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Community College Statistics

Report Highlights: 

  • 8.2 million college undergraduates were enrolled in a public two-year college during the 2018 to 2019 school year.
  • 64.2% are part-time students.
  • Over 1/3 of undergraduate students are made up of community college students.
  • About 66% of undergraduates have enrolled in a community college at some point after completing high school.
  • Among all of the students who began college in the fall semester of 2018 at a public two-year community college, only 62% of them were still enrolled at any collegiate institution by the fall of 2019.
  • Of the total students, only about 54% returned to the same community college a year later.
  • 55% of community college students are female, and 45% are male. These percentages have stayed about the same from 2008 to 2016.
  • About 33% of students in community college received a federal Pell Grant in 2016.
  • From 2015 to 2016, 49% of all students who have completed their undergraduate studies and obtained their bachelor’s degree first enrolled in a community college first.

community college statistics

Community College vs. University Statistics

Many students face the difficulty of deciding whether they should attend a local community college or a four-year institution. Comparing the data between the two can provide insight into whether one is better than the other. Attending community college or a four-year university has its pros and cons.

  • On average, the total cost of tuition and fees for community college costs is about $3,600 per year for a full-time study.
  • On average, a community college student who graduates with an associate degree will earn $5,400 more annually compared to a college dropout.
  • There are 942 community colleges in the United States, and about 12.4 million students are enrolled in them.
  • The average annual cost for community college tuition from 2016 to 2017 was $9,674. In comparison, a public four-year college had tuition of around $23,705. For private four-year colleges, it had a high average annual tuition of $48,865.
  • Community college students who decide to attend a two-year college instead of a four-year institution can save upwards of about $30,000 in potential student debt.
  • Community colleges have much smaller class sizes, ranging from about 25 to 35 students per class. In comparison, four-year institutions have many introductory classes that seat over 300 or more students.
  • Students who graduated from a four-year university had a median outstanding debt upwards of $25,000, according to the 2016 data from the Pew Research Center.
  • However, students with less than a bachelor’s degree only had a median outstanding debt of $10,000.
  • Post-graduate degree students have a median debt upwards of $45,000.
  • 82% of students in for-profit institutions and 60% of students enrolled in public four-year colleges have taken out student loans.

Here are some interesting characteristics of college students pertaining to their job status, students who received a Pell Grant, and students who have applied for some form of financial aid from 2011 to 2012.

Applied for Aid

Public 2 Year Public 4 Year Private Nonprofit 4 Year For-Profit Total
Federal 61% 71% 76% 87% 70%
Any 70% 82% 89% 95% 80%
Percentage Receiving Pell 38% 38% 36% 64% 41%

Job While Enrolled in Schools – All Students

Public 2 Year Public 4 Year Private Nonprofit 4 Year For-Profit Total
No Job 31% 35% 36% 39% 34%
Part-Time 36% 46% 46% 25% 39%
Full-Time 33% 20% 18% 36% 27%

Job While Enrolled in School – Dependant Status

Public 2 Year Public 4 Year Private Nonprofit 4 Year For-Profit Total
No Job 31% 39% 40% 42% 36%
Part-Time 47% 51% 53% 37% 49%
Full-Time 21% 11% 8% 21% 14%

Job While Enrolled in School – Full- Time Students

Public 2 Year Public 4 Year Private Nonprofit 4 Year For-Profit Total
No Job 37% 39% 39% 40% 39%
Part-Time 40% 51% 50% 26% 43%
Full-Time 23% 12% 11% 34% 18%

Job While Enrolled in School – Part-Time Students

Public 2 Year Public 4 Year Private Nonprofit 4 Year For-Profit Total
No Job 28% 25% 27% 36% 28%
Part-Time 33% 37% 32% 24% 34%
Full-Time 38% 37% 42% 41% 38%

Demographics of Community College Students (Age, Race, and Income)

When analyzing the demographics of community college students, there are plenty of factors to consider. This includes the percentage of students from low-income families and their ethnicity, such as white, Asian, black, or Hispanic.

