For those looking to achieve a professional degree at an affordable price, US community colleges can be a great option. Community colleges constitute many higher educational institutions in the US and are a popular destination for young professionals. Community college stats show that these institutions have been pivotal in shaping the US higher education scene, equipping hundreds of students with the necessary skills for a better future. In this article, we have compiled some important community college student’s statistics that may help you choose the institution of your dreams.
What is Community College?
Previously known as junior colleges, community colleges are publicly owned, specialized tertiary educational institutions, i.e., one can complete high school education and enrol in one. Community colleges generally offer two-year degrees or diplomas, but many also provide various high school level qualifications, professional courses, language courses, and even 4-year undergraduate degrees.
If you are planning to join a community college, your possibilities are endless. Some of the biggest community colleges in the United States take pride in preparing students for the job market. Community college transfer rates are quite high as many choose to transfer their credits to a university program later. Before making the big decision of enrolling in a community college, it is important to assess all your options.
General Community College Statistics – 2023
- The number of community colleges: According to 2019 community college stats, the number of community colleges in the US stands at 1051. Among them, 75 are yet to become fully independent, 35 are of tribal origin and 941 are registered as public community colleges.
- Cost vs benefit: Most students of community colleges prefer studying at lower prices. They tend to save between $5000 to $20,000 every year compared to university students.
- How old are the students?: As community colleges are more flexible in nature to accommodate students from diverse backgrounds, there is ample chance for part-time work. Around 60% of US community college students pursue part-time work while studying.
- Free tuition: For qualified students, community college tuition is free in a few states including Indiana, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Delaware, Tennessee, and Missouri. This is available through the College Promise program.
- Staying on campus: Only 28% of the US community colleges have on-campus accommodation facilities. It is common for most students to choose off-campus accommodation.
How many US students go to community college?
Community colleges enrolled 8.9 million students in 2020-21, and in the 2021 fall semester, 5.7 million students were enrolled in these institutions (36% of undergraduates). According to federal data, 33% of undergraduates were enrolled in public two-year colleges during the 2020–21 academic year, with 4.5 million students (29%) in the fall of 2021.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused drops in enrollment, but numbers are stabilizing now at 4.5 million (up 0.4% from fall 2022), although still down 16% from 2019. In 2015–16 49% of bachelor’s degree earners had attended a public two-year college in the last 10 years. Texas had the most former public two-year college students among bachelor’s degree earners at 75%, while Rhode Island had the fewest at 24%.
Let us look at some community college enrollment statistics in terms of race and diversity.
- Students from lower-income groups: In 2011-12, among the students enrolled in community colleges, around 55% are students whose family earns under $30,000. However, 23% of the students had a family income of $106,000 and above.
- Racially diverse: In Fall 2010, the percentage of black students was 49, that of Hispanic students was 51 and Asian students consisted of 38% of the total number.
- Race in 2017: Fall 2017 saw 44% Hispanic, 35% black, and 31% white students enrolling in community colleges, among whom 34% enrolled in undergraduate programs.
How many community colleges are there in the USA?
According to the American Association of Community Colleges, there were 935 public community colleges and 72 independent community colleges registered in the United States in January 2022, for a total of 1,167 community colleges.
Community College Enrollment Statistics
Even though the last decade saw a decline in numbers, the community college student enrollment statistics have been on the rise ever since university tuition is also rising. The overall completion rates also differ to some extent as some students move directly to the job market, while some others move to a full-fledged university degree from community colleges.
These institutions generally have reasonable acceptance rates. We can see from the community college facts below that the enrollment is simple and feasible for a long-term future in the US. You can get a clear idea of the benefits of studying at a community college, the overall success rate of students, the average age of the students, and many more.
- Age demographic: On average, students aged around 29 years enroll in US community colleges according to our free community college statistics. This is since community colleges mainly attract young parents, people already in established careers, and part-time students. Community colleges also attract those in the continuing education stream.
- Dual enrollment: Though our data on dual enrollment is a little older, it can still be helpful to understand the trend. In 2011, about 2 million students opted for dual enrollment in community colleges. There is a projection that this figure would double by 2021. Now that the COVID-19 crisis has made landfall, that may not be an attainable goal. There is still hope since almost all institutions are providing online courses, making enrollment and part-time studies a lot easier post-COVID.
