International Student Blog

What is the Difference Between a Community College and a University?

What is the Difference Between a Community College and a University?

While many international students come to the United States each year to study abroad, many international students focus on the big universities, or state schools. While the United States is home to many big universities, it is also home to many small schools, known as community colleges. There are also many private schools, and smaller scale schools. There are many differences between big universities and community colleges. If you are an international student and have considered attending a United States community college or are curious as to what the main differences are, we will explain below the major differences between community colleges and big universities.


Perhaps the most significant difference between community colleges and big universities are the cost. While the tuition at many big universities is very expensive, and requires the use of international student loans, community colleges offer an education at a fraction of the price. Many big universities have tuitions per semester that over $10,000, but most community colleges have an annual tuition of less than $10,000.

Even if you do not want to study at a community college for the full term of your degree program, an option for international students is to study for one year or two at a community college, and then transfer those credits to a big four-year university. That way, you are saving some cost, and may need to take less of an international student loan. However, international students should be wary as it is difficult to receive international student loans to study at a community college, and it may also be difficult to get an international student visa to study at a community college.

Admission Requirements

Another major difference between community colleges and top universities in the United States is the admission requirements. International students are familiar with the complex admission requirements for top universities in the United States and how difficult it may be to gain admission. The admission requirements for community colleges are quite a bit more lenient than those of the major universities. The admission requirements are much less strict, if there even are any at all. Many community colleges in the United States have open admissions, or open enrollment. What that means is that if you have a high school degree and complete the application (which mostly asks for personal information and identifying information), you gain admittance into that college. However, some community college programs, such as though for law, or nursing, may have stricter admission requirements.

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While studying at a big university is expensive mainly because of tuition, another major cost of studying abroad at a top university is the cost of lodging. Lodging costs include the fees paid for living in a dorm or paying for living arrangements provided by a school. Most community colleges do not have dorms or provide living arrangements. That means that you are responsible for finding and securing a place to live. Depending on the area, the cost of living varies.

Class Size

The class sizes at universities and community colleges also greatly differ. At a top university in the US, some class sizes can exceed 200. This allows for much more personal learning, as the student to teacher ratio is much more favorable for students. This can be a great benefit to international students whose English proficiency needs improvement. More personal teaching can possibly help international students improve academically.


While this difference may seem obvious, community colleges offer less of a variety of degrees and programs than top US universities do. One main reason for this is that most community colleges offer their programs as two or three-year programs, resulting in an Associate Degree. These programs can be completed either part-time or full-time., allowing for schedule flexibility. Associate Degrees can set you up for some jobs, but most international students use them in order to transfer to a big or top US university.

If you are an international student considering studying at a community college, please be aware of the potential difficult getting an international student loan for community college. Also, be aware of a possible difficulty in getting a student visa for community college. Please contact your potential international student loan provider and visa contact before committing to a United States community college.

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John Romanucci

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