  • From 2011 to 2012, roughly 55% of dependent students with a family household income of below $30,000 started with community college. Only 23% of students who had household incomes of $106,000 or more attended community colleges.
  • In total, out of all college students, 44% of undergraduates are enrolled in community colleges.
  • From 2018 to 2019, the ethnicity of community college students can be broken down into 45% white, 25% Hispanic, 13% black, and 7% Asian.
  • Hispanics have seen the most significant increase in the attendance of community colleges, up 10% since 2008.
  • In addition, White students are the majority; however, their percentage dropped by 10%.
  • In 2016, over 25% of community college students had dependent children.
  • 15% of these college students had dependent children that are ages six years or older.
  • About one-third are first-generation students to attend college.
  • Below is a table representing the percentage of college students based on their income level and whether they are categorized as a dependent or an independent during the 2015 to 2016 academic school year.
Income Dependent Independent Overall
Below $20,000 23% 47% 37%
$20,000 to $49,999 28% 31% 30%
$50,000 and above 49% 22% 33%

Enrollment Statistics

The Columbia Community College Research Center performed their research when it comes to how many students attend community colleges. However, there are roughly 100 community colleges that offer some form of bachelor’s degree programs. As a result, it’s listed in the Provisional National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) as a four-year institutional college.

  • During the fall of 2018 academic semester, about 5.6 million students were enrolled in a public two-year college. Of that group, 3.6 million students were part-time, and only 2 million were full-time students.
  • In reference to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, in the fall of 2020, at public two-year colleges, there were 4.8 million students enrolled. This was a 10% decline compared to just a year prior in the fall of 2019.
  • Suppose you adjust for community colleges that also offer bachelor’s degree programs, 6.7 million students enrolled during the fall 2017 semester. In addition, about 10 million college students enrolled in community colleges during the entire 2017 to 2018 academic school year.
  • In 2016, about 44% of community college students were enrolled full-time, while 56% of them were enrolled part-time.
  • In 2016, about 46% of undergraduates were enrolled in community colleges, which totaled over 8.5 million students.
  • 31% of undergraduates were enrolled in public four-year universities and colleges.
  • 15% were enrolled in private nonprofit four-year colleges, and 8% attended private for-profit institutions.

Average Age of Community College Students

Typically, the average age of community college students is much older than a typical undergraduate from a four-year institution. These facts came from the U.S. Department of Education and the American Association of Community Colleges.

  • In 2016 to 2017 academic year, roughly 51% of community college students are 21 years old or younger.
  • Nearly 40% of students are in the age range of 22 to 39.
  • About 10% of students are 40 years and older.
  • In 2016, the average age of community college student was 27 years old.

Transfer to Four-Year Institutions

A community college is designed for students to get in and out of in a relatively short period. As a result, some students transfer before finishing their associate’s degree, while others transfer to a four-year college once they’ve completed their associate’s degree. In addition, some students may obtain their degree and elect not to further their education through a four-year institution.

  • 80% of college students entering community college have indicated that they desire to obtain a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • However, only 31% of community college students that have started in the Fall semester of 2013 have transferred to a four-year college within six years.
  • Of the community college students who did transfer to a four-year institution, about 6% attended a for-profit institution, 19% moved to private nonprofit institutions, and 75% of them transferred to public institutions.
  • Unfortunately, 43% of a community college student’s credits are lost when transferring from one college to another. This averages out to about 13 credits lost per community college student. Even then, some credits that are accepted are applied as elective credit.
  • 40% of all undergraduate students have transferred at least one time within six years of enrolling.

How Many Community College Students Obtained Their Bachelor’s Degree Within Six Years of Starting Community College?

Tracking the progress of community college students is important because they indicate whether or not they actually obtained their goal of earning a bachelor’s degree. Here are facts relating to community college students earning their bachelor’s degree.

  • Out of the 31% of community college students who have successfully transferred to a four-year college, 46% of them were able to earn a bachelor’s degree within the six-year time frame.
  • In other words, 14% of the total students entering community college in 2013 successfully earned a bachelor’s degree in six years.
  • 44% of community college students that transferred to four-year public institutions completed their bachelor’s degree in six years.
  • 33% of community college students who transferred to nonprofit four-year colleges earned their bachelor’s degree.
  • 9% of the students who transferred to private for-profit four-year colleges got their bachelor’s degree within six years.
  • 64% of transfer college students who chose to enroll for full-time study obtained their bachelor’s degree.
  • In comparison, only 42% of college students who switched between a full-time and part-time study obtained their bachelor’s degree.
  • About 5% of students that were exclusively enrolled part-time obtained their bachelor’s.
  • 53% of higher-income transfer students obtained their bachelor’s degree, while 39% of low-income transfer students earned theirs.

How Many Community College Students Who Transferred to a Four-Year Institution Earned an Associates Degree?

Depending on the student’s end goal, they may choose to obtain an associate’s degree or simply bypass it. Typically, those who want to earn an associate’s degree are more likely to test the workforce before they decide whether they want to further their education. Students who have decided ahead of time that they want to get their bachelor’s degree are more likely to skip earning their associate’s degree.

