by Imed Bouchrika, Phd
Chief Data Scientist & Head of Content
Community colleges are important educational institutions for students who are interested in achieving a degree. A sizable portion of American students pursue higher education in community colleges, of which there are 935 as of 2022 (Duffin, 2022). Educational experts also opine that community colleges provide a crucial pathway to a traditional four-year degree.
Many students also opt to enroll in community colleges because of lower tuition fees and overall expenses. Considering the rising cost of attending college, community colleges serve as a reliable alternative for a quality postsecondary education. Aside from the lower costs, these schools also have smaller class sizes and a less rigorous class schedule, which are ideal for working students.
So, if you are interested in this academic path, this guide is for you.This guide discusses the factors that influence the average cost of community college and how pricing has changed over the years. The overall cost of attending a community college will be compared to the cost of attending a traditional university. Information on financing community college attendance is also included.
Average Cost of Community College Table of Contents
- How much does community college cost?
- Factors That Affect Community College Fees
- Average Cost of Community College by State
- Cost of Community College vs University
- Community College Fees over the Years
- Paying for Community College
How much does community college cost?
For a student enrolled in a public community college, the overall cost for the two-year program is approximately $33,524 while for public out-of-state students, the cost of attending a community college will be roughly $40,884. Students of private community colleges, which the latest U.S. college statistics say total 73 institutions, can expect a cost of attendance amounting to an average of $53,704.
If tuition cost is compared between a private four-year university and a community college, the difference would be roughly 90% (The College Board, 2020). However, tuition cost is just one component of the total cost of attending community college. Other considerations include the cost of books, room and board, and living expenses.
Cost of Out-of-State vs. In-State Tuition
The tuition cost of community colleges also varies depending on whether the student is from the same state as where the college is located, or from another state. For the 2021-22 school year, public community colleges charge approximately $5,155 per year for in-state students and $8,835 for out-of-state students. The average yearly tuition for private community colleges is roughly $15,477 per year (Community College Review, 2021).
Cost of Public vs. Private Community Colleges
Public community colleges are mainly funded by state governments while private community colleges rely on tuition fees, endowments, and alumni for funding academic programs. For 2021-22, the community college with the lowest public tuition cost is located in California at $1,458, while the lowest private community college tuition cost is in Idaho at $3,950 (Community College Review, 2021). With a cost difference of roughly 37%, the cost of community college also varies based on the type of school, whether public or private.
Source: The College Board
Factors That Affect Community College Fees
The total cost of attending a community college is influenced by a variety of factors. The specific degree or certificate that you want to take, as well as the type and frequency of classes that you are going to attend, have an effect on the total cost. The overall cost will also be determined by your lifestyle and on whether you would choose to live on-campus or off-campus. Whether you can afford to maintain a job while attending community college, as well as the amount of financing that you can get, would also have an effect on the total cost.
There are typically five main categories of expenses that, once identified, can help you figure out how much your community college education is going to cost. These categories include tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, personal expenses, and transportation. To some extent, you have control over some of these costs that affect your total fees. It would be much easier to create a budget once you know how much you will be spending on each of these categories.
Tuition and Fees
The amount of tuition and fees may vary based on whether you are a student from in-state or from outside of the state, based on your academic program, and based on the number of credit hours you plan to take per semester. To give you an idea, the average community college cost per credit is $141. However, some academic programs may charge additional fees beyond tuition costs.
In addition, there is a wide variation in the way states support community colleges and tuition prices dramatically differ because of differences in state appropriations. Thus, in some states, the cost of tuition is considered significant in overall cost while it would appear negligible or even zero in other states.
Room and Board
Should you decide to live at home, you would only need to allot meal costs for this category. Most community colleges are commuter schools, which means that these schools do not have housing for students. One option is to live off-campus, in which case, you would need to allot money for room and board expenses.
Books and supplies
How much do college books cost? The cost of books and other course materials is also another expense that you have to consider in attending community college. You may look for used textbooks, which are sold at a cheaper price. The cost of books and materials depends on the demand and availability, but almost always, there are available alternatives. Some classes also offer lower-priced book options or open-source materials, which can significantly reduce overall cost.
Your personal expenses include mobile phone bills, laundry, eating out, and other stuff that you normally spend money on while attending school. Personal expenses are often underestimated. So, it is better to list down all your personal expenses, check which are the ones you can put a cap on, and add the final amount to your budget.
Your transportation costs will vary on how frequent you travel, and your means of transport. Either way, factor in your transportation cost, including the cost of gas if you own a car and parking fee.
Average Cost of Community College by State
The cost of community college is largely influenced by social, economic, and political dynamics. To understand the cost of community college, the relationship of the state, the federal government, and the local government must be taken into account. Historically, community colleges have been supported by three sources of external funding—federal, state, and local—with state funding as the one providing the most significant amount (McGuiness, 2014).
Below, this guide will go into detail about the differences in community college costs across states to give you an idea of how much tuition fees are in the area you intend to pursue your studies in.
States with Lowest Average Community College Cost
There are significant differences in the way states support community colleges. The state funding of community colleges is often based on a hybrid model. Community colleges typically receive some local funding, the amount of which is often determined by the wealth of neighborhoods. Some states appropriate four or five times as much as their public institutions, while in other states, tuition support is two to four times the appropriations (Yuen, 2020). The top 10 states with the lowest average community college cost are California, New Mexico, North Carolina, Arizona, Texas, Florida, Kansas, Nebraska, Mississippi, and Nevada.
|TOP 10 STATES WITH LOWEST AVERAGE COMMUNITY COLLEGE COST|
States with Highest Average Community College Cost
The top 10 states with the highest average community college cost are Vermont, South Dakota, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Oregon, South Carolina, Minnesota, Iowa, New York, and Pennsylvania. While there is no single explanation for the high tuition costs in these states, the Center for American Progress cites revenue gaps as one significant factor that lead to higher fees (Yuen, 2020).
Compared to community colleges, four-year universities tend to receive larger amounts of state appropriations, plus, they are able to charge higher tuition and fees. Since there are significant differences in tuition and fee revenue among institutions, and since states have different funding levels for four- and two-year colleges, some community colleges have adopted liberal market ideals, as underscored by Levin et al. (2018), as a response to external pressures. While community colleges are designed to serve the disadvantaged members of the community, when faced with limitations, such as budget cuts, these institutions adapt by implementing measures to be able to survive, and in most cases through increasing tuition costs.
|TOP 10 STATES WITH HIGHEST AVERAGE COMMUNITY COLLEGE COST|
States that Offer Free Community College Tuition
In the U.S., there are 20 states that provide tuition subsidies to qualified community college students. These states that allot funding to cover community college tuition are:
- New York
- Rhode Island
The tuition-free programs provided by each state have specific eligibility requirements, and cover tuition fees only, which means that other expenses, such as room and board, books and course materials, transportation, and living expenses will be paid out of pocket or through other financing programs.
Cost of Community College vs. University
According to The College Board’s 2019 Trends in College Pricing report, the average in-state tuition and fees at public four-year colleges were $10,440 in A.Y. 2019-20 while out-of-state tuition and fees were $26,820. In comparison, the average in-district tuition and fees at public two-year colleges in the same year were just $3,730.
Aside from tuition, however, books and other supplies are should be included in the overall cost. Based on data from the U.S. Department of Education, during 2016-2017, the average community college student spent $1,422 on books, while students from private universities spent $1,190.
Room and board is another expense for both community college and university students. Before you do a Google search for “does financial aid cover housing,” though, keep in mind that most community colleges generally do not offer on-campus apartments and dorms to students. As such, students that need room and board may opt to live off-campus. During A.Y. 2016-17, students at public two-year colleges spent $8,191 on room and board. Students at public four-year universities spent an average of $9,602.
Living expenses such as groceries, transportation, and utility bills also eat a chunk of a student’s expenses. The average living expense of the community college student who lived at home is $3,988, while the student who lived alone spent $3,964.
In general, the cost of tuition appears very significant in comparing the average cost of community college vs. university. Tuition tends to be lower in community colleges because they are funded by the state, and by the local and federal governments.
Community College Fees over the Years
Just as college tuition has increased in the past decade, so did community college fees.
Between A.Y. 1990-91 and A.Y. 2020-21, the average published in-district tuition and fees in public community colleges increased from $1,810 to $3,770. The average published tuition and fee price in A.Y. 2020-21 at community colleges is 36% of the average price at public four-year universities. In A.Y. 1990-91, it was 48%. In the past 30 years, the average in-district tuition and fees doubled for public community colleges (The College Board, 2021).
Community colleges have experienced significant cuts in funding over the years. The reliance on appropriations tends to be regressive as wealthier districts provide more funds to community colleges in rich areas. On the other hand, reliance on tuition dollars shifts the burden to the individual. In any organization that needs additional funds to continue operations, the most logical way is to increase fees. Kahlenberg et al. (2018) find the present system of funding community colleges problematic because community colleges need adequate funding to be able to provide social mobility to disadvantaged students.
