10 Reasons to Attend a Community College

Travis Mitchell

Why Students Should Consider Community College

The traditional four-year college experience isn't for everyone. Some students aren't sure what they want to study, while others are looking for a more affordable education. Community colleges can be good options for students in these situations.

If you're considering community college, or are just curious about the benefits, check out the following reasons why attending one might be a good decision.

1. Money

Paying for college is a big consideration, and annual tuition and fees at four-year institutions can soar to tens of thousands of dollars. This can also lead to mounds of student loan borrowing and debt.

In contrast, many community colleges charge around $1,000 for in-state tuition.

2. Academic Flexibility

Attending a community college can be a good way for students to ease into the world of higher education and learn at their own pace.

This is especially true for students who struggled in high school or anyone who's unsure if they want to make the significant time and money investment in college, experts say.

3. Financial Aid

Financial aid isn't only for four-year college students -- community college students are eligible as well. Federal student loans require students to be enrolled half time -- about six credit hours, or two courses. Students just need to make sure they don't drop out of classes or they'll risk losing their aid award.

4. School-Life Balance

About 60 percent of community college students attend school part time, so anyone interested in taking one or two classes at a time will not feel out of place. This makes community college a good option for nontraditional students like parents and older students who wish to balance school with family or career obligations.

5. STEM Education Opportunities

Community colleges have associate degree programs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. These so-called STEM subjects are in demand by employers, and some community colleges are supporting these students as they work their way up to a career, experts say.

6. Transfer Agreements

Enrolling in a community college doesn't have to be a student's final destination. Many two-year schools offer admissions agreements with public colleges that allow qualified students to transfer their credits toward earning a bachelor's degree.

7. Elements of Traditional Colleges

Two-year colleges haven't always provided the same student experience as four-year schools, but that is changing. Nearly one-quarter of community colleges now offer dorms, according to the American Association of Community Colleges. And it's possible to find extracurricular activities, scholarships and networking activities on two-year campuses.

8. Personalized Attention

Many community colleges offer smaller class sizes than larger schools, meaning students can find more personal attention and one-on-one time with instructors. This can be a plus for students who like to learn at their own pace and ask plenty of questions as they go.

9. Professional Certificates

Career progress is often tied to advanced degrees and skill development, usually through costly graduate school programs. But community colleges provide professional and short-term certificates in many fields, including information technology and electronics.

10. Online Class Options

As is the case with four-year universities, certain community colleges have expanded online offerings to entice more students. This includes training professors to be available at odd hours, and tailoring programs to fit regional industry needs. These credits can potentially be used toward a four-year degree.

Learn More About Community Colleges

Check out the U.S. News Community College Directory to find a program near you and read more about attending a two-year college. And be sure to follow U.S. News Education on Facebook and Twitter for the latest advice and information on higher education trends.

Travis Mitchell is an education Web producer at U.S. News. You can follow him on Twitter or email him at tmitchell@usnews.com.