The truth is it doesn’t have to be community college or university. It can be both! But first, let’s establish the differences between the two.
Community colleges offer certificate programs and associate degrees. Certificate programs can last anywhere from a few months to a year or longer. Associate degrees typically take about two years but some take longer – one example is an AND, associate degree in nursing can take three years even while attending full time. Universities typically offer bachelor’s degrees – degrees taking four or five years depending on the program of study.
Many people start at community college and transfer to a university later. They start taking general education classes like English, math, social studies, and science – those are the kinds of classes students typically take the first year at a university too. Class sizes tend to be smaller at a community college and tuition is less expensive. Some people attending universities will also enroll in community college to pick up classes that are less expensive.
What’s important when taking classes with the intent to transfer to another school is making sure the classes actually do transfer. While colleges are better about this now than in years past (they are called articulation agreements between schools), it’s best to check with the school that will receive the credits to make sure there aren’t any stipulations.
Here’s a secret people don’t share – not everybody needs a four-year degree. There are plenty of great jobs out in the world that require an associate degree or certificate program. What you don’t need is someone telling you which is better for you. Rather, you decide which route is best for you.
Benefits of community college include:
High skills = high wages
Quick entry into workforce
Flexibility with programs of student and class hours
Lower tuition costs
Transfer hours to university
Benefits of university:
Smoother path from start to finish
Typically higher paying jobs
More emphasis placed on critical thinking skills (traditionally)
Paths to graduate degrees and advanced studies
For years I’ve heard people talk about community colleges in terms of it’s not where you start but where you finish that counts. I’d like to change that saying because this is what I believe to be more accurate: It’s not where you start or finish that counts, it’s what you do with what you’ve learned that makes the difference.