- Student persistence: Not a very encouraging figure, but around 62.2% of students enrolled in community colleges in 2016 returned to campus for the following Fall semester. Among them, nearly 49% returned to the same college. The return rates for full-time and part-time students were 70.6% and 55.6% respectively.
- Bachelor’s degree percentage: It is reported that close to 39.2% of community college students had obtained a degree in the year 2012. This figure excludes dual enrollment rates. Additionally, 15.8% of the students who began their studies at a community college ended up graduating from a university within 6 years.
- Highest enrollment: The community college student enrollment statistics show that there was a growth in figures from 2000 to 2017 i.e., 27%. The numbers increased to 16.8 million from 13.2 million, and the projected rise stands at 3%.
Community College Acceptance Rate
If you have already applied for your dream college, we understand your anticipation. Though community colleges see a lot less competition compared to four-year universities, the application processes and the wait for acceptance can still be nerve-wracking. The biggest community colleges in the US obviously see the most competition, but it is easy to get into one compared to universities.
Since community colleges are skill-based and offer hands-on learning, students are immensely benefited from their programs while entering the job market. It is a worthwhile investment when you decide upon a community college that suits your needs. The following free community college statistics can help you understand where you might stand in terms of getting an acceptance.
- Acceptance rate and percentage: The acceptance rate average of US community colleges stood at 78%.
- Private vs public: Among these, the private colleges had an acceptance rate of 74% and that of public colleges stood at 83%. These numbers are promising and can give you an idea regarding the difficulty of getting an acceptance.
- Lowest acceptance rate: Out of all US states, the lowest acceptance rate is that of South Carolina. The state averages around 62% in the community college acceptance rate department, hence fewer students get in compared to the rest of the country.
- Highest in acceptance: Louisiana and Indiana are the most promising out of all the community college hubs of the US. States see an acceptance rate of 87%, making them the highest community colleges acceptance rate average in the country.
|State||Acceptance Rate||Most Selective Colleges|
|Alabama||79%||Concordia College Alabama (53%)|
Marion Military Institute (61%)
Remington College-Mobile Campus (81%)
Herzing University-Birmingham (100%)
Bishop State Community College (100%)
|Arkansas||81%||University of Arkansas-Fort Smith (56%)|
University of Arkansas Community College-Morrilton (62%)
Remington College-Little Rock Campus (69%)
Arkansas State University Mid-South (100%)
Rich Mountain Community College (100%)
|California||86%||American Academy of Dramatic Arts-Los Angeles (20%)|
American University of Health Sciences (50%)
Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising-Los Angeles (52%)
Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising-San Francisco (54%)
West Coast University-Los Angeles (54%)
|Colorado||78%||Concorde Career College-Aurora (57%)|
DeVry University-Colorado (69%)
Bel-Rea Institute Of Animal Technology (81%)
Johnson & Wales University-Denver (82%)
Arapahoe Community College (100%)
|Connecticut||66%||St Vincent’s College (38%)|
University of Connecticut-Stamford (57%)
University of Connecticut-Avery Point (64%)
University of Connecticut-Tri-Campus (66%)
Mitchell College (70%)
|Florida||86%||Keiser University-Ft Lauderdale (49%)|
Southeastern College (61%)
Johnson & Wales University-North Miami (70%)
Florida College (77%)
Everglades University (86%)
|Georgia||70%||Clayton State University (42%)|
Andrew College (46%)
Gordon State College (48%)
Young Harris College (50%)
Georgia Perimeter College (51%)
|Illinois||83%||Robert Morris University Illinois (24%)|
Lincoln College (56%)
Fox College (67%)
Kendall College (84%)
Midstate College (88%)
|Indiana||87%||International Business College-Indianapolis (51%)|
Purdue University-North Central Campus (73%)
Harrison College-Muncie (78%)
International Business College-Fort Wayne (78%)
Holy Cross College (93%)
|Louisiana||87%||Louisiana State University-Alexandria (55%)|
Remington College-Lafayette Campus (74%)
Remington College-Baton Rouge Campus (77%)
Remington College-Shreveport Campus (79%)
