Throughout American history, more than a thousand community colleges that spread out through the United States played an important role in getting many young people ready for entry-level positions in specialized fields of numerous industries. To this day, these educational institutions remain to be an essential part of the education system in the US.
If you’re looking to enroll in one, your first step is to get informed about all the relevant details. Our community college statistics might be very useful to you, whether you are looking for the right answers or are already enrolled in a community college program wishing to transfer to a university. Even if you are just interested in the topic or planning to set aside some money for your children’s future higher education, you are in the right place. Let’s dig in.
Community College Definition
A community college is defined as an institution, mostly public, that provides higher education either to those who need a two-year specialized training in a certain field or to those looking to transfer to a traditional four-year university. Other, more specific educational services that some of these institutions provide include GED (General Educational Development) tests, technical degree diplomas or certificates, or, in specific cases, four-year education.
Top Community College Stats (Editor’s Pick)
- Most community college students choose to study at a lower price, saving anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000 each year in comparison to universities.
- As of 2019, 1,051 registered community colleges operate in the United States. Out of those, 941 are registered as public, 35 are tribal, and 75 remain to be fully independent institutions.
- Roughly 60% of all of the American community college students study part-time, as these institutions have curriculums designed for non-traditional students.
- The average age of a community college student is 29, with a lower age average of 23.
- Around 28% of all community colleges now have on-campus accommodation, with that number growing constantly.
- A dozen states now offer free tuition, with more of them taking legislative actions to join the program.
Community College vs. University Statistics
A large number of future students are struggling whether to enroll in a smaller community college or go to a league university. To be fair, many students know right from the jump they cannot afford top-quality education because it is expensive. Thus, they choose to enroll in their local colleges. As a result, they don’t have to battle the anxiety brought by the ever-growing student loans.
Nevertheless, there are plenty of benefits with both of these higher education options, especially for community college students.
1. The last decade of the 20th century brought community colleges to their true prominence.
(Source: Digest of Education Statistics)
Between 1990-2000, some 411,633 students enrolled in the public community colleges, 63% of whom were male and 37% were female students.
2. At the choosing point, you have to thoroughly consider the costs.
(Source: 2018 Trends in College Pricing)
Paying for college is a big deal. The school year of 2018/2019 brought incredible education prices, averaging at $35,676 for private colleges, $21,629 for out-of-state students, and $9,716 for in-state students.
3. The community college enrollment has never been higher.
Between 2000 and 2017, the enrollment of undergraduates in the US grew around 27%, from $13.2 million to $16.8 million. Between 2017 and 2028, the overall undergraduate enrollment into community colleges is projected to rise by 3%.
4. The balance of school and private life is easier for those enrolled in community colleges.
(Source: U.S. News)
The flexibility of these institutions gives students more reasons to attend community college. Roughly 60% of students go to school part-time, making it a fair option for non-traditional college students (parents, older alumni, or those who made a break in their academic lives) to provide for themselves or their families. This is hardly even possible at four-year universities because the curriculum is much more strict.
5. The community colleges are constantly changing.
(Source: USA Today)
Many people still advocate that community colleges will never come close to the quality of a four-year university. A large difference between community college and university is the on-campus student accommodation, as the universities offer dorms and the colleges don’t.
However, this appears to be changing. An AACC report from 2016 says that one-fourth of all community colleges now provide dormitory accommodation with extracurricular and networking student activities.
As we previously mentioned, the enrollment rates are constantly rising, especially since the price of studying at four-year universities keeps rising as well. The student body is quite diverse, with different student persistence, background, and overall completion rates.
The following are community college enrollment trends and statistics that you could find helpful for further understanding of the topic. If you are a future student, these will likely be very insightful, especially for getting a grasp of the benefits of enrolling into a community college, overall persistence of students, the average age, and so on. Read along.
6. Enrollment data shows that the majority of students study part-time, according to several community college students statistics.
(Source: Columbia University Community College Research Center)
In 2017, some 5.8 million students were admitted to public junior colleges, about 2.1 million became full-time students, and the rest, roughly 3.7 million, became part-time students. Overall, an additional 200,000 students were admitted in other two-year schools.
7. As community colleges have plenty of conveniences for non-traditional students, their average age is somewhat different from those studying at private universities.
(Source: Columbia University Community College Research Center)
The average age of community college students is 29, with many career people and parents studying. Those looking to prosper further in their careers, as well as people who got children early and dropped out of college, now look for opportunities to continue where they left off or even start fresh.
