Is Community College a Bad Idea?

In the past, community colleges did not always have the best reputation.

Key Takeaways

In the past, community colleges did not always have the best reputation.

Some would even say they had a “bad” reputation. 

People underestimated what they could accomplish at a community college and looked at them as a secondary alternative to the standard higher education experience.

But over the past few years a lot of things have changed. Enrollment at universities has gone down and a lot of people are thinking more practically about their future in terms of employment opportunities. 

ROI is the new focus. 

Nowadays, community colleges have something new to offer these people and you would never say that a community college is a “bad idea” for everyone.

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But for the sake of argument, in this article, I will take a look at both sides of the argument so that you can come to your own conclusion of whether or not you think community college is a good or bad idea for you.

Is community college a bad idea?

For hundreds of thousands of students, community college is a fantastic idea and provides learners with better job opportunities and the flexibility needed to excel at a low cost. Keep reading below to find out why community college may be a good or bad idea for you based on your own goals and desires.

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Why community college is not a bad idea

Let’s start by looking at why community college is not a bad idea. 

You want a quicker route to jobs

Community college programs can offer you a fast track to getting hired for in-demand jobs. 

This is specifically what Unmudl is good for: finding ways to acquire certificates, degrees, or skills that can get you hired in a very short amount of time.

If you are interested in certain trades, this could be the perfect route for you to choose.

For example, let’s say you wanted to become an automobile mechanic. You can find a fast track to becoming an auto mechanic and then dial in for a little while so that you’ll be eligible for a job in a matter of months.

Or maybe you want to get into IT. 

You could become a certified IT professional and be eligible for jobs making $50,000 a year starting off. 

If you felt like you had a passion for the IT field and wanted to pursue it further, you could then look to add on a certificate or even a degree in the space. Both of those paths could be achieved in a much quicker time than a traditional degree from a university.

But the point is that at a community college, your education path is directly aligned with job opportunities in a way that universities typically can’t offer in the short term.

A line man working on the field
Photo by Антон Дмитриев from Unsplash

You need more flexibility

Community colleges are also known for their great flexibility. 

They usually offer a broad range of course types so that you can take traditional classes during the day or even take night classes

You can also find mini-mesters that you can take throughout the fall or spring or even during the winter and summer. Instead of months, you finish up in weeks.

If your child needs daycare you can often find programs at colleges that will provide care for your child at a discounted rate.

And if you are not quite ready to head to campus to attend your classes in person it’s usually not a problem to find quality online courses that you can take and work towards a certification or degree.

Also, because community colleges are not as big of a commitment as universities, it’s often easier to take courses from two colleges at once.

So if your current college does not offer the course you are looking for, you can go shopping around for nearby community colleges and you might be able to find a course that complements your current coursework.

The bottom line is that if you don’t think you will fit into the “traditional student” role, a community college can be a great idea.

You want to limit your cost

According to the Sallie Mae survey of 2021, “How America Pays for College,” nearly 80% of students or their parents eliminated a college for admissions based on cost.

So clearly cost is a major factor in choosing higher education.

When compared to universities, you’ll find that community colleges are significantly less expensive.

Also, depending on what state you live in you might be able to find colleges offering free community college.

This is especially great news for people who are not quite sure of what they want to study or what field they want to go into. 

The risk is much lower because your cost is much lower.

Sometimes you may only want to take a single class at a community college just to get a “taste” of what the experience will be like. 

Also, it’s more common for community college students to take different time frames to finish their programs. When attending a university, the standard time to complete your degree is four years although five years is often acceptable. 

But when it comes to community college, it’s much more common for students to finish programs on their own time so you don’t feel the same pressure to fit your goals within a certain type of pre-determined box.

calculating College cost
Photo by wirestock from Freepik

When community college is a bad idea

While community college is definitely not a bad idea in a lot of cases, sometimes it actually can be a bad idea. 

Below are a few situations where community college is really not the greatest move.

You want a big “university” experience

One of the biggest reasons to not go to a community college is if you are interested in a true big university experience. 

This is the experience that you get when you are attending a college full-time, living on campus, and mingling among tens of thousands of other students usually away from home.

Believe it or not, some community colleges still can give you a taste of this experience. 

You can find at community colleges that offer things like sports, fraternities, dorms, and other elements of the university experience.

But for the most part, if you’re looking for that big “state school” type of vibe, that can be really hard to find at a community college.

Another aspect of the university experience is that you will find it to be more competitive. Putting yourself in a more competitive environment can bring out the best in you. 

At some community colleges, you may not feel the pressure to push yourself as much as you would in a large class with a lot of other hungry students. 

So for students looking for more competitive experiences, community colleges can sometimes be a bad idea.

And finally, part of that big university experience are the benefits that come from networking with other students. 

If you attend a traditional state university, chances are you will have thousands of opportunities to network throughout your years at the school. 

You’ll probably meet people from all sorts of different walks of life and have the chance to join tons of different organizations.

Some community colleges could still offer organizations for you to join and be quite diverse but it is definitely not on the same level as a large university in the majority of cases.

Community college students
Photo by lookstudio from Freepik

You are set on a bachelor’s degree

If you are absolutely set on a bachelor’s degree then chances are a university will be a better fit. 

Interestingly, some community colleges do offer bachelor’s degrees. It’s not super common and usually limited to specific types of fields but it is possible to earn a bachelor’s degree at a community college.

The thing is, universities are typically where you go for a bachelor’s degree. 

You’ll have a far wider range of options to choose from, which can be extremely beneficial if you end up needing to change your major, double major, etc.

So if that four year degree is a top priority for you then a university will likely be a good idea. 

Also, if you are interested in a master’s program or combining a bachelor’s degree with a master’s degree then universities will be more in line with your goals.

Graduate programs are usually nonexistent at community colleges.

You want to get noticed in certain fields

Universities are known for having higher standards when it comes to things like athletics or other types of competitive programs. 

While some community colleges actually have pretty strong programs for sports, if you want to play at the professional level, most of the time it will be better off getting introduced to the higher level of competition offered by universities as soon as possible.

Again, that’s not always the case and you can find plenty of professional athletes who spent time at a community college before eventually transferring to bigger name colleges.

You desire prestige

It’s very debatable whether or not prestige is a “real” aspect of education. 

Sure, a degree from a renowned institution can open up a lot of job opportunities and other exciting avenues for your life.

However, a piece of paper from a more renowned institution does not always mean that you received a more quality education from a lesser known school.

The true quality of your education is often in your own hands and based on how you choose to apply yourself.

But still, many people desire the “lay prestige” offered from renowned universities. 

When it comes to prestige, it’s usually pretty difficult to get this from a community college. 

So if this is something that you heavily are seeking, it might be a bad idea to head to a community college.

One exception to this is that some community colleges have programs that are pretty renowned in their area.

If you go through these programs, it can be very easy to land a job and employers will know you are serious about your field. 

So in that sense, there is a certain degree of local prestige that you can obtain at a community college.

Final word

The idea that community colleges are bad is completely unfounded. 

Especially after the pandemic, community colleges have a lot to offer in terms of finding meaningful employment. 

But there are some scenarios where it could be a bad idea if your goals don’t align with what community colleges are designed to offer.

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