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College Planning Center

More and more students are enrolling in community colleges across the nation, even as media attention focuses mostly on selective four-year colleges. Why are students choosing community colleges, and should you consider a community college as a part of your college search?


The Economic Option

One reason for the growing popularity of community colleges is their relatively low tuition. Overall, the average cost of public community colleges is less than half the cost of public four-year colleges and about one-tenth the cost of private four-year colleges. As a result, students who spend two years at a community college and then transfer to a four-year college spend less money for the same bachelor's degree as their classmates.


The Associate's Degree Option

Of course, the two-year associate's degree is a goal in itself for many community college students. Community colleges offer a wide variety of programs that train students to work in specialized fields, such as dental hygiene, computer technology, nursing, and culinary arts. "The push for everyone to go to a four-year college ignores the fact that not everyone is suited by talent or interest to spending four years studying many of the same subjects they hated in high school," says Shapiro. "In two years, students can get training for a fulfilling and well-paying career."


The Transfer Option

For students who want the four-year degree, community colleges work with four-year colleges to make sure that students can make a smooth transfer. Most community colleges maintain transfer or "articulation" agreements with a number of four-year colleges. These agreements map out exactly which community college courses will transfer to a specific four-year college. They may even guarantee admission as a junior to students who fulfill certain course work and grade requirements. Many students use their two years at community college to improve their chances of getting into a more selective four-year college. "Almost no colleges will look at your SATs or high school grades after you complete community college. Community college offers an opportunity to prepare for a bachelor's degree program at a university you might have been unable to be accepted to out of high school," notes Scott White, a counselor at Montclair High School (NJ). Instead, you will be measured by your performance at the community college. This is good news for students with less-than-stellar high school records.


The Flexible Option

Most community colleges cater to students of all ages and backgrounds. As a result, you'll often find more options in class scheduling, including evening and weekend classes. Distance learning is also one of the strengths of community colleges, with a variety of courses offered online, by correspondence or by other alternative methods (such as televideo and online ).

The California Community College system:

The California Community College system:

 The California Community College system will admit any student who is a high school graduate or is 18 years of age or older.

Students who hold a California State High School Proficiency Certificate are also eligible for acceptance to a community college. It is recommended that students planning to attend a community college still follow the course requirements for Pioneer High School graduation and include as many UC and CSU entrance requirements as possible. Every College Preparatory course passed in High School is one less course students will need to take at College. All California Community Colleges administer Math and English assessments to determine the appropriate level for new students to begin their college coursework.  Woodland Community College uses “self-assessments” to help students determine what their appropriate Math & English placement should be.


Non-local Junior Colleges: By agreement, California Community Colleges do not recruit high school students outside of their geographic area, but they do welcome students from throughout the state at each of their campuses. If students are is interested in attending a non-local junior college, it will be necessary to contact the admissions office of that school to obtain applications and to schedule them for assessment, registration and orientation.


Transferring to 4-year Colleges and Universities: A community college student may transfer to the University of California with junior standing if he/she completes the (IGETC) pattern of approved transferable courses, with a grade point average of at least 2.4. Of course, some UC campuses are more competitive than others to transfer to.


RIGHT GOLD ARROWGo here for detailed information about transferring to a school within the UC system


RIGHT GOLD ARROWGo here for detailed information about transferring to a school within the CSU system



 The Intersegmental General Education Transfer Curriculum (IGETC):


IGETC is the pattern of courses that California Community College students can use to fulfill the lower-division general education requirements at any CSU or UC campus. The IGETC requires completion of a minimum of 37 semester or 49 quarter units of lower division work with a C grade or better in each course (C- is not allowed). The UC & CSU systems have developed agreements with each California community college that specify which of its courses may be applied to each category of the IGETC. Students must complete the IGETC before they transfer to a UC or CSU; otherwise they will be required to satisfy the specific lower division general education requirements of the college or school at the UC campus they attend.


The Subject Requirements of the IGETC are as follows:

  • Area 1 - English Communication

  • Area 2 - Mathematical Concepts and Quantitative Reasoning

  • Area 3 - Arts and Humanities

  • Area 4 - Social and Behavior Sciences

  • Area 5 - Physical and Biological Sciences


For more information about how the UC & CSU systems use the "IGETC" go to the following websites:


RIGHT GOLD ARROWUniversity of California IGETC

RIGHT GOLD ARROWCalifornia State University IGETC


The ASSIST website maintains a database that allows parents and students to check the transferability of community college credits to all of the California State Universities (CSU) and the University of California (UC). This is the official articulation site for the California Community College, the CSU and UC. Transfer agreements & IGETC courses between these institutions are available at this website. It can be accessed at: