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What's the Difference Between a Community and State College?

You may have heard the terms community college and state school thrown around, but what's the difference between the two? Our experts have the answers you need.

Rodney MorrisonRodney Morrison
Associate Provost for Enrollment and Retention Management

Stony Brook University
Typically, a community college is nonresidential and supported locally, regionally, and/or by the state government. They offer two- and/or three-year programs and award associate degrees. Many community colleges have articulation agreements with four-year colleges and universities. These agreements allow for a smoother transition from a two-year community college to a four-year college or university. A state school is a public university that receives subsidies from its state, which typically reduces the costs of tuition significantly for its state residents. Costs to attend (before financial aid packages are awarded) generally are lower than private colleges. State universities typically offer bachelor's, master's, and doctoral programs.

Cyndy McDonaldCyndy McDonald
Higher Educational Consultants Association (HECA)

A community college typically offers two years of college classes. It offers courses you can use for general education requirements at a much cheaper price. You can then transfer to a four-year university to finish your bachelor’s degree. Another benefit community colleges offer is certificates or a two-year degree you can use to enter the workforce right away, either intending to return to school later or knowing you only need the basic certification.

Learn more about state schools and if one is right for you in our Public Colleges & Universities section.

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