Community College vs University - What are the Pros and Cons?

University is expensive, but that doesn't make it the bad choice.

Thinking of saving money and finishing your first two years at a community college? How to weigh the pros and cons?

Community College Pros

Money. Community College is significantly cheaper. If you are paying your own way community college might be all you can afford, at first.
Well, you already knew that didn't you...

I advise a huge number of students who have no savings, whose parents are broke and they are not in the top 20 percent of their class or star athletes. These kids often have no choice but to start at the community college level... and it's not a bad choice.

Community colleges are ready and more than willing to help kids (and adults) who are late bloomers, academically. Most cc's have entry level exams that place learners in the correct classes for their best math and reading skill level. This means better, cheaper success rates for the student and the community college.

If a person doesn't know which direction they want to take in college, a year or two experimenting with different subjects at the community college can help clarify things.

Most community colleges offer more than just academically centered subjects so a student can really explore many interests without spending a lot of money or time. I call community colleges "Life Exploratoriums."

There are auto and heavy machinery mechanics, nursing and medical auxiliary classes, art, jewelry making, photography, videography, all kinds of sports, gymnastics, swimming - even rodeo teams.

Community colleges across America offer hundreds and hundreds of specialty degrees including yacht design, import export certificates, cartooning, mediation, industrial design, tatooing, robotics... the endless array of subjects is fascinating.

If you already know what you enjoy, you can look for a community college that is well known for offering great classes and maybe even a degree, in that subject. If you can move across country to attend a University - you can move just as easily to learn something great at a community college.

Community colleges are where life happens. They are full of wonderful teachers and mentors who are not only experts in their subject but are extremely skillful at transmitting that information to you.

Which brings us to our next point...

Community College - The Cons

Probably, the worst part about Community College is ... oh dear, I'm sorry, but I have to say it... the people. Yes. The awful, bureaucratic, stuck in their jobs, been teaching too long, couldn't care less, horrible, no good people.

You meet some.

I'm not saying community colleges are full of stinkers. They aren't. But there is something about the structure of some poorly funded, small town community colleges that induces bad eggs to all get together in one spot... I'm going to guess it's the low pay and the bad hours and the no-benefits that sometimes creates a community cesspool instead of a center of learning.

Just stay away from that.

Another concern I have is for my students who have been accepted at a University, but are considering community college for the cost savings.

Look, if you have a ride at a Uni and you're committed to taking that ride - going to a community college first, may interfere with the growth of your University career. Especially in smaller, private Universities where the professors get to know every student by name.

You don't want to start late in the game at these types of Universities. You want to get in as a baby Freshman and let the University raise you up to full power with their special magic. They know what they're doing. They are good at it and they need you for the full four years to turn you into an alumnus. I mean, Alumnus with a capital A.

In cases such as this, I advise the student to forgo the cost savings of community college and turn their efforts full force into becoming the best student on that small university campus. Learn the alma mater. Buy the pennant, the sweater, go to homecoming. Participate and enjoy. Make friends and network.

Many of these very good, and very well funded universities will offer excellent (but poor) students a no-debt after graduation financial aid package, so trying to save money by going the community college route first is often pointless and in the big picture, harmful.

If you already have your feet on the ground, you know what you want, you know where to get it and you've been accepted... go get it. Don't fool around at a community college.

To Sum Up: Community College vs University

Community college is good for a lot of things. For when you don't have money. For when you are behind academically. For when you aren't sure of your path in life. For exploring many subjects on the cheap. For getting a specialized (and groovy) degree or certificate.

Community college is not a good choice for an academically oriented student who has already been accepted by a great, small University with money to give, and they've already said "we're giving you all or most of the money you need".

Wouldn't that be nice?

Learn well and have fun!

All Souls College