In spite of the challenges faced by community colleges, these institutions have remained true to their purpose. In an article published in the Community College Journal of Research and Practice, Faber and Slantcheva-Durst (2020) studied the earnings potential of community college students and its relation to education and institutional attributes.
Titled “The Impact of Community College Attributes on the Earnings of Their Students,” the authors found that “community colleges are delivering on their promise of access, responsiveness to the community, and equity. Despite the ‘value conflict’ these academic communities must address on a daily basis as a result of this promise—a conflict expressed in the community college purpose to offer education and training to everyone who reaches out to them—community colleges continue to serve as democratic institutions of opportunity.”
Source: The College Board
Paying for Community College
Based on data from the American Association of Community Colleges (2020), 64% of community college students are part-timers, of whom 72% hold a job while attending school. Among full-time students, 62% work and study at the same time. While community college is perceived as a cheaper alternative to the four-year university, students of these schools still struggle to get enough financial aid.
Luckily, there are financial aids offered by the federal government and grants provided by the state and local government, that can help students pay for the costs of attending community college. In addition, students can also explore student scholarships that will help them finance their education.
Grants, scholarships, and loans are types of financial aid. Grants are awarded based on the financial needs of the student. The Pell Grant is an example of financial aid for attending post-secondary education. The community college student may also apply for scholarships, which is awarded based on financial need or academic achievement. Grants and scholarships do not need to be repaid after graduation.
On the other hand, loans must be repaid either during attendance or after graduation. Student loan statistics reveal that this form of financial aid can be very helpful to students that want to attend college but do not have the capacity to pay during attendance. Typically, students that avail of loans repay after graduation.
To get access to financial aid, students generally turn to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to submit their applications. Applicants need to fill out the application form and they will be provided with feedback on their eligibility for grants, scholarships, or loans.
While in most four-year universities students attend classes full-time, in community colleges, majority of students attend classes on a part-time basis. In community colleges, the student population tends to have an average age of 28, which means that most students are working and studying at the same time. Attending part-time classes allows the student to make small payments to tuition and other expenses. When students self-pay, they avoid the accumulation of debt, while those that avail of financial aid are able to reduce the amount of money that they need to borrow while attending college.
Source: The College Board
Community College Education: Affordable Cost with High Returns
After looking into the average cost of community college and the factors that influence the overall cost, is community college actually cheaper?
Community colleges are strategically located close to where students live and work because their primary mission is to make post-secondary education accessible to disadvantaged groups and facilitate social mobility. Associate degree holders have higher rates of employment and significant earnings gains compared to those with only high school diplomas.
The proximity of a community college means that you need not spend on room and board, which could translate to significant savings. In spite of the increase in tuition costs over the years, the community college still remains a viable alternative to the four-year universities that tend to charge higher fees. Should you decide to pursue a four-year degree, credit transfers are easily facilitated from community colleges to universities. Your time and money investment in a community college would definitely lead you to opportunities in the job market and in pursuing advanced studies.
- American Association of Community Colleges (2021), https://www.aacc.nche.edu/
- Community College Review (2021), Average Community College Tuition Cost, https://www.communitycollegereview.com/avg-tuition-stats/national-data
- Duffin, E. (2022), Number of community colleges in the United States in 2022, by type, https://www.statista.com/statistics/421266/community-colleges-in-the-us/
- Faber, A. and Slantcheva-Durst, S. (2020), The Impact of Community College Attributes on the Earnings of Their Students, https://doi.org/10.1080/10668926.2020.1798302
- Kahlenberg, R.D., Shireman, R., Quick, K. and Habash, T. (2018), Policy Strategies for Pursuing Adequate Funding of Community Colleges, https://tcf.org/content/report/policy-strategies-pursuing-adequate-funding-community-colleges/?session=1&agreed=1
- Levin, J.S., Martin, M.C., Damian, A.I.L. and Hoggatt, M.J. (2018), Preservation of Community College Logic: Organizational Responses to State Policies and Funding Practices in Three States, https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0091552118758893
- McGuiness, A. (2014), Community College Systems Across the 50 States, http://www.leg.state.nv.us/interim/77th2013/committee/studies/commcolleges/other/28-january-2014/agendaitemvi,nationalcenterforhighereducationmcguinness.pdf
- The College Board (2021), Trends in College Pricing, https://research.collegeboard.org/trends/college-pricing
- U.S. Department of Education (2021), https://www.ed.gov/
- Yuen, V. (2020), The $78 Billion Community College Funding Shortfall, https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/education-postsecondary/reports/2020/10/07/491242/78-billion-community-college-funding-shortfall/
Several of the nation's elite private colleges and universities have announced their 2023-24 tuition rates in the past few weeks, and a pattern is emerging for the increases for next year to be 4% or more.How much does it cost to go to community college in the US? ›
The average annual cost for attending a public community college in the US is $4,864 for in-state students, and $8,622 for out-of-state students. The average figure for private two-year community colleges tuition is $15,100.Which state has the cheapest community college? ›
Cost of Public vs.
