Why Are So Many High School Graduates Attending Community College Instead of Four Year Universities?


Mary Kimbrough, Staff Reporter

In the past two decades, four year universities in the United States have had a steady decrease in enrollment, whereas community college enrollment has increased by 40%. Why is this? Many students are opting for community college for three major reasons, cost efficiency, self paced learning, and personalized attention from professors. 

Common reasons students opt for community colleges is due to the sharp increase in inflation since the 1970’s. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, for the 1970-71 academic year, the average in-state tuition and fees for one year at a public non-profit university was $394. By the 2020-21 academic year, that amount jumped to $10,560, an increase of 2,580%. Today, the average community college cost per semester is between $5,000 and $6,000 dollars. This amount appears astronomical in comparison to the average cost of a four year college in 1970, but is the obvious financially secure option in the 21st century due to average tuition costs ranging from $10,000 to $40,000 today. 

Another reason students are enrolling in community colleges is the self paced learning curriculum that many community colleges offer. Students are able to choose their courses based on what they are able to handle academically given their personal situations, and are able to effectively complete their education in order to graduate successfully and at a time which is best for them.

Community Colleges also offer personalized attention from professors to students which draws students to community colleges more and more each year. Smaller class sizes allow for students to have individual conversations with professors as opposed to a large lecture hall of 100 plus students at a traditional four year school.

Students are able to use community college as a transition between high school and the career force or as a barrier between high school and a higher level education. Many community colleges offer guaranteed transfer programs to in-state schools once students have completed a two-year associate program with the community college. Community college professors are able to work closely with their students to assist them in successfully completing this transition.