When getting ready to choose a college to attend it is important to be aware of the difference between a two-year college and a four-year college. Two-year colleges tend to be community colleges while four-year colleges tend to be universities. Learn the difference between community college and university below.
Most students may not be aware of a two-year college because that is not really the “normal” path for most students. While one type of school may be better for one student, it does not by any means make it the best opportunity for another student.
Difference Between Community College and University
|Community Colleges||Four-Year Universities|
|Cost||Cheaper. Average cost is $3,660.||More expensive. Depending on private or public varies from average cost being $21,950 – $49,870. (Room and board included in those figures.)|
|Flexible Schedule||More flexible. Offers way more night classes. If working, this is a great option.||Somewhat flexible. Have the ability to schedule your own classes but there are usually more kids competing to get the same class times.|
|Majors||Have the ability to explore different interests. Classes are cheaper so you may take a class you would not have taken at a four-year school.||If you know for sure what you want to do it is no problem, but if you are unsure you have only a year or so until you need to choose – after your core classes are out of the way.|
|Class Size||Surprisingly smaller class sizes than people think. 20-30 people, gives professor chance to get to know students.||Depends on how big your school is.|
|Professors||The professors will vary. Some may be new at teaching and may have just earned their masters while other teachers may be older and more experienced.||As with high school, you will enjoy some teachers and may not enjoy others. Varies greatly.|
|Curriculum||Two-year school. Highest degree is an associate’s degree. Can transfer over to a four-year college and finish your bachelor’s degree there.||Very broad curriculum. Can, for the most part, chose any major you are interested in studying.|
|Workload||Tend to have a lighter workload than a four-year college. Not always true though.||Going to challenge you with the workload. Might seem overwhelming at first but you can do it!|
|Student/Campus life||Not much student life or campus life. Most students probably commute to school and don’t live on campus.||Most students will probably live on campus or near campus. Great opportunity to get to meet people, take part in events, and network.|
Two-Year Colleges and Community Colleges
Community Colleges fly under the radar. Most students are not aware that community colleges may be an option for them. Community colleges are also referred to as two-year colleges and some may be classified as vocational schools.
Community colleges are usually commuter schools, so students do not have to pay the extra money for room and board – which can save them a ton of money. Students will receive an associate degree upon completion of the two-year curriculum, usually an Associates of Arts or an Associates of Science.
Some community colleges are setup so that after your completion of two years, you may transfer to a four-year school and complete your bachelor’s degree. This is a great way to save money and get your core classes out of the way while attending the community college.
This is also a great idea for students who aren’t sure about what major they want to pursue. Since classes are cheaper they can take classes they may not have taken at a four-year school in order to gauge their interests.
CNBC estimates the average cost of tuition at a community college is $3,660. A two-year college is a great option for the student who wants to save some money before transferring to a four-year college, or for the student who knows what they want and only needs a two-year degree to do that.
For more information on community colleges, check out this awesome resource on community colleges.
Four-Year Colleges and Universities
Four-year colleges are what most people think of when choosing a college. Some examples of four-year colleges are Ohio State, UCLA, and Yale. Upon completion of a four-year program, you will receive a bachelor’s degree.
Most of these schools will offer a broad choice of degrees, ranging from communications to business. These schools will most likely offer housing that is on campus and will charge you for room and board, which includes the housing (dorms) and a meal plan.
A four-year college is going to give you more of the “college experience.” Students live on campus, there will probably be sports teams, and there will be a ton of clubs and other activities you can join. You will have the opportunity to live away from home for the first time and meet a ton of new people.
Cost is a big factor at four-year colleges. Public and private colleges are going to vary in cost. According to College Data, the average cost of a public, in-state college is $10,440 plus $11,510 in room and board. That brings us to a total of $21,950 for a public, in-state college.
The average cost of a private school is $36,880 plus $12,990 in room and board. That brings us to $49,870. So as you can see private school students will end up paying more than the in-state public college student.
Two-Year College vs Four-Year College
There are advantages and disadvantages to both a two-year college and a four-year college. The difference between community college and university varies depending on which factors you consider the most important. While you may get the “college experience” at a four-year college, you are going to have to pay for that experience! A two-year college may be more affordable, but it may not be what you are looking for.
It is a matter of what you are looking for and what best fits you. We cannot stress this enough, what may be the right path for one student, may not be the best path for another student. It is up to you, and your family, to decide which path you think is best for you.