For 2021-22, the community college with the lowest public tuition cost is located in California at $1,458, while the lowest private community college tuition cost is in Idaho at $3,950 (Community College Review, 2021).
Admission rates for 2022-2023 have not been announced but are expected to remain just as low. Given this competitive environment, admission experts say students shouldn't assume they'll be a 'shoe-in' at any school.Is college worth it in 2023? ›
Going to college in 2023 is worth it for individuals who want access to more higher-paying jobs after graduating between 2027 and 2029. It's ideal for those who want higher lifetime earnings, too.Is there free community college in the US? ›
Although community colleges aren't free nationally, several states have instituted their own programs that make community colleges free for students. The eligibility requirements vary by state, but they typically offer free tuition to students that lived and attended high school in the state.How many US states offer free community college? ›
The states offering free community college currently include Arkansas, California, Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.Is it less expensive to attend community college than a 4-year institution? ›
No matter what, attending a two-year college is usually less expensive than enrolling in a four-year university. On average, two-year colleges cost $3,440 per year for in-district students, while four-year universities charge a whopping average of $9,410 per year for in-state tuition.What college costs the most to attend? ›
|1. Franklin & Marshall College||$65,652|
|2. Columbia University||$65,524|
|3. Reed College||$64,450|
|4. Vassar College||$63,840|
Over the last 30 years, tuition costs have soared for a variety of reasons. State funding cuts, expanding administrative staffs, and increased construction and facility costs all play a role. As a result, the average student debt among college graduates is now close to $28,000.
Federal financial aid, scholarships, and work-study can bring tuition costs down. Students can also take advantage of low-cost online credits and certificate programs. Both in-state public universities and community colleges offer lower tuition rates.What is the cheapest 2 year college? ›
|1||Luna Community College||$886|
|2||Eastern New Mexico University-Ruidoso Campus||$1,036|
|3||Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute||$1,095|
|4||American River College||$1,104|
|School||Out of State Tuition||Net Price|
|1. West Texas A&M University||$7,842||$4,165|
|2. Minot State University||$6,892||$5,106|
|3. Delta State University||$8,190||$5,308|
|4. Southern Arkansas University||$12,450||$6,685|
There is no question that the first semester of the freshman year of college is the most critical. Many studies show that freshman year is the time when students most likely drop out of college – if not permanently, then temporarily.Is college harder today than 20 years ago? ›
But Jacoba Urist of The Atlantic says that there is truth and untruth to the myth of college admissions getting harder each year. "As it turns out, getting into college actually isn't any harder than it was a decade ago," she wrote. "It's just that the odds of admission to your particular college may have decreased."Will colleges require SAT scores for class of 2023? ›
The short answer is that the vast majority of schools are NOT requiring SAT test scores for the class of 2023 but that can absolutely change for those students entering fall 2024 and later.Are college degrees losing value? ›
The value of a college degree is decreasing and will likely continue to do so for years to come. A growing number of people have realized that a degree doesn't always mean job security or high earnings, but it definitely means student loan debt for most.What college degree is worth it? ›
STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) degrees dominate the list of collegiate programs that lead to top-paying careers. While some bachelor's degrees in the humanities and social sciences don't typically offer high salaries, they can provide a foundation for a graduate degree and a more lucrative career.What is the best degree to study 2023? ›
- Data Science. ...
- Accounting. ...
- Cybersecurity. ...
- Game Design. ...
- Hospitality Management. ...
- Pre-Law (with a focus on Elder Law) ...
- Aerospace Engineering. ...
- Financial Technology (Fintech) Financial technology (Fintech) majors are starting to pop up at universities worldwide.
Montgomery Community College ranks as the No. 1 community college in America, according to our metrics. Located about 70 miles east of Charlotte, the school is tied for the ninth-lowest student-to-faculty ratio (eight students per instructor).
