A community college could be an option for many students who do not want to enter into a longer-term education plan in a traditional four-year college or university. Many community colleges, also known as junior colleges, offer two-year programs. If you are considering your educational options, consider knowing what is a community college, what are the benefits of community college and how they may meet your needs. What is a Community College? A community college is a post-secondary education institution that aims to provide a lower cost for education. Students may take individual classes as they would like or may take a set of courses to finish a degree program, earning an associate’s. Some community colleges also offer certificate programs in a range of topics. Students may use this type of education directly out of high school, attend later in life, or even come back after earning a bachelor’s to take specific courses that interest them. Is it smarter to go to Community College first? For some students, attending community college offers an opportunity to study topics that are important to them or earn an entry-level education in a field of their choice. Community college may be less expensive, too. For some students, community colleges offer academic support services to help with the learning process, which may be beneficial to those who may need a bit more help than a larger university may offer on an individual basis. Ultimately, a student needs to decide what works for their needs and long-term goals. Community colleges may be an opportunity to start on the path of education, try out a specific area of interest, or help a student to pursue lower-costing educational options so they may be able to join the workforce sooner. What Are the Benefits of Community College? The benefits of community college for some students include lower costs, flexible learning environments, more opportunities for shorter-term programs, and ample certifications that may help students qualify for various positions. Community colleges tend to be close to home (though some are available online) and they provide ample versatility. Consider some of the other benefits of community college. Remember to consider your long-term educational goals along with short-term goals to determine how well community college fits into the picture. Here are some other benefits of community college: Community College May Cost Less One of the reasons many students attend community college is the lower cost. According to College Board, the 2020-2021 average tuition for a public, two-year in-district school was $$3,770. A public, four-year in-state program cost an average of $10,560, and a private nonprofit institution cost $37,650. Fewer Entrance Exam Requirements Some community colleges require ACT or SAT entrance exams or testing to get into various courses. This is unlike many colleges and universities that require specific SAT or ACT scores. For those who do not test well or may not want to take these tests, this may be an alternative to higher education. Flexibility in Course Offerings Many community colleges offer a range of course types, allowing students to select a course that interests them. Because of the lower cost, it may be possible to check out a few different courses to see which interests you. That may then influence the associate’s or higher degree program you pursue. Because of this, students may explore a variety of classes and really zero in on the types of courses that interest them. Students may still need to earn credits in specific courses to earn an associate’s or certificate, but they may have a larger range of electives to select from in some programs. Course Credits May Transfer Some students may wish to pursue a community college to take the general education courses they need to take for a bachelor’s and then transfer to a larger college to finish that program. It is essential to ensure that the credits transfer as that is not always the case. For those students who know where they wish to attend, it may be possible to verify this before enrolling in the program at the community college. Close to Home Education It may be possible to attend a community college in a nearby county or even state. However, many choose the community college close to their home. That often provides an opportunity to commute to and from school with ease. Community colleges do not have dorms, typically, which requires commuting. Some have numerous campuses within a community to make getting to and from class simple and fast. That may mean that those who do not want to drive far still have access to the education they desire. Flexible Course Times Class schedules at many community colleges are flexible. That may mean students have options in morning, afternoon, evening, weekend, or online classes. This may make taking classes easier for those who have other responsibilities including work or family life. Flexible courses may have some limitations in some of the smaller community colleges. Also important, for students who are attending college while working, flexible course times may make it easier to earn certifications necessary for their current employer or further their career. A Fresh Start In some situations, students leaving high school may not have had the easiest time or may have done poorly. Community college creates a way to reset their education. You may be able to spend some time studying hard and working to build a strong foundation in a GPA. Later, perhaps a few years in, you may wish to use that new, better GPA to apply to a college offering a bachelor’s program that is interesting. Financial Aid May Be Available Financial aid may be available to those who are eligible. In numerous situations, community colleges offer financial aid opportunities. This may include scholarships, grants, and loans. Some programs offer pay-as-you-go as well. This could help some students who do not want the high costs of a typically four-year college still pursue the education they desire. Keep in mind that students still have to apply for these offers and there may be limited opportunities available to secure all of the funding desired. Use Community College to Get Back to Work Some people may have spent some time until to work. They may now lack the necessary skills and qualifications for the positions they want in the workforce. Community college may help them to earn those skills so they may get back into work. Keep in mind that many students who attend community college are older and there is no age restriction here. That could allow for a new opportunity if you have not worked in a while due to illness, children, or other life events. Explore Something New Some students may find that it is time to take on a new career path than what they are doing now. They may be looking for an opportunity to gain new skills. Community college offers a range of potential options including in areas like computer science, education, veterinary technology, automotive technology, health and human services, and emergency services. For those who want a change, starting here could help. Community college may offer opportunities that larger schools struggle with and for some it is a solid decision.