Community colleges and universities are both institutions of higher education. The two types of institutions share some similarities, but there are basic differences that separate the two. Community colleges and universities provide education designed to assist local residents. At both institutions, students benefit from lower tuition as compared to higher tuition charged in private institutions. Nevertheless, attending a university is very different from attending a community college, and the differences are very crucial in determining someone’s career prospects (Honnert par 1). The main goal of this paper is to set out the major aspects of both type of institution. To achieve this goal, the paper will focus mainly on the major differences between community college and university.
In most of the community colleges, they are open admissions policies. This means that anyo0ne who feel can benefit from the institution is welcome to attend. There are normally minimal qualifications for someone to be admitted to certificate and degree programs; however, in some programs particularly those related to health sciences, accept a small number of students every year, have rigorous admission criteria, and are highly selective (Stafford 7). For someone to take courses for credit in a community college, one is required to have a high school diploma or a high school equivalency certificate. Most of the non-credit courses are usually open to anybody who is willing to enroll. Students are assessed before they are admitted through placement tests that determine their suitable class level. Developmental courses or basic skills as well as English language classes sometimes may be necessary prior to enrolling for college-level courses for credit (Stafford 7). Universities do differ a lot in their levels of selectivity and a number of them have open admission policies. Selection of students to join universities is usually based on competitive factors including standardized test scores such as admissions essays, letters of recommendation, high school coursework and grade point average, American College Testing (ACT) and Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). It is a requirement for someone seeking admission to a university to have a high school diploma or a high school equivalency certificate based on General Educational Development (GED) (Stafford 8).
Student body in a community college is normally referred to as ‘non-traditional’, describing the independent, older adults who are returning back to college after some time or are joining college for the first time (Soden 16). The range of younger students commonly referred to as ‘traditional college-age students’ (18-22 years old) joining community college directly from high school is increasing, particularly as full-time students in programs that are offered during the day. A number of students in community college are in-state residents coming from local area although some foreign students enroll in these colleges. Majority of the students in community colleges attend part-time classes which are less than twelve credit hours in a semester. Community colleges attract a wider age range of students than universities with an average student age of 29 years (Soden 20). In universities, many of the students start their baccalaureate programs right out of the high school. Their ages fall into the ‘traditional college-age’ of 18 to 22 years (Stafford 8). Students in universities come from all the country as well as from other countries around the world. Majority of the students enroll to courses on full-time basis.
Most of the community colleges provide a comprehensive curriculum that focuses mainly on sciences and liberal arts, as well as technical and vocational training for directly entry into the labor force, an option that is not offered by most universities (Minnesota State Colleges & Universities par 1). Workforce development and continuing education programs are integral to community colleges mission to address local needs. The undergraduate curriculum in universities mainly focuses on sciences and liberal arts, preparation for professional degrees in medicine or law, and preparation for other graduate level education. Many universities also offer workforce training programs and continuing education (Minnesota State Colleges & Universities par 2).
In community colleges, an associate’s degree is generally the highest degree awarded, although some states such as Utah, Arkansas and Florida have allowed community colleges to provide bachelor’s degree (Stafford 8). Majority of the degree programs are completed within two years of full attendance. Certificate courses usually take a year or less to complete on full-time basis. A number of community colleges have articulation agreements with universities. These agreements facilitate a smoother transit from the community college to university. Bachelor’s degree is the highest undergraduate degree offered in the universities. Some universities also offer associate degrees. It usually takes four to six years to complete a bachelor degree. Community colleges are mostly geared to commuters, although a small percentage of them do offer a more traditional college experience where on-campus housing to students is available. On the other hand, universities are geared to full-time, residential students where on-campus housing is widely available to students (Honnert par 4).
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In community colleges, faculty members primarily focus on teaching as their principal responsibility. A number of community colleges need faculty to master’s degrees and there is an increase of faculty who has doctorates degrees. At community colleges, you find a number of great instructors who actually want to teach as they are not interested with other issues such as research and publication. In universities, faculty members focus is usually divided among publication, research and teaching. There are a higher percentage of faculties with doctorates degrees in universities as compared to community colleges (Honnert par 5). Most of the universities professors are busy with their research and they do not focus on the courses they are teaching, meaning a lot of question fielding and actual teaching is done by their assistants.
Community colleges typically have fewer students per class (usually 25 to 40 students), which implies more teacher/student interaction. This important for students who like interacting with their instructors so that they can seek clarification and avoid getting lost in the shuffle (Stafford 9). Classes are taught by part-time or full-time faculty. Universities class size varies with lower division classes usually being very large. Lower division classes are normally taught by graduate teaching assistants. Higher level divisions have smaller class sizes. In terms of tuition, community college tuition is affordable while that of universities is normally at least double that of the community college. Community colleges are cheaper to attend than universities because they have a local tax which supports them in addition to state support and student fees (Honnert par 5).