The fact that you’re reading this article tells me two things: 1) You’re most likely thinking of getting your higher education, and 2) You’re probably confused about the difference between a junior college and a community college.

That’s to be expected as the term “junior college” is often used interchangeably with “community college,” kind of like how “college” and “university” are often used in the same context, at least here in the United States. Interestingly, it was a desire on the part of this country to upgrade to a new model of schooling that led to the development of junior colleges in the first place.

Quick Background

The American higher education system was built on the standard European model that split students into either trade schools, colleges or universities based on their socioeconomic status. But, being the land of opportunity, America was set on making higher education more accessible to all students, not just the elite class, and so the junior college system was born over 50 years ago.

For the past 50+ years, junior colleges (and scholarships) were previously one of the best ways that students could save big while also getting a solid education.

Unfortunately, that’s not really the case any longer.  Why?

The needs of working adults have changed, and it doesn’t provide the savings nor the accessibility it once did.  We’ll cover that more though, and you can see my article on the truth about How Scholarships Work as well.

**Don’t worry though.  Many new and better methods are available to busy adults to save toward their degree or certification.

In fact, we’re actually going to share a few methods and secret tactics that could help you get your degree or certification and save a TON of money and time, so be sure to read all the way to the end!

What Are Junior Colleges?

In the 1950s, it was becoming increasingly clear that the traditional university model of post-secondary education was not accessible to a majority of students. In many cases, a 4-year education at a university was simply too expensive for families. In other cases, students were not academically prepared to go directly from high school to a traditional 4-year school.

The concept of the junior college (or “JC”) grew out of a desire to allow all students the ability to access higher education. These 2-year institutions acted as a necessary bridge between high school and a 4-year university. During these 2 years, students could prepare academically to enter the world of a university. Families could also take this added time to set more money aside and/or apply for scholarships.

Early Junior College Affiliations with Universities

In those early days, most junior colleges were affiliated with a nearby 4-year university. An agreement was made between the two institutions that upon graduation, the university would accept junior college students without the need for them to meet the rigorous admissions requirements imposed on students entering university as freshmen.

The junior colleges were also governed by the universities they were affiliated with. However, as junior colleges became more popular, they eventually broke away from these affiliations and began developing their own governing structures.

Junior Colleges Evolve

In the very beginning, junior colleges were provided accreditation by their affiliated university. This gave the college’s Associate’s degree some much-needed legitimacy. As the colleges broke out on their own and began governing themselves, they began to get their own accreditation.

During the 1970s, junior colleges were beginning to be perceived by their communities not just as simple extensions of high school, but as institutions of higher learning in their own right. The education they offered was quality and it became commonplace for students to consider junior colleges as the first two years of a university education instead of an extra two years of high school. This was an important shift.

From Junior College to Community College

As junior colleges continued to evolve over the decades, they eventually transitioned into full-service institutions. These days, most offer Associate-to-career degrees and certificates that can qualify a student for a particular career. Some also offer 4-year degrees in conjunction with 4-year schools without need for the student to leave the 2-year campus.

Because junior colleges now serve the entire community rather than recent high school graduates, they are now typically called community colleges.

How Do You Transfer Credits from a Junior College to a 4-Year School?

You now know that junior colleges are typically referred to these days as community colleges. You also know that many students, both recent high school graduates and adult learners, will use community colleges as a stepping-stone to a 4-year bachelor degree.

If this is the path you think you may be interested in taking, then it’s important to understand the credit system and what you’ll need to do.

Will Your JC Credits Count?

Should you decide to apply to a 4-year college or university, it’s important to first check to see if the credits you’ve earned from your 2-year school will transfer (AKA will count) toward your degree so you can enter as a junior…it’s not always the case, so you have to check!

Sign Up for a Transfer Program

Look for JC that offer transfer programs. These programs include the same varieties of courses you’d take in your first two years at a 4-year university. These programs were designed to help you make the transition.

How Credit Transfers Work

Should you decide to go for your bachelor’s degree and apply to a 4-year school after your time at a junior college, the 4-year school will look at the courses you took and the grades you earned and decide how much credit to give you. Each course you take is worth a certain number of credits, typically 3 credits, and students need to earn enough credits, typically 120, to graduate with a bachelor’s degree.

