University vs. Community College

What’s the Difference Between a University and a Community College?

Selecting the right school for your higher education is a significant and personal decision. For example, should you attend a two-year community college or a four-year university?

To help make this decision, students should consider their overall plan for higher education, as both community colleges and university have their benefits.

Today, we’ll unpack the difference between a community college and a university and the pros and cons of each.

What is a Community College?

Community colleges, also called junior colleges, primarily offer two-year degree programs, awarding associate degrees and professional certificates.

Once students obtain their associate degree, they can transfer to a four-year college or university to complete a bachelor’s degree in another two years. While two-year associate degrees are sufficient in some professions, most students elect to transfer and complete their bachelor’s degrees at four-year institutions.

Community colleges traditionally have lower overall fees, low admission requirements, and local access to classes. Therefore, they are a great stepping stone for students interested in higher education but still deciding on their degree path.

What is a University?

The main difference between community colleges is that universities offer four-year bachelor’s degrees and graduate and doctoral-level degree programs.

Four-year universities offer bachelor’s degrees, Bachelor of Science (BS) or Bachelor of Arts (BA) degrees as well as advanced degrees, such as the Master of Arts (MA), Master of Science (MS), Master’s in Business Administration (MBA), Master’s in Public Health (MPH), Doctor of Education (EdD), Doctor of Chiropractic (DC), and Doctor of Health Science (DHSc). Universities and colleges with these degree options are the optimal choices for those looking to enter advanced and competitive career fields.

Community College vs. University

Depending on your preferences and needs, attending a community college can be a great way to get started on your degree and take steps toward your career goals.

Community College Benefits

1. Lower Costs. Many students attend community college to save money. According to Collegeboard, the average annual cost of attending a public four-year in-state university full-time is $10,950. In contrast, a public two-year in-district full-time price is only $3,860. Of course, costs will vary by school. Scholarship and financial aid opportunities are typically more available for university students, but the initial tuition costs make community college appealing for those just starting their higher ed journey.

2. Smaller Class Sizes. Community colleges often boast small class sizes, which means a low student-to-teacher ratio and more individualized attention. However, remember that many professors and faculty members at community colleges are often employed part-time and may not be as accessible to students.

3. Easier Application Process. While most four-year universities require standardized test scores like the SAT or ACT for admission, community colleges do not. Instead, upon admission, students will take an assessment test to determine the level of courses they should enroll in.

4. Flexible Schedules. Community colleges have always prided themselves on catering to commuters and nontraditional students. As a result, they offer more flexible scheduling options than typical four-year universities, including part-time, evening, online, and hybrid classes.

Nowadays, however, many four-year universities, like University of Bridgeport (UB), offer flexible schedule options and a wide variety of degree programs. Plus, not all schools require admission tests and keep class sizes manageable, making four-year institutions more accessible than ever.

5. Transferable Credits. As mentioned, many students transfer to a four-year institution after completing two years at a community college. This is possible when community colleges offer easily transferable credits to four-year universities.

Many community colleges have articulation agreements with universities in the area that ensure credits will transfer to the bachelor’s degree programs at the university. These agreements allow students to take advantage of the lower costs of community colleges and then continue their education at four-year universities.

At UB, we offer the CT Guarantee, which guarantees admission for Connecticut community college associate degree holders. Additionally, University of Bridgeport currently maintains articulation agreements for transfer students, which outline the courses students should take in order to complete an Associate’s or Bachelor’s Degree. In fact, up to 66 credits can be transferred in from a community college.

While there are benefits to attending a community college, attending a four-year university opens you up to various degree programs, more scholarship and financial aid opportunities, higher academic quality and student life activities, and superior career prospects. Keep reading to learn the benefits of a four-year college or university.

Benefits of a University

1. Selection of Degree Programs. Bachelor’s degrees generally take four years to complete, with the first two years focusing on general education requirements, like math or history, and the following two years concentrating on major-specific courses. In addition to being more prominent and offering more courses and degree programs, students can easily register for these gen-ed courses. On the other hand, many community colleges will enroll more students than they can handle, making obtaining the credits needed for students’ degrees challenging.

2. Scholarships and Financial Aid Opportunities. Though the cost of tuition may be higher at universities, they offer more scholarships and financial aid than community colleges, including scholarships for grade point average (GPA), program-specific scholarships, music performance, and sports.

As a rule, the larger the university, the more likely the institution will have multiple types of financial aid available.

At UB, we offer grants, merit scholarships, and loans for first-year undergraduates and scholarships for transfer, international, and graduate students. Additionally, students should fill out the FAFSA to determine if they qualify for any federal financial aid or loans.

3. Academic Quality. University professors are generally full-time employees, allowing them to focus on education. As a result, they bring a diverse body of knowledge, experiences, and specifics into focus. They provide a higher standard of academic quality to further students’ educational and personal growth.

4. Extracurricular Activities and Student Life. Unlike community colleges, universities invest time, effort, and money into creating a robust and lively student community through student clubs and organizations, campus facilities, music, and athletic programs.

At UB, we embrace and celebrate the uniqueness of our study body by offering over 60 clubs and organizations for students to get involved in.

5. Hireability and Career Prospects. A bachelor’s degree from a university opens up more job prospects and higher salary potential than a community college certificate or associate degree. A bachelor’s degree also allows candidates to pursue graduate school if they choose.

Additionally, four-year universities have extensive alum networks, community connections, and programs—like a career services center—to support you professionally for years after graduation.

Community colleges are a flexible and affordable option to begin your higher education. They are a great option for those still deciding on a major or career path and not ready to invest in a long-term education. Although in the long run, transferring to or attending a four-year university increases one’s job and earning potential and promises a life-long community that is rare at two-year community institutions.

Learn more about UB and our many flexible degree programs for today’s busy students, including entirely online, hybrid, accelerated, and continuing education degree and certificate programs. Start your future today!