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Community college or a four-year school?

What is a community college?

Community colleges (sometimes also known as junior colleges or technical schools) are primarily public institutions offering certificates, diplomas and associate degrees. 

What is a four-year school?

Four-year schools are private and public institutions that offer bachelor’s degrees (and in some cases, master’s and doctoral degrees).

Why would someone choose to go to community college instead of a four-year school?

Vocational Courses

Some students may be interested in pursuing a career that requires a very specific set of skills (for example, perhaps a career as a mechanic or an electrician). Technical schools and community colleges may provide certifications in these areas that allow students to work in the field.  

Cost

Community Colleges tend to be much cheaper than four-year public and private schools and so some students choose to obtain their associate degree or complete their general education credits at a community college before transferring to a four-year school to complete the remaining classes for a bachelor’s degree.

Missouri A + Program

The A+ Program covers the cost of tuition and general fees for qualifying students attending a participating community college or vocational/technical school. Again, some qualifying students will use the A+ Program to earn an associate degree or complete their general education credits at a community college before transferring to a four-year school to complete the remaining classes for a bachelor’s degree.

Admissions Criteria

The admissions criteria to an associate degree program at the community college level is typically a high school diploma, whereas most public and private four-year schools have specific high school GPA and ACT/SAT score requirements for admission.

In addition, students without a high school diploma will often attend community college in order to obtain their General Educational Development (GED) high school equivalency.

What about four-year schools? 

Time to bachelor’s degree completion

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, students who start at a two-year college (and subsequently transfer to a four-year school) take an average of 63 months (5 years and 3 months) to obtain their bachelor’s degree, versus 55 months (4 years and 7 months) for students who start at a public four-year school, and 45 months (3 years and 9 months) at four-year private, nonprofit institutions. So, if the ultimate goal is to obtain a bachelor’s degree, it may be accomplished more quickly at a four-year school.

College experience

For many students, living in residence halls and becoming part of a campus community with student clubs, organizations and athletics is a hugely-rewarding part of the college experience. And while some community colleges offer these things, many are commuter campuses with limited opportunities for students to get involved outside the classroom. 

Sense of belonging

Attending one school for four years can help to foster a sense of belonging and deeper relationships with fellow students and professors.     

Note: Some schools offer transfer programs to allow students to make an easy transition from community college to a four-year school. For example, Columbia College offers the Transfer Advantage Program (TAP), which provides students with a four-year degree plan (inclusive of their time at community college) so they can make sure their community college classes count toward their bachelor's degree at Columbia College. In addition, their Columbia College tuition rate is frozen for up to five years from the date they sign the TAP agreement. 

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