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Study Shows 2-Year Colleges Often Critical to Degree Completion

Data provided by the National Student Clearinghouse® Research Center™ indicates that attending a community college ultimately helps many students succeed



By Greg Scott Neuman
Posted 2012

2-Year Community Colleges
2-Year Community Colleges

It’s no secret that starting your academic career at a 2-year college has many benefits.  If you’re on a limited budget, these schools provide a relatively inexpensive way to begin your education.  Also, even moderately sized towns usually have a nearby community college campus – which means that almost everyone has one within driving distance.  And if you’re not quite ready to attend a university, 2-year colleges are often a great way to transition.

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Perhaps most importantly, a new study by the National Student Clearinghouse® Research Center™ shows that many students who start out in 2-year schools go on to complete degrees at 4-year colleges.

Let’s take a closer look at all of these factors.

2-Year Colleges Can Be Key to Degree Completion

The study conducted by the National Student Clearinghouse® Research Center™ examined students who completed a degree at a 4-year college during the 2010-11 academic year.  They found that nationally, 45% of the graduates had started their education at a community college.  In 13 states, more than 50% had done so.*  Clearly, beginning your academic career at a 2-year school can lead to successfully earning a degree.

2-Year Schools Are Less Expensive Than 4-Year Colleges

The National Center for Education Statistics reports that during the 2010-11 academic year, tuition, room and board at public 4-year colleges cost undergraduates an average of $15,918.  At private 4-year institutions, it was a whopping $32,617.  Comparatively, the 2010-11 cost of tuition, room and board at public 2-year schools was just $8,085.

Community colleges cost about half of what public 4-year schools do, and less than a quarter of what you’d pay at a private college.

Community Colleges Are Convenient

According to the American Association of Community Colleges, there are 1,132 community colleges in the U.S.  When satellite campuses are included, the number increases to about 1,600.  These institutions teach about 13 million students annually.

Because 2-year schools are so widespread, the vast majority of Americans have one within driving distance.  This means that you won’t have to move anywhere to begin your education; younger students can live at home for another year or two, and adult students can remain near work and family.  Not only is this convenient, it also saves you money on room and board – usually the second-largest college expense.

2-Year Colleges Make Transitioning Easier

You may not be ready to attend a university just yet.  Perhaps you just finished high school, and want to remain near family and friends for a little while longer.  Or maybe you need to take some remedial classes before diving into rigorous college-level coursework.  Grades can be another reason; if your high school transcript isn’t as impressive as it should be, proving yourself at a community college for a year or two can help with admission to a university.

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Community college offers you the opportunity to achieve any or all of these things while still working on your education.  You can stay near family and friends.  You can complete any preparatory classes you need to.  If you study hard, you can add several semesters of high grades to your transcript.  And you’ll be accumulating college credit the entire time, lessening the number of classes you ultimately have to take at a more-expensive 4-year college.

*National Student Clearinghouse® Research Center™ Snapshot Report on Student Mobility, accessed October 2012.

†National Center for Education Statistics Fast Facts table, accessed October 2012.

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