8. The overall student persistence rate is a bit over 60%, which is not encouraging.
(Source: Columbia University Community College Research Center)
Roughly 62.2% of students who enrolled in 2016 came back in the fall of 2017. Around 49% of the returnees came back to the same institution. The full-time students’ return rate was about 70.6%, with just about 55.6% of the part-time students coming back.
9. Even though we don’t have the newest dual community college enrollment statistics, the older ones are fairly informative.
(Source: Columbia University Community College Research Center)
Back in 2011, roughly 2 million students were on dual enrollment programs, with a projection of that number doubling by 2021. We are yet to learn more whether the projections were true, but it is good to know that the number of ambitious, hard-working students is rising.
10. The average age of students is getting lower.
Currently, the higher age average is 29, and the lower is 22, with half of the community college student body being of this age range. However, this appears to be rapidly changing, as the enrollment of people over 30 rapidly increases due to requalification or further academic development that lead to higher salaries.
11. Ever wondered what percentage of students who enter community college end up obtaining a bachelor’s degree?
(Source: NSC Research Center)
The NSCRC (National Student Clearinghouse Research Center) reports that, excluding dual enrollment, roughly 39.2% of all students obtained a degree in 2012. Speaking of races, about 48.1% were white, 49.1% were asian, 35.7% were hispanic, and about 27.5% were black.
Roughly 15.8% of all students who began their academic career at a community college graduated at a 4-year university within six years.
12. Three of the states with most inhabitants are also in the top five states with the most community colleges.
According to the United States Department of Education, states with the most community colleges are California, Texas, Illinois, New York, and North Carolina. These states hold a large part of the entire community college student body.
The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) also points out some interesting community college facts and statistics based on the school year of 2017 – 2018, which we discuss below.
13. The number of on-campus housing community colleges is growing.
In 2017, 28% of all community colleges in the United States had dorms provided for their students. This was previously not the case, as the main type of lodging were private apartments, living with parents in the close vicinity to the community college, or other. As the interest in community colleges increases, more of these institutions look to better their lodging options, as seen in AACC’s community college stats.
14. Most of the students ask for some sort of aid.
(Source: Sallie Mae)
Around 73% of students apply for any aid they can get. Roughly 59% of all students enrolling receive any type of aid. About 34% get a federal grant, some 15% ask for federal loans, 22% get state aid, and 7% receive institutional aid of any sort.
As student loans hit incredibly high interest rates, future college students increasingly choose to stay away from them, since this debt has to be paid for a long time.
15. Ever wondered what’s the number of community colleges in the US?
(Source: The Best Schools)
According to the AACC, in 2019, there were 1,051 community colleges in the US. They are classified according to three categories – 941 public, 35 tribal, and 75 independent community colleges.
Registered public community colleges offer education to everyone from any corner of the United States. Tribal colleges offer education for minorities, particularly the American Indian tribes, the first of which was established by the Navajo nation. Finally, independent community colleges are private institutions solely funded by students.
16. Full-time employees with degrees can expect higher salaries.
With less than a high-school diploma, one can earn about $26,200 per year. With a high-school diploma, the number increases to $36,000. If you receive an associate degree, your yearly salary averages to roughly $42,600.
Finally, some community college statistics point out that your average salary per year with a bachelor’s degree puts you at a great advantage, with your salary averaging at $60,100.
17. Most of the students in the US study part-time.
Out of 7 million students, some 2.6 million (37%) study full-time, as opposed to the 63%, or roughly 4.3 million, who study part-time. Furthermore, 56% of students are women and 44% are men. While this digit appears to be fluctuating by 1%, this is currently the ongoing trend.
Community College vs 4 Year University Statistics
Community colleges are gaining momentum at a rapid note, especially in the times when higher education costs an arm and leg. And while it takes a shorter amount of time to obtain a community college diploma, the purpose of this form of higher education is to give its alumni a specialized course within a wider field of knowledge.
The first community college was founded in 1901 in Chicago, with great help from William Rainey Harper. It remains to be one of the biggest community colleges. In 1892, the University of Chicago had created separated programs, dividing itself into two parts – junior and senior college, and creating an environment where only gifted students were granted access to a senior college.
Such actions, led by Harper, made the University of Chicago appear significantly more student-oriented, while also focusing on educational excellence and the employment of the remaining students.
Community College vs. University - Differences
There are plenty of differences between a community college, or junior college, and a standard, four-year university. Community colleges are more convenient in some fields. Let’s talk about these conveniences.
Americans owe more than $3 trillion in student loans, and these can span over a few decades after graduation. The costs of studying at these institutions differ incredibly. The newest community college vs 4 year university statistics state that, on average, community colleges are about $5,000 cheaper than four-year institutions for in-state students, and some $20,000 cheaper than private, four-year schools. If you live nearby a community college, you can save even more.