Northwest Louisiana Technical College-Mansfield Campus (100%
|Massachusetts||75%||Becker College (62%)|
Bay State College (67%)
Dean College (68%)
Lasell University (70%)
Lasell College (76%)
|Michigan||71%||Rochester College (41%)|
Finlandia University (45%)
DeVry University-Michigan (70%)
Kirtland Community College (100%)
Schoolcraft College (100%)
|Minnesota||80%||University of Minnesota-Rochester (54%)|
McNally Smith College of Music (65%)
Dunwoody College of Technology (76%)
Herzing University-Minneapolis (77%)
Bethany Lutheran College (78%)
|Missouri||83%||Cox College (55%)|
Cottey College (71%)
St Louis College of Health Careers-Fenton (79%)
Southeast Missouri Hospital College of Nursing and Health Sciences (81%)
East Central College (95%)
|North Carolina||69%||Carolinas College of Health Sciences (17%)|
Louisburg College (42%)
Brevard College (43%)
William Peace University (63%)
Johnson & Wales University-Charlotte (69%)
|New York||67%||Maria College of Albany (16%)|
Phillips Beth Israel School of Nursing (18%)
Crouse Hospital College of Nursing (25%)
Plaza College (30%)
Belanger School of Nursing (42%)
|Ohio||82%||AIC College of Design (60%)|
The modern college of design (66%)
Remington College-Cleveland Campus (73%)
ATS Institute of Technology (75%)
The Christ College of Nursing and Health Sciences (76%)
|Oklahoma||66%||Randall University (53%)|
St. Gregory’s University (53%)
Bacone College (72%)
Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology (77%)
Rogers State University (77%)
|Pennsylvania||77%||Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology (24%)|
Pennsylvania College of Art and Design (36%)
Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences (42%)
Johnson College (43%)
Manor College (45%)
|Puerto Rico||82%||University of Puerto Rico-Utuado (40%)|
EDP Univeristy of Puerto Rico Inc-San Juan (76%)
National University College-Arecibo (77%)
University of Puerto Rico-Carolina (79%)
EDIC College (80%)
|South Carolina||62%||University of South Carolina-Salkehatchie (53%)|
University of South Carolina-Beaufort (57%)
University of South Carolina-Sumter (58%)
University of South Carolina-Lancaster (64%)
Spartanburg Methodist College (66%)
|Tennessee||74%||Watkins College of Art Design & Film (26%)|
Hiwassee College (46%)
Nossi College of Art (50%)
Baptist Memorial College of Health Sciences (54%)
Aquinas College (61%)
|Texas||74%||Vet Tech Institute of Houston (43%)|
Trinity University (44%)
Center for Advanced Legal Studies (50%)
Remington College-Dallas Campus (67%)
Remington College-Houston Campus (69%)
|Virginia||80%||Richard Bland College of the College of William and Mary (53%)|
ECPI University (72%)
ECPI University (84%)
Advanced Technology Institute (90%)
Stratford University (100%)
Colleges With Highest Community College Acceptance Rates
The following colleges have seen some of the highest acceptance rates in Fall 2018 according to an Us News report on community college stats.
- American Samoa Community College: Located in Pago Pago, American Samoa, this community college located in a pristine tropical environment has a hundred percent acceptance rate.
- Broward College: This community college also has a hundred percent acceptance rate, located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
- CUNY—College of Staten Island: the City University of New York or CUNY is a network of colleges among which the Staten Island location has the highest acceptance rate. Located at Staten Island, this college in New York is a great affordable option too.
- Donnelly College: This college at Kansas City, Kansas also accepts 100% of its applicants.
- North Florida Community College: Situated at the happening Madison county in Florida, this college is a great option for students both in and out of state.
Community College Drop Out Rates
Somewhat bleak statistics in this regard show that the dropout rates in community colleges are also quite high. The community college stats are as follows.
- Dropout percentage: Around 43% of students of 2-year degrees in community colleges tend to drop out for many complex reasons.
- Transfer and graduation rates: Not only that, but there are also less than 40% graduate or even transfer students in six years
- Anomalous trends: These numbers are on average thrice the norm.
Community College Graduation Rates
These findings from the NCES show the graduation rates of US community colleges.
- 2-year period: Only 13% of community college students tend to graduate in a span of two years from their respective institutions.