  • From 2018 to 2019, 22% of college students who earned their bachelor’s degree also had earned their associate’s degree first.
  • For transfer students that went from a community college to a four-year program, 41% of them earned a certificate or associate’s degree before obtaining their bachelor’s degree.

Financial Aid

The American Association of Community College did a full report on their findings regarding the trends and statistics of community colleges. Here are the stats regarding financial aid received from students from 2003 to 2004.

The total financial aid received by public community college students in 2003 to 2004, depending status:

College Type and Dependency Status Total Aid Grants  Loans (excluding PLUS) Work-Study Federal Aid Federal Grants  Federal Loans State Aid 
Dependent $3,154 $2,415 $2,853 $1,915 $2,923 $2,334 $2,460 $1,206
Independent, unmarried $3,424 $1,866 $4,436 $2,194 $3,764 $2,022 $4,212 $1,076
Independent, married $2,244 $1,399 $4,072 $1,700 $3,163 $1,815 $3,808 $1,086
Independent with dependents $3,291 $2,194 $4,022 $2,183 $3,544 $2,261 $3,936 $1,041
Total $3,177 $2,161 $3,638 $2,047 $3,331 $2,240 $3,412 $1,116

Dual-Credit and Dual Enrollment Programs

Dual enrollment programs enable high school-aged students to attend college classes at a local community college while still enrolled in high school. These classes will count for both high school and college credit.

  • About 1.4 million students took dual credit or dual enrollment courses in 2010 through 2011.
  • 46% of these students took dual-credit courses for technical vocational purposes.
  • 76% of these students took dual enrollment courses for academic focus.
  • From 2017 to 2018, 82% of public high schools have stated they have students participating in dual-credit courses.
  • 42% of schools with dual enrollment require families to pay for these courses, while the school funded the others, state or district.
  • In a CCRC study, 200,000 high school students who took dual enrollment programs in high school found 88% of them continued into college after high school.

Community College Costs

Community college tuition is more affordable than all other types of college sectors. This includes public four-year and private four-year institutions.

  • From 2020 to 2021, the average community college tuition and fees for full-time students average out to $3,770 nationally.
  • In comparison, public four-year colleges cost around $10,560 annually.
  • In reference to the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study from 2015 to 2016, about 44% of full-time community college students either receive some money to cover expenses or have their full tuition paid for.
  • About 14% pay over $3,400 for grants, about another 14% pay under $1,100 after grants and aids.
  • Roughly 80% of community college students work, and 39% of them work full-time.
  • However, only 2% of these students receive Federal Work-Study aid.
  • 47% of independent community college students and 23% of dependent community college students have a family income of under $20,000.
  • From 2015 to 2016, about 36% of community college students have taken out a loan. 12% have borrowed over $13,500 in loans, and 24% have borrowed under $13,500.
  • From 2015 to 2016, among the community college students who did obtain their associate’s degree, 59% didn’t take any student loans.
  • 13% had over $20,000 in student loans and 30% had under $20,000 in loans.
  • About 26% of community college students borrowed for student loans default within 12 years of entering community college.

Community College Online Education

For many students, online education has been a popular route. Today, many community colleges offer online education, especially for those who have other obligations such as raising a child, taking care of family members, or working odd hours in the day.

  • In the fall of 2018, 1.9 million two-year college students took at least one online course.
  • 21% of community college students enrolled in some online classes, while 14% were exclusively online.
  • The Washington State community and technical college found that completion rates for online classes were about 5.5 percentage points less than in-class courses.

Developmental Education

Community college is often a place where college students who have previously dropped out or failed in some courses come back for remedial courses. Many students come back intending to obtain a degree.

  • From 2013 to 2014, 60% of community college students took at least one remedial course within three years of entering.
  • At public two-year community colleges, about 48% of students took two or more remedial classes within six years of entering.
  • 78% of black community college students, 64% of white, and 75% of Hispanics have taken remedial courses.
  • One 2006 study done by the National Educational Longitudinal Study found that 28% of students who have taken a remedial course go on to graduate with a college degree within 8.5 years.

Source: 

  1. https://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/Community-College-FAQs.html#:~:text=In%20fall%202018%2C%205.6%20million,down%2010%25%20from%20fall%202019
  2. http://perspectives.acct.org/stories/diversity-of-community-college-students-in-7-charts
  3. http://www.aacc21stcenturycenter.org/article/a-quick-look-at-community-college-fast-facts/
  4. https://blog.hocking.edu/community-college-vs-university-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly
  5. https://www.higheredtoday.org/2019/06/26/erasing-community-college-stigma/
  6. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED494034.pdf#page=18
  7. https://valenciacollege.edu/students/undergraduate-research/documents/trends-in-community-colleges-research-brief.pdf