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Community colleges in the United States - Statistics & Facts

A community college is an educational institution that provides tertiary education and continuing education supplemental to traditional four-year universities and colleges. In the United States, community colleges are primarily two-year public institutions of higher education. Many community colleges also offer remedial education, General Educational Development tests, high school degrees, technical degrees and certificates, and a limited number of four-year degrees. As of 2021, there were 936 public community colleges in the United States.

Community colleges and enrollment

Community college can be a more affordable and less time-consuming way for students to earn a degree. Additionally, then can be an easy way to gain entry to four year institutions. Some students attend a two year college to save money before transferring to a four year college. For some four year schools, they provide easier enrollment to students who have already studied in a community college. In 2019, about 5.4 million students were enrolled in public 2-year postsecondary institutions across the U.S. In 2019, the most popular field of study for community college graduates was liberal arts and sciences, general studies, and humanities. About 410,629 associate degrees awarded at community colleges were in this field of study, and it made up one third of all attained degrees.

The cost of community colleges

Community colleges received attention in 2015 after President Barack Obama proposed to make community college tuition free to many residents of the U.S. However, as of 2021, this initiative has not come to pass. For many individuals, community colleges offer the only opportunity for a college education, as tuition rates of public community colleges are significantly lower than for-profit colleges. In 2020, at private for-profit 2-year institutions, tuition costs totaled 15,333 U.S. dollars on average, while in public 2-year institution the tuition costs were estimated to be 3,377 U.S. dollars on average. This is significantly lower than the cost of four year institutions, making community colleges a more feasible option for many students.


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