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Community (Two-Year) Colleges

Most frequent questions and answers

What is community college?

It is a two-year school that provides affordable post-secondary education as a pathway to a four-year degree. They provide a separate type of learning that involves rigorous coursework and preparation for a future profession

Do they offer 4-year degree?

some community colleges offer four-year bachelor degrees as well as two-year credentials.

What proportion of undergraduate students are in community colleges?

Community colleges serve almost half of the undergraduate students in the United States, providing open access to post-secondary education, preparing students for transfer to four-year institutions

What else do community colleges offer?

They provide workforce development and skills training, and offering non-credit programs ranging from English as a second language to skills retraining to community enrichment programs or cultural activities

Are these colleges non-credit?

About 60% of community college programs are for credit, while the rest are non-credit. For international students, of course, non-credit programs will likely not be of interest unless they are designed to help increase English proficiency.

What is the annual cost?

The average annual cost of tuition at a US community college is $3,430

What is the average age?

The average age across community colleges is 29.

What are the popular fields of study?

The most popular fields of study (in order) are business/marketing, health professions and related clinical sciences, computer and information sciences, liberal arts, and engineering technologies/technicians.

What do they offer?

Community colleges tend to offer a broader range of program options than PET schools do – with both vocational (i.e., career-specific) training as well as broader academics (e.g., marketing and communication).

Are they transferable?

They are known for the transferability of some of their programs – in other words, credits or an entire certificate or a degree from a community college often can be used toward a four-year degree at a college/university.

Benefits of Community Colleges and Accreditations

Easier transition

They can provide an easier transition to the culture of American education for international students.

There are lower admission requirements, a greater range of students, and often dedicated staff devoted to helping students with cultural, language, and study challenges.

In addition, they often have smaller classes and smaller teacher/student ratios.

lower grades/test scores

They can allow international students with lower grades/test scores to (a) get into a degree program because of their more open admissions criteria and (b) improve their academic performance to the point they can transfer to a four-year college/university.


English-language upgrading courses

They can often offer robust English-language upgrading courses and tutoring services.

What’s more they often require lower (or no) TOEFL scores from international students than four-year colleges/universities, so being highly proficient in English is not as crucial to beginning a course of study.

They also generally have good career counselling services, dedicated as they are to helping students find the employment they want.

Excellent associate’s degrees and certificates in their own right

Community colleges can offer excellent associate’s degrees and certificates in their own right (i.e., without an eventual transfer) that provide job-ready and demanded skills in the American and global economy.

The facilities and the technology they offer students are in some cases outstanding.

Less expensive entry point into American higher education

American community colleges can be a less expensive entry point into American higher education because their tuition rates are much lower at the freshman (1st year) and sophomore (2nd year) level.

This is important because many international students are self-funded with limited options for financial aid.

Less expensive way to obtain a bachelor’s degree

They can be a less expensive way to obtain a bachelor’s degree (except in cases where students have received a university scholarship).

There are many excellent community colleges that have “2+2” transfer agreements with four-year colleges.

Attending the first two years of a degree at a community college then transferring for the latter two years to a four-year college/university is almost always less expensive than doing all four years at a college/university.

In the United States, an increasing number of American students are using community colleges as a pathway to earn bachelor’s degrees at prestigious universities

Offer guaranteed admissions

Some four-year colleges and universities even offer guaranteed admissions to graduates of the community colleges with which they have transfer arrangements.


As with four-year colleges and universities in the US, a board of directors in each state generally governs community colleges. This board is sometimes appointed by the state’s governor.


With any school the student is looking into, only American community colleges that are members of a recognized accrediting body should be considered as a valid study option.

Is community college the best option for the students?

While community colleges typically offer a wide range of benefits for students, this choice may not be the best option for everyone. It always depends on the following:

Where do they want to study?

Whether they can afford

How important is college life?

Can one transfer to a four-year school?

Applying to a Community College

Community colleges do not require international students to take standardized admissions tests to gain admission

Application procedures, deadlines, and start dates will vary greatly among individual community colleges. In addition, there may be program-specific requirements.

In many cases, consultation with the individual community college will determine whether the student should apply first to an Intensive English Program (IEP) delivered within the school or straight into the certificate or degree program.

Should international students apply any prior?

International students should apply at least three months before the start of a degree or certificate program session and at least two the start of an IEP course months before.

Can international students work while studying?

Some students will find on-campus jobs where they can work for up to 20 hours a week, but these are limited. Some may apply for permission, while studying, to remain in the US for a year after they graduate to obtain work in their field of study.