Universities vs Community College: pros and cons

Latinos in STEM


When considering higher education, most STEM students often think of the traditional four-year program at a university. However, another option among students pursuing their bachelor’s degree in STEM is to begin attending community college for the first two years of their program before transferring to another 4 year university to finish their education.

In the 2019-2020 school year,  7.7 million students were enrolled in community college, making up 35% f the total undergraduate population. 


University scholarships and community college scholarships are both forms of financial aid designed to help students cover the costs of their education, but there are several key differences between the two:

  1. Institution Type:
    • University Scholarships: These scholarships are typically offered by four-year colleges and universities. They are aimed at undergraduate and graduate students pursuing degrees.
    • Community College Scholarships: These scholarships are offered by two-year community colleges. They are intended for students enrolled in programs at community colleges.
  2. Academic Programs:
    • University Scholarships: Scholarships at universities often cover a wide range of academic disciplines and majors, including specialized fields and research opportunities.
    • Community College Scholarships: Scholarships at community colleges are usually more limited in scope, as community colleges offer a narrower range of academic programs, primarily focused on general education and vocational training.
  3. Scholarship Amounts:
    • University Scholarships: Scholarships at universities can vary widely in terms of their monetary value. Some university scholarships may be quite substantial and cover a significant portion of tuition and expenses.
    • Community College Scholarships: Scholarships at community colleges are often smaller in comparison to university scholarships. They may cover tuition for a specific number of credit hours or provide a modest amount of financial assistance.
  4. Eligibility Criteria:
    • University Scholarships: University scholarships often have competitive eligibility criteria, including high academic achievements, standardized test scores, extracurricular involvement, and sometimes specific talents or skills.
    • Community College Scholarships: Community college scholarships may have less competitive eligibility criteria, and they may prioritize factors such as financial need or commitment to completing a program at the community college.
  5. Transfer Opportunities:
    • University Scholarships: Some university scholarships may be available to transfer students who have completed coursework at a community college and are continuing their education at a four-year institution.
    • Community College Scholarships: Community college scholarships are typically intended for students who plan to complete their degrees or certifications at the community college.
  6. Duration:
    • University Scholarships: University scholarships can cover a student’s entire undergraduate or graduate program, depending on the terms of the scholarship.
    • Community College Scholarships: Community college scholarships are usually for one or two years of study, as they are meant to support students during their time at the community college.

In summary, the main differences between university scholarships and community college scholarships are related to the type of institution, the range of academic programs, the scholarship amounts, eligibility criteria, transfer opportunities, and the duration of the scholarships. Students should research and apply for scholarships that align with their educational goals and current academic status.

Community colleges and universities each have their own set of advantages and disadvantages. The choice between the two largely depends on your individual goals, circumstances, and preferences. Here’s a breakdown of the pros and cons of each:

Community College:


  1. Cost-Effective: Community colleges are typically more affordable than universities, making them a cost-effective option for students looking to save money on tuition.
  2. Small Class Sizes: Class sizes are often smaller, which can provide a more personalized and supportive learning environment.
  3. Flexible Scheduling: Many community colleges offer a variety of class schedules, including evening and weekend classes, which can be convenient for working students or those with other commitments.
  4. Open Admission: Community colleges often have open admission policies, making them accessible to a wide range of students, including those with lower GPAs or who may not have completed all high school prerequisites.
  5. Transfer Opportunities: Many community colleges have articulation agreements with universities, allowing students to transfer credits and seamlessly transition to a four-year institution.


  1. Limited Degree Options: Community colleges typically offer a narrower range of degree programs compared to universities.
  2. Fewer Extracurriculars: They may have fewer extracurricular activities and research opportunities compared to universities.
  3. Reputation: Some employers or graduate programs may not view a degree from a community college as favorably as one from a university.



  1. Diverse Degree Programs: Universities offer a wide array of degree programs, including specialized and advanced options.
  2. Research Opportunities: Universities are often at the forefront of research and innovation, offering opportunities for students to engage in cutting-edge research.
  3. Extracurriculars: They typically offer a rich variety of extracurricular activities, clubs, and organizations, promoting personal growth and networking.
  4. Strong Alumni Networks: Universities often have strong alumni networks, which can be beneficial for job placement and career advancement.
  5. Higher Degree Levels: Universities provide opportunities to pursue graduate and doctoral degrees in a variety of fields.


  1. Higher Cost: University tuition is usually higher, leading to increased student loan debt for many students.
  2. Large Class Sizes: Introductory classes at universities can be large, potentially leading to less individualized attention.
  3. Competitive Admission: Many universities have competitive admission processes, making it more challenging to gain entry.
  4. Less Flexibility: Universities may have less flexible class schedules, which can be challenging for working students or those with family obligations.

However, although community college is desired for costing less than the cost of attending universities, is still an expensive option. Fortunately, just like any other college, there are still grants and scholarships available for community college students at IOScholarships


María Trochimezuk

Founder IOScholarships

Her determination and hard work paid off as she won grants and scholarships to pay for her entire education. In realizing how time consuming and complicated the process of finding scholarships for STEM diverse students was, María Fernanda created IO Scholarships to make things much easier. She learned first-hand to find, apply for and win scholarships and became an advocate promoting scholarships nationwide.

“IOScholarships was inspired by my own experience as I was very fortunate to access scholarships to attend prestigious universities and realized that more could be done to support minority students especially now as STEM education becomes more important to workforce opportunities,” said María Fernanda Trochimezuk, Founder of IO Scholarships. “IO Scholarships will not only help underrepresented students find scholarships, but level the playing field so all students have the opportunity to achieve their education goals.”

To read the entire article visit NBC News


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STEM Universities vs Community College