- 3-year period: In a span of three years, however, the graduation rate rises to 22 percent.
- 4-year period: Within four years, around 60% tend to graduate from community colleges.
These statistics do not, however, reflect the transfer rate of community college students.
Community College Vs University Statistics
Whenever there is a conversation about higher education, the topic of community college vs university almost always comes up. A group of people is strong believers in traditional university education as there are prestige and hierarchy associated with the institutions. They tend to look down upon community college students due to this reason. However, another group believes in the opposite—that a community college education is more profitable than a traditional 4-year university degree as it propels students into the job market.
The following community college vs 4-year university statistics can hopefully make that decision easier.
- Location of the institutions: Universities are usually located in isolated areas, smaller university towns, or in locations where living costs can be high. However, considering how many community colleges there are in the US, there is a high chance of one being near your community. This is a shorter commute and lower-cost option for your studies and work.
- The convenience of schedule: Community colleges are great for parents or working professionals due to the ease of schedule compared to universities. Universities are extensive study environments; every semester is jampacked with classes and academic activities. In comparison, community colleges are designed for part-time and non-standard studies. Some four-year colleges having a greater student body may have a part-time study option, but that may not be feasible for you.
- Tuition and other costs: Student loans are a truly American scourge. It is estimated that Americans owe a sum of around $3 trillion in student loans alone. However, there is good news for community college students whose costs are around $5000 cheaper than in-state university students. Even for some private universities, this cost gap stands at $20,000, making community colleges significantly cheaper.
- Employment opportunities: Employers looking for potential employees in the technical sector prefer students of community colleges. Some of these professions include but are not limited to nurses, technicians, early childhood development personnel, radiologists, etc. Graduates of such programs who are particularly from engineering fields may earn up to $50,000 every year. However, if you would like to study vast disciplines such as architecture, medicine, fine arts, civil engineering and would like to move to academic research, it is best to choose the university as a destination.
Interesting Community College Facts
- Total number: The number of community colleges in the US till 2017 is 1051. Among them, there are 35 tribal origin colleges, 941 registered public colleges and the remaining 75 are not fully independent yet.
- Acceptance rate: The average acceptance rate for community colleges in the US is 77%.
- Cost of studies: The yearly savings made by community college students is from $5000 to $20,000 compared to university students.
- Age matters: Community college students’ lower age average is 23 while the higher average is 29 years of age.
- Part-time employment: Around 60% of US community college students are employed part-time in different jobs.
- Studying for free: For qualified students, community college tuition is free in seven states through the College Promise program. There are also ample opportunities for aid.
- Accommodation facilities: Among the US community colleges, only 28% have on-campus accommodation.
Since community college students can study on a more flexible schedule, it is possible for them to search for part-time work opportunities and have overall more financial stability. The numbers appearing in our community college students’ statistics are hence quite high. They come from various financial backgrounds and have diverse needs.
In some ways, community colleges can be more convenient for part-time students and those coming from low-income backgrounds. Besides, the two-year degree accelerates entry into a job market. In terms of higher education, it is not a dead-end either; one can easily transfer to a traditional university offering a 4-year bachelor’s degree. We hope these community college stats helped you to decide what you ultimately choose for yourself.
Frequently Asked Questions
What percentage of U.s undergraduates attend a community college?
Around 34% of undergraduate students attended community college in Fall 2017. Among them, 58% were part-time and 17% were full-time students.
How much does community college cost?
Community college tuition fees are significantly lower than university fees. The American Association of Community Colleges states that the average tuition per year for community colleges is $3,347. University tuitions stand at $9,139 on average for domestic students.
What is the average age of community college students?
The average age of community college students is 29 years. Since the programs are working-professional friendly, people tend to enroll in community colleges alongside their work. Mid-career professionals also prefer a community college degree.
What kind of students go to community college?
Community colleges are the first choices for mid-career professionals, parents, and other individuals who want to get a boost in their careers. Those who want to join the workforce after two years of study may also choose community colleges. Low-income students from diverse racial backgrounds have made US community colleges their home.
Is going to community college worth it?
This depends on your future goals. If you are interested in technical fields and hands-on experience, community colleges are great options. You can shift to a 4-year university, a community college transfer rates are quite high. Community colleges offer great value for money education that gets you career-ready.