What Degrees are Offered at Junior Colleges?

Junior colleges offer Associate of Science degrees in disciplines such as law enforcement, nursing, lab technician programs, and medical imaging programs.

These institutions also offer Associate of Applied Sciences degrees in fields like accounting, hospitality, and the electrical trade. These courses typically ready the student to directly enter the workforce, not go on to a 4-year school.

For those students planning to move on to a 4-year university, community colleges confer Associate of Arts degrees that are typically prerequisites for these other 4-year institutions. Areas of study may include computer science, psychology and other disciplines where a 4-year degree is typically required to become employed.

And finally, community colleges also offer diplomas and certificates for careers or skills.

Admission Requirements for Junior Colleges

Traditionally, prospective students only needed a high school diploma or its equivalent to be admitted to most junior colleges. In general, admission into these schools is not very competitive, so everyone who meets the school’s criteria is usually admitted. That being said, there are some professional certification programs that may have some prerequisites. Admission into these programs may pose a bit more challenging.

The Pros and Cons of Junior Colleges

If you are thinking that you may one day like to earn a 4-year degree but are worried you are not financially or academically ready at this point, it makes sense you’re considering a junior college.

Having said that, as with anything, there are pros and cons to going. Let’s look at some of those now.

Junior College PROS

The Cost

One of the benefits of a community college education can be the affordability. Tuition is definitely lower at this institution than at a 4-year university. In fact, according to the College Board, the national average for a semester at a community college is less than $3,000, and many schools fall well under that figure.

On top of tuition savings, there are also the savings of room and board. 4-year colleges and universities usually require students to live on campus, and this can add on thousands in extra costs. But community colleges do not offer dorms and are usually attended by locals who commute to class.

In other words, it will save compared to 4-years, but still comes with a significant cost. Plus, this doesn’t include the cost of textbooks, commuting costs, and other

We’re about to share one way you can save THOUSANDS of dollars toward your education. Hint: You don’t need room and board. Heck, you don’t even need a car!

Some Flexible Scheduling Options

Community colleges were previously appealing to adult students with jobs and family responsibilities because they offer evening and weekend classes.  However, although this is better than some 4-years, online education has taken over as the preferred method for adults, and as a whole, junior colleges have lagged behind in what they offer.

Smaller Class Sizes

Community colleges are usually smaller than large universities and because of this, class sizes are also significantly smaller. This means community college students can have more direct interaction with professors and other faculty members.

Everyone Gets a Chance at Higher Education

Not all of us graduate high school with a record we feel proud of, or one that will get us into an ivy league school. Community colleges offer many students a “second chance” at a higher education. These two years are your opportunity to get your academic career back on track after perhaps a poor GPA or lousy test scores. Admissions boards typically put far more emphasis on your college career than your high school performance.

Gain a Deeper Understanding of Your Needs and Goals

And finally, another tremendous benefit to going to community college is that it gives students a chance to explore their options to determine what interests them and what they may like to go on and study. Many students that go right to a 4-year school don’t have a solid grasp on the kind of career they really want. And so they end up spending years, and many dollars, chasing a degree that, in the end, isn’t what they really want.

Junior College CONS


Although we mentioned above that it’s a “pro” since it is cheaper than a 4-year…the cost is still high.  When you compare it to other more modern alternatives, $3000 for a year or semester can be a lot!  Again, this doesn’t include many other ancillary expenses like books, transportation to and from school, parking fees, etc.

Limited Curriculums

Compared to a 4-year college or university, community colleges usually have limited curriculums. Because of this, unless a student is looking to enter the workforce immediately, he or she will typically be required to transfer to a 4-year school to remain competitive and marketable when looking for jobs.

Flexible Schedules

Again, although it’s a “pro” since better than some 4-years (although not better than the Adult-friendly online universities we love and talk about), it’s still not good enough for busy adults.

Who can leave work 3 times a week, or leave the family during dinner or nighttime to go to class??

JC’s just haven’t been able to make the courses accessible enough through online education.

