In Canada and the United States, a community college, sometimes called a junior college, is an educational institution providing post-secondary education and lower-level tertiary education, granting certificates, diplomas, and associate's degrees. The name derives from the fact that community colleges primarily accept, and attract, students from the local community.
Community colleges have "open admission"; that is, anyone may be admitted. They are supported with public funds, and their tuition costs substantially less than that of a traditional four-year public or private college or university. For these reasons, low-income students and students not yet academically prepared for a university curriculum are attracted to community colleges. Community college students can range in age from teenagers in their junior and senior years of high school to transfer students in mid-20s, to working adults taking classes at night to complete a degree. Though juniors and seniors from high schools are usually allowed, it is technically possible for all K-12 students under the policy, commonly known as "Concurrent Enrollment".
Community colleges generally offer both two-year study programs towards an Associate's degree or diploma or a college transfer program in which a student takes necessary courses needed to qualify for admission to a four-year college or university. Thus, for students who wish to obtain a bachelor's degree at a four-year college but fail to meet academic standards for attending college upon graduation from high school can use the community college system to obtain the necessary requirements to attend the college of their choice. Community colleges also offer certificates for completing vocational training in a wide variety of technical or otherwise specialized fields such as nursing. A certificate generally takes less than two years to complete, and students who earn a certificate usually enter straight into the workforce.
Community colleges also offer a number of services to other members of the community, such as job placement, adult continuing-education classes, and developmental classes for children.
- For a list of North American community colleges, see List of community colleges
In the United Kingdom, community college is sometimes used to describe further education colleges that provide part-time adult education.