In case you’re already employed or a parent, community college is a perfect solution. Classes are typically designed for non-standard, part-time students. Of course, four-year institutions with larger student bodies often have flexible classes as well.
Considering how many community colleges in the US operate regularly, the chances are that there is one in your community or nearby, making it cheaper, easier, and overall more convenient for you to study and work.
These schools, just like standard universities, have centers for further career opportunities, granting you possible connections once you start hunting for a good job. Certain careers, with more of a technical side to it, are often better off with a two-year community college than a four-year institution (radiologists, nurses, technicians, etc.).
On the other hand, if your career requires building specific skills (architecture, fine arts, medicine, civil engineering, etc.), it is always best to head straight to university.
Community College vs. University - Difficulty
There is a common myth with community colleges as institutions where it could be much easier for one to obtain a degree. It is, however, not the case. Even though the curriculums and schedules are more convenient, you are still expected to do pretty much the same amount of work to stay afloat.
Unlike universities, the study groups at colleges are typically smaller, averaging at 20-30 students, with more engaging activities, workshops, and group projects.
Many community college student statistics highlight higher success rates specifically because of the more personal approach between students and professors, which comes as a result of smaller study groups. Even though it might be difficult to implement this concept of teaching to larger high-end universities, the universities should insist on teaching smaller groups, so that everyone can get the quality education for which they pay tremendous amounts of money.
Community College Acceptance Rate
Only those who applied know how tough it might be getting admitted to college, especially coming fresh from high school having your hopes up. The 2018/2019 school year acceptance rate averages nationally at 77%, with public junior colleges averaging at 82% and the private ones at about 74%.
South Carolina has the lowest acceptance rate for community colleges out of all states, averaging at 62%. On the other hand, the highest acceptance is in Florida, with 89%.
Top Community Colleges in the US by Categories and States
1. Affordability – the crucial factor for many students:
- New Mexico – averaging at $3,846, with the cheapest one being Luna Community College ($1,714).
- Arkansas – averaging at $4,628, with the most affordable one being Rich Mountain Community College ($2,527).
- Puerto Rico – averaging at $5,141; the cheapest is Instituto Tecnologico de Puerto Rico de Guayama ($1,105).
- Mississippi – averaging at $5,305; the cheapest being Mississippi Delta Community College ($1,932).
- Wyoming – averaging at $5,591; the most affordable one is Western Wyoming Community College ($4,392).
2. Largest student body – This is based on how many students attend community colleges. As of the school year 2018/2019, the average student body of an American community college is roughly 4,340. For the public ones, it is about 6,441, and 906 for the private ones.
The largest student bodies are in the following states (numbers express the average attendance per college):
- California – 7,695
- New Jersey – 6,910
- Iowa – 6,828
- Texas – 6,400
- Florida – 6,064.
3. The breadth of programs – Out of the large number of community colleges in the US, these are best known for offering various student programs:
- Utah – on average, Utah offers 29 different programs for students in this state’s community colleges.
- Kansas – averaging at 17 programs.
- Puerto Rico – offering about 16 programs on average.
- Arizona – its community college offers 14 programs on average, sharing this spot with Maine.
- Idaho – on average, this state offers 12 different programs.
4. Average earning – According to community college statistics for 2019, alumni of these community colleges earn the most:
- North Dakota State College of Science, with its graduates earning about $45,800 on average.
- Montgomery College of Maryland – $44,200.
- Mitchell Technical Institute of South Dakota – $43,400.
- River Valley Community College of New Hampshire – $42,400.
- Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture – $49,400, according to community college statistics of 2018.
5. The average percentage of students getting financial aid. These states have students with the highest chances of getting any sort of financial, federal, or state aid:
- Kentucky – 97%, sharing the leading spot with Puerto Rico.
- Arkansas – 95%, with all Crowley’s Ridge College students getting the financial aid.
- Alabama – averaging at 94%, sharing the spot with Missouri and Pennsylvania.
- Georgia – 93%, sharing the spot with New York, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
- Ohio – with 92% of its community college students being granted financial aid.
In recent years, the United States seems to be grasping the importance of education of the masses. However, the ‘I cannot afford it’ argument continues to prevail as the main reason why many people cannot apply for higher education. Still, numerous financial aid and work-study programmes make it more possible, without paying for student loans for the rest of your life.
Free Community College Statistics
19. Roughly 40% of all students with tuition waived at community colleges of Rhode Island were granted a scholarship for the second year of their studies.