Transferring Credits Can Be Challenging

As we mentioned earlier, many community colleges do have close ties to nearby universities and this relationship makes transferring credits fairly easy. But not all community colleges have this relationships, and students can’t assume their credits will transfer. If you do plan to transfer, you should always check with an advisor to make sure your credits will move with you.

Lack of Student Support or Guidance

Finally, JC’s and community colleges are government run entities that just can’t provide all of the support and guidance to students who need it.  It’s often difficult to get access to a counselor, and they don’t provide much in the way of career prep or support.

In Summary

In summary, community colleges are a decent way for students to receive higher education at an affordable price, particularly for those students who plan on transferring to a 4-year school.

But, as we mentioned, community colleges are no longer the BEST way to get your degree and save money. We promised we’d share some other great options and here they are…

Best Alternatives to Junior College


Career certifications have been called a “fast-track” to a career you love and that pays well. Not every student has the budget or time for a 4-year degree. And quite frankly, many students are more interested in gaining skills and entering the workplace much sooner. Getting a bachelor’s or master’s degree is simply not an option or desire for every student.

With career certification, you don’t spend years gaining a little bit of knowledge on this subject and a little bit on that subject. You spend week or months learning ONLY those skills you need to get the attention of prospective employers so you can land a great job and start earning fast.

You could have a program that prepares to be certified and ready for that job in just 3-6 months! That’s a huge appeal.

And speaking of employers, did you know most employers are looking for candidates with skills not necessarily a degree? Earning a degree, from an employer’s perspective, does not necessarily mean that candidate gained the skills needed to fill the position.

But certification programs do one thing and one thing only: teach you the absolute skills necessary to start a specific career. There’s no theory involved, only obtaining the right information to get you a job! can help.  First, check out some of the hottest and best certifications out there and see which might be a good fit for you by Clicking Here >>

If there’s something you like, we’ve gone out and found some of the best programs and organized discounts on your behalf.  All part of our mission to make higher education more affordable for everyone.


The College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) helps students earn college credit for what they already know. These credits are accepted by 2,900 colleges and universities across the country.

Let’s say you are an adult that has been in the workplace for some time already. You’ve already gained knowledge and real-world experience, so in a way, you’ve already received a bit of education. CLEP allows you to demonstrate your mastery of college-level material so you can earn college credits. By earning these credits, you ultimately save thousands of dollars in tuition expenses, student-loan fees, and book costs. Consider that taking the CLEP exam only costs $85 while the average cost of a traditional college course is more than $900.

Free Courses was created for one reason: make higher education more flexible, affordable and possible for adult students. We offer FREE courses that could be applied toward your degree at over 1400 universities across the country.

Wait, what, back up. Free courses?

Yep, 100% tuition-free courses. Take as many as you would like from the comfort of your own home and on your own schedule. You can learn about marketing, computer programming, psychology, education, and much more from excellent professors around the country.

We’ve gone ahead and built relationships with schools around the country that will then give you credit for the free courses you’ve completed. Not only does this give you the ability to save thousands on your degree, it also allows you to potentially earn your degree much, much sooner.

College Discounts

The good news is, there are many colleges and universities across the country that do offer discounts to students to help make education more affordable.

The bad news is, it can take you days, if not weeks, to find them. But we have a better solution.

We’ve gone out and organized all of these discounts for you in one convenient place at  By registering for free, you can get tuition discounts of as much as 25% off at different universities across the country.

Next Step

See how you could utilize these alternatives to college saving by using our platform…free.  See How it Works, or Get Started here, to find schools you like, and get a SmartPlan to see how you could save from the many ways above for particular schools.  We hold your hand to give you all of the options to potentially save!



About the Author
Grant founded with a purpose-driven mission: make college accessible and affordable for everyone. After graduating college with an overwhelming amount of debt, he was determined to change how students embark on their education. He's a frequent speaker and author in higher education, and has been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg Businessweek, Business Insider, American Express, AOL, MSN, Thrive Global, Reader's Digest, Inside Higher Ed, Evolllution, EducationDive, and nearly 100 radio shows and podcasts.