Junior or Community College

What is the Difference?

Two-year institutions have historically been known as junior colleges because they were generally lower divisions of private universities. Junior colleges offered general education programs and university transfer programs. Over many years, the name “junior college” has evolved to become “community college.”

Community colleges play a very important role in the U.S. educational system. They have existed for more than a hundred years and offer a variety of educational opportunities for their students. While community colleges initially existed to provide a general liberal arts education, this focus changed over time, and now community colleges focus on programs and services that meet the needs of the local community. This allows for a unique partnership between the community college and its community.

What is a community college?

A community college is a two-year post-secondary (beyond high school) institution that is generally located in an area of the town to meet the needs of specific communities and is funded by public taxes. Community colleges have also created partnerships with local agencies, businesses, and industry for job training and workforce development. In addition, community colleges may have academic agreements with universities that allow students from the community colleges to transfer to a four-year university.

What types of programs are available at a community college?

Community colleges offer a wide variety of academic programs and prepare students for a four-year university by offering the first two years of university education. Many students can fulfill the general education requirements for a university by enrolling in a community college. In addition, community colleges offer job training programs for specific occupations such as nursing, culinary arts, graphic design, fashion design, etc. Students in these types of programs are provided with hands-on training that will prepare them for employment in a specific career. Many community colleges also have English as a Second Language courses or an Intensive English Program for those who wish to improve their English language skills.

What degrees are offered by a community college?

Community colleges offer academic program degrees known as an Associate of Arts (AA) degree or an Associate of Science (AS) degree. Occupational programs may result in an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree. The coursework that is taken as part of the AA or AS degree program generally meets the university admission requirements, making it easier for students to transfer.

Is it possible to transfer to a university after attending a community college?

Yes, it is common for universities to accept students who have previously attended a community college. Many community colleges and universities have entered into agreements with one another, making it easier for students to transfer. Even if an agreement does not exist between a community college and a university, community colleges are accredited and must meet rigid educational standards. This requirement allows the majority of its coursework to be recognized as meeting general university educational requirements.

How can a community college benefit international students?

Community colleges offer international students a friendly environment with many opportunities. Community colleges have a variety of educational programs, and small class sizes that allow for greater interaction and discussion between the student and instructors. In addition, the tuition, fees, and other costs are lower than a university. Community colleges offer many services to support their students, and international students may find it easier to adapt to a new culture and educational system.

Will a university accept credits from a community college?

In general, universities will accept coursework taken at a community college as transfer credit. However, courses must be numbered 100 level or above so that a university can consider them for transfer. The university will evaluate the courses and determine in what manner to apply the coursework at the university level.

How do I apply to attend a community college?

Contact the International Student Office at the community college you wish to attend. The staff will be more than happy to assist you in making your dreams come true.

Editorial provided by Annette Duran, Director of the International Education/Student Center at Phoenix College in Arizona.

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