(Source: AP News)
As the Community College of Rhode Island reports, there is still a fairly good percentage of those worth further investing, with some 300 students getting a scholarship out of the initial 725.
20. Free community colleges report a more successful trend of students graduating within the intended two years.
(Source: AP News)
Rhode Island community college statistics state that roughly 22% of students graduated within two years in 2017/2018, or 6% more than the school year of 2016/2017.
21. Rhode Island’s program of free tuition for these students cost about $3 million, yet the college managed to quadruple the number of students graduating on time.
(Source: AP News)
This, of course, creates a more motivated and skilled group of individuals, while doing a great deal for the country’s economy, according to community college stats.
22. The most eligible students for these scholarships are students whose families have a yearly income of $60,000 or less.
Students whose families’ overall income is lower than average have higher chances of getting a scholarship or eligibility for free studying at a community college, as reported by Sofi.
23. A growing number of community colleges adopt a scholarship-driven program to raise the number of academics, as reported by community college enrollment trends for 2019.
Thanks to this practice, in the 2017/2018 school year, an average of 20% of students successfully graduated in time, 20% were still enrolled with a high average, and 10% transferred to a four-year university. This is a new trend that will hopefully continue. The educated nation is what truly makes the US shine.
24. However, these free historical community college enrollment statistics come with certain strings attached.
For instance, in the state of New York, you must work and live in the state after you graduate. Also, certain programs include obligations such as being a full-time student, meaning you can’t work and provide for yourself, making it even harder to be a college student.
25. Arkansas, Minnesota, Montana, Indiana, Rhode Island, and Oregon have all piloted free programs at community colleges.
These six states are going full throttle toward debt-free education for everyone, setting new standards to be followed by the rest of the US. However, more states are working on following their footsteps with extensive legislative activity, according to recent community college students statistics.
Students who choose to transfer from junior colleges to four-year universities are oftentimes underestimated, even with higher average grades than those already enrolled. This stigma comes from the myth of community colleges being less difficult than universities, with university administration forgetting that junior colleges are often a launchpad for eager and hard-working, yet low-income students.
26. Never before have students transferred from two-year to four-year institutions. Nowadays, almost half of university attendees come from a community college.
Community college transfer rates are higher than ever, as about 49% of all students enrolled in four-year institutions have previously attended a two-year institution with a successful transfer. Most community college institutions give very rigorously pre-setting, making you fully ready for university classes and campus life.
Each year, nearly 50% of these students choose to transfer to a university. There are numerous reasons for this, such as students looking to go further with their education. On the other hand, four-year to two-year reverse transfer often occurs due to the students’ disappointment by the institution or because of tremendous costs.
27. Most common reasons for students transferring to other two-year institutions include financial issues, inconvenience, disbalance of studying and working, etc.
According to community college statistics, sports and military transfers occur quite often as well. Others move away with families and are forced to transfer to an in-state college institution, and this is also a fairly common case too. Finally, some students opt-out of classroom learning and choose to study online.
Highest Community College Acceptance Rates
It is good to have the best options in mind, as universities are getting more students each year, with the highest historical college enrollment statistics being recorded year by year. Here are some universities with the highest community college acceptance rates in 2018:
- The University of Maryland, taking the highest spot with 16,434 transfer students admitted, at a rate of 99%.
- San Francisco State University, with 16,904 transfer students admitted, averaging at 72%.
- The University of Houston admitted 7,772 transfer students, or 86%.
- California State University, Sacramento – 81%, or 10,144 students.
- Florida International University – 73%, or 7.352 students.
These community college facts could be useful in case you look to transfer from a two-year to a four-year institution without hassle. The very process is not always that simple, but it can be made less obnoxious once you are a bit more informed and ready for it. Needless to say, if you fail to do so, you should keep trying by considering other relevant options.
Community College vs. University - Final Thoughts
Any opportunity to get higher education these days can be a gold mine for your future. No matter if it is a community college or a university, go for it! However, in case you can choose between several options, make sure to go for what you love doing.
If you’re an undergraduate, a freshman, or a student looking for a good transfer, these community college statistics should come in handy. Community colleges often get a bad rap as less difficult, low-rent versions of universities. However, they come with many conveniences, give you top-quality education, and propel your career with great job opportunities.
- Virginia Community College System
- Digest of Education Statistics
- 2018 Trends in College Pricing
- U.S. News
- USA Today
- Community College Review
- AP News
- U.S. News
- Columbia University Community College Research Center
- NSC Research Center
- Sallie Mae
- The Best Schools