6 Underrated Facts About Community College

Some community colleges offer on-campus housing and award bachelor's degrees. Read to find out more underrated facts about community college.
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Jane Nam is a staff writer for BestColleges' Data Center. Before her work on higher education data trends, Jane was a news writer and the managing editor for an academic journal. She has graduate degrees in social and political philosophy and women's...
Published on March 27, 2024
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Lyss Welding is a higher education analyst and senior editor for BestColleges who specializes in translating massive data sets and finding statistics that matter to students. Lyss has worked in academic research, curriculum design, and program evalua...
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Data Summary

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    Broken down by cost-per-credit hour, two-year public schools charged just under $120 on average, while four-year private nonprofit colleges charged around $1,200 in 2022.Note Reference [1]
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    Community colleges are more age-diverse than four-year institutions. The average community college enrollee was 27 in 2019.Note Reference [2]
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    As of 2024, 187 community colleges in 24 states are authorized to award bachelor's degrees.Note Reference [3]
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    Hispanic and Latino/a students attending community college studied abroad at nearly double the rate of students at all institutions in the 2021-2022 school year.Note Reference [4]

Community colleges typically award associate degrees. While traditionally perceived as more cost-effective options than four-year universities, the line between the two institution types is gradually fading.

Community colleges now offer many of the same opportunities as traditional, four-year colleges, including the ability to get a bachelor's degree and live on campus. Further, online community colleges serve as flexible, accessible pathways for transferring to a four-year school.

Read more to find out some underrated facts about community colleges.

1. Community college is 10x cheaper than a four-year private college.

According to a 2023 BestColleges survey on students' top factors in college choice and admissions, students voted affordability as their number one factor. Community college is cheaper than most four-year schools, but how much does it cost?

Broken down by cost-per-credit hour, two-year public schools charged just under $120 on average, while four-year private nonprofit colleges charged around $1,200 in 2022.Note Reference [1]

According to 2020 data from the National Center for Education Statistics, students who attended at least some community college paid $9,770 in non-tuition expenses per year. In comparison, students who didn't attend any community college paid $13,810 per year.Note Reference [2]

2. The average community college student is 27 years old.

Community colleges also typically have a wider age range of students. The average community college enrollee was 27 in 2019, while the average four-year college enrollee (who never attended community college) was 22.2.Note Reference [2]

According to 2023 data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, 30% of students at two-year, public universities and Primarily Associate Degree Granting Baccalaureate Institutions (PABs) were 25 years old and older. These institutions also include bachelor's degree-granting community colleges.Note Reference [4]

3. You can earn your bachelor's degree at some community colleges.

As of 2024, 187 community colleges in 24 states are authorized to award bachelor's degrees.Note Reference [3] Among these are a bachelor of applied science degree in accounting at the Everett Community College in Washington and a bachelor of applied science degree in cybersecurity at the Mt. Hood Community College in Oregon, according to the Community College Baccalaureate Association.

The state of Florida had the greatest number of community college programs granting bachelor's degrees, with 192.Note Reference [3] Almost half of all of these programs are in Florida and Washington.

4. Community colleges have on-campus housing, too.

While most community colleges don't offer on-campus housing, the number of schools that do is far from zero. The list below includes some examples, but is non-exhaustive:

The cost of room and board at community colleges varies by school. SUNY Broome Community College in Binghamton, New York, for example, charges $5,230 per semester for a single room and $4,385 for a double.Note Reference [5] At the College of Southern Idaho, single-occupancy dorm rooms cost $1,500 per semester.Note Reference [6] According to its website, the co-ed residence hall can house 128 women and 118 men.

5. Over 30 states offer free community college tuition programs.

Many states have taken the initiative to make community college free for qualifying students. So far, the states with free college tuition programs include:

  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • Tennessee

Another 20 states have free college tuition programs with income, merit, geographical, or programmatic limitations.

Free community college has been a key aspect of President Joe Biden's budget proposals, a decision that aligns well with First Lady Jill Biden's background as a community college educator.

President Biden's original free community college proposal failed in Congress in 2021 due to a lack of Democratic support. Biden's 2024 budget proposal, however, also includes two years of free community college, which would be covered by a federal-state alliance.Note Reference [7]

6. Community colleges enroll nearly double the percentage of Hispanic students compared to private, four-year nonprofit institutions.

According to a previous BestColleges survey, the majority of students believe racial/ethnic diversity improves both the social experience (62%) and learning environment (59%) of schools.

Community colleges have historically attracted more diverse student populations than their four-year counterparts due to their affordability and extensive range of programs, which include but are not limited to vocational career pathways.

According to recent data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, public two-year colleges boast a higher percentage of underrepresented students, especially Hispanic students.Note Reference [4]

  • Just 331,560 Hispanic students enrolled at private nonprofit colleges in 2023 compared to 1 million Hispanic students who enrolled in public two-year institutions.
  • Hispanic students made up 23% of the student population at public two-year schools vs. 12% at private nonprofit schools.
  • Black students made up around 9% of the student population at private four-year nonprofit schools, while they accounted for 12% at public two-year institutions.


  1. Table 330.10. Average undergraduate tuition, fees, room, and board rates charged for full-time students in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by level and control of institution: Selected years, 1963-64 through 2021-22. National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). July 2023.
  2. Community College Students Versus Non-Community College Students Comparison Table. National Postsecondary Student Aid Study: 2020 Undergraduate Students (NPSAS:UG). National Center for Education Statistics. Accessed February 2024
  3. Baccalaureate Degrees by State. National Program Inventory. Community College Baccalaureate Association. Accessed February 2024.
  4. Current Term Enrollment Estimates. National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. January 2024.
  5. Housing and Dining Rates. SUNY Broome Student Village. SUNY Broome Community College. Accessed March 2024.
  6. On-Campus Housing - Eagle Hall. College of Southern Idaho. Accessed February 2024.
  7. Budget of the U.S. Government: Fiscal Year 2024 (PDF). Office of Management and Budget. The White House. U.S. Government Publishing Office. March 2023.