Taking the top spot is Ann Arbor – home to The University of Michigan. The town of about 121,000 residents boasts 162 parks, an average one-bedroom rent of approximately $2,050, and around $5 for a pint of beer.Which colleges are free to apply in USA? ›
- Yale University. Connecticut.
- Wellesley College. Massachusetts.
- Carleton College. Minnesota.
- Smith College. Massachusetts.
- Case Western Reserve University. Ohio.
- Grinnell College. Iowa.
- Tulane College. Louisiana.
- Colby College. Maine.
Most community colleges in the United States do not offer on-campus housing for students. These institutions were established primarily to provide low-cost education for students who commute from their homes.Is college free in Canada? ›
Tuition fees for universities vary depending on the program and school you choose. On average in Canada, university tuition costs around: $36,100 per year for international undergraduate students (Statistics Canada, 2022) $21,100 per year for international graduate students (Statistics Canada, 2022)
- With 1.8 million students at 116 colleges, the California Community Colleges is the largest system of higher education in the country.
- Board of Governors – Composed of 17 members appointed by the Governor sets policy and provides guidance for the 73 California community college districts and 116 colleges. (
|State||First-Dollar Program (First-Year Costs)||Last-Dollar program (First Year Cost)|
|Alaska||$91 Million||$45 Million|
|Arizona||$1,070 Million||$534 Million|
|Arkansas||$520 Million||$152 Million|
|California||$6,008 Million||$1,448 Million|
It is not hard to find a free college in Europe, as many European countries currently provide free college to all students regardless of family status, but that is not entirely free, as the taxpayer foots the bill.What is the outlook for higher education in 2023? ›
The U.S. higher education sector enters 2023 with a mixed outlook, S&P Global Ratings said Wednesday, calling prospects for colleges stable but divided. Strong institutions that already enjoy good credit ratings should expect continued high student demand and flexibility setting prices, S&P projects.Does the class of 2023 start college in 2023? ›
In the US, if you graduate from high school in 2023, you typically also begin college that same year. (graduate in June 2023, begin college September 2023.)
Application Dates & Deadlines.
|Term||Priority Application Filing Period*|
|Fall 2023||October 1, 2022- November 30, 2022|
|Summer 2023||February 1, 2023 - February 28, 2023|
|Spring 2024||August 1, 2023 – August 31, 2023|
|Winter 2024||June 1, 2023 – June 30, 2023 +|
And The Common App says college applications are up for fall, 2023. Way up. According to their January 2023 update, “distinct first-year applicants” are up 20% for 2023. To underscore what a big deal that is, the 20% increase in applications is not since the pandemic when applications and enrollments dropped.What will education look like in 2023? ›
In 2023, we will see schools working to improve mental health programs, provide new academic support systems and resources for students, and implement technologies and programs focused on social-emotional learning and student wellbeing.Which university tops the 2023 times higher education? ›
|1||University of Oxford United Kingdom|
|2||Harvard University United States|
|=3||University of Cambridge United Kingdom|
|=3||Stanford University United States|
1. University of California, Los Angeles. In 2021, 107,356 students applied to UCLA and only 15,352 were admitted.How long does it take for a college to accept or reject you? ›
It's not unusual for a college's application process to take four to six weeks. Colleges that have an application portal allow students to go online to check the status of their applications at any time.Do colleges look at senior year grades? ›
The important thing to know is that colleges do look at your senior year grades. So, a weaker performance in senior year than in previous grades can impact your application and college admissions decisions.How many colleges should I apply to 2023? ›
Every year, prospective college students wonder, "How many colleges should I apply to?" As a general rule of thumb, some admissions experts recommend submitting applications to 4-12 schools.What is the best year to apply for college? ›
You should start the application process the summer before your senior year.Why is it so hard to get into college in 2023? ›
Numerous degree-seeking students may find getting into college in 2023 harder than the previous years. Trends such as going test-optional, increasing diversity and emphasis on demonstrated interest can make the admissions process competitive, especially at institutions known for their high selectivity level.
Together, these factors–the increases in selectivity, the focus on rankings, the intensified stress on test scores, the lack of clarity around each school's enrollment priorities–has made the college admissions landscape feel treacherous, littered with obstacles to potentially thwart applicants' aspirations.What college has the lowest acceptance rate 2023? ›
|Sr. No||Colleges||Acceptance Rate|
|4.||California Institute of Technology||6.8%|