Community colleges offer convenience, flexibility and affordability in one tidy setting.

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Whether you’re 17 or 70, higher education may sometimes feel inaccessible. But community colleges offer convenience, flexibility and affordability in one tidy setting.

“Community colleges make college possible for people for whom a four-year college might not be a possibility because of finances, location or family responsibilities,” says Isa Adney, author of “Community College Success.”

“Community colleges provide access for people who would otherwise be left out of the college equation for reasons beyond their control,” Adney adds.

Also appealing: Some international students, such as Catherine Sun of Tianjin, China, find that attending a Seattle community college presents the chance to enjoy a new American experience in an urban setting while earning an associate’s degree.

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“I just like being around city life,” says Sun, who is attending Seattle Central College.

Here are five benefits of kicking off your career at a community college.


“Tuition at community colleges is typically half the cost of regional public universities, and a fraction of the cost of attending most private colleges and universities and state flagship universities,” says Joshua Wyner, executive director of the College Excellence Program at The Aspen Institute and author of “What Excellent Community Colleges Do: Preparing All Students for Success.”

Community colleges can offer a cost-effective way to get a jump on a bachelor’s degree, Wyner says. “Survey research has shown that up to 80 percent of community college students enter with the goal of ultimately earning a bachelor’s degree, which for virtually all community college students will require successful transfer to a four-year university,” he says.

But, Wyner cautions, “for transfer to work well, students need to pick their major and four-year university as early as possible after entering community college so they can take courses that will count towards graduation after they transfer.”


Going to school doesn’t have to mean going away to school.

“About two-thirds of community colleges are in rural areas, often located many miles from the nearest four-year college or university. Many students in rural areas choose community college because it is close to home, and they can attend school while staying in their communities, continuing to live at home,” Wyner says.

He points out that many community college students are more mature adults, not necessarily fresh out of high school. “For adult students especially, it is important to be able to go to school somewhere near their homes,” Wyner says. That flexibility makes attendance easier for those who need to integrate study time into family and work hours.

Education within reach

Didn’t make A’s in high school? Don’t stress. Students who didn’t get great grades in high school sometimes pursue an education much later, Adney says. Students such as these “often can get straight A’s,” she says. “Their grades in high school often represented other hardships in their life or a lack of direction or motivation. Community college offers these students a chance to reinvent themselves and show the world how smart they really are.”

“A majority of community college students aren’t there because they weren’t smart or savvy enough to get into a four-year school, but because of things that are difficult to measure,” Adney says, “Being the first in your family to go to college, not having an adult in your life to help you navigate the college application process or guidance towards the right SAT or ACT prep.”

New career aspirations

Perhaps you’re 35 and burned out on your career. You want to make a change, but don’t want to spend too much en route to a new profession, or know you need a certificate — not another four-year degree.

“Community colleges also have fantastic, focused career and certification programs that are wonderful for people making a career change or who graduate high school and know exactly what they want to do,” Adney says. “From training firefighters to training nurses, community colleges teach vital crafts and highly advanced technical skills that make the world run.”

Individualized instruction

At four-year state universities, classrooms offering freshman- and sophomore-year courses can be packed elbow to elbow. Two-year institutions rarely exceed 50 students at maximum, so teachers feel more accessible.

“Smaller class sizes in community colleges can give learning a more personalized feel and allow students to ask more questions and learn at their own pace,” says Constance Staley, author of “FOCUS on Community College Success.” “Students can get to know their instructors as not only teachers, but as mentors who can help them stay in school and succeed.”