value to get students a decent job at a starting level.
- Just because certain universities or colleges make it to the top of the rank charts, it does not mean that the institutions with lower ranks are bad. It is a myth to believe that institutions of lower ranks provide low-quality education. There will indeed be bigger opportunities and more course options for higher-ranked colleges, but in terms of educational quality, the other institutions are not far behind.
- Another misconception is that people with a community college education cannot have a successful career. Contrary to this popular belief, many associate degree programs offer preliminary jobs that pay close to $100,000 per year. Popular disciplines that fetch good starting salaries are respiratory care, web development, dental hygiene, radiation therapy, and so on.
- Many suggest to college freshmen that the first year of college or university is meant to be enjoyed, and is not as important as the rest of it. This is a major error of judgment because, no matter how insignificant the first year of the program seems, it is always better to focus on the topics as they provide foundational knowledge.
- Community colleges are frequently underestimated in terms of quality of education, and most importantly, the quality of the faculty. The standard of the faculty belonging to community colleges is generally compared to that of universities. It should be kept in mind that community colleges do have great teachers and are qualified enough to train students to reach the desired level in their careers.
- University education may be costlier than a community college education. But in the long run, it does provide an extensive curriculum and research work that is often not available in community colleges. Furthermore, there are several scholarships based on various criteria like financial need, academic merit, major, gender, and ethnicity. Opting for the best grants and scholarships along with consistent effort to achieve the required scores will surely help students to afford university education without being in debt.
- University campus life is highly acclaimed for the level of freedom and revelry it offers to students. Students move out of their homes and learn to live independently. However, not all students leave the family to reside within the campus, and living with family does not necessarily signify a lack of freedom all the time. Same with community colleges, as some see it as the '13th grade'. The aspect of freedom and independence is subjective, therefore, living with a guardian or with classmates does not necessarily define the boundaries of freedom.
There is a ton of information available on the net, but it is often difficult to filter out what is right or wrong, helpful or useless. Nevertheless, it will always be wise to check the college websites or seek advice from seniors of the preferred institute, high school teachers, or career counseling experts.
The Best Public Universities
- University of California-Los Angeles
- University of California-Berkeley
- University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
- University of Virginia
- University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
- University of California-Santa Barbara
- University of Florida
- Georgia Institute of Technology
- University of California-Irvine
- University of California-San Diego
The Best Private Universities
- Princeton University
- Columbia University
- Harvard University
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Yale University
- Stanford University
- University of Chicago
- University of Pennsylvania
- California Institute of Technology
- Duke University
The Best Community Colleges
- Anne Arundel Community College
- Roxbury Community College
- Eastern Maine Community College
- Springfield Technical Community College
- College of Marin
- Los Angeles City College
- Lamar Institute of Technology
- Kennedy-King College
- West Kentucky Community and Technical College
- Lamar State College