Community College FAQs

Community College Enrollment and Completion

How many students are enrolled in community colleges?

According to a CCRC analysis, community colleges enrolled 8.9 million students in the 2020-21 academic year, representing 41% of undergraduates. In fall 2021, the CCRC analysis found that about 5.7 million students were enrolled in community colleges (36% of fall undergraduate enrollment).

Federal data on public two-year college enrollment underestimates the number of community college students as there are more than 100 community colleges that offer a small number of bachelor’s degrees and are defined by the Department of Education as public four-year institutions. According to this federal data, 6.7 million students were enrolled in public two-year colleges during the 2021–22 academic year, about 32% of undergraduate students. In fall 2022, about 4.5 million students were enrolled in public two-year colleges, 29% of undergraduate students, according to federal data. About 1.5 million were full-time students and 3.1 million were part-time.

The COVID-19 pandemic led to steep enrollment drops at community colleges but enrollment seems to be recovering. The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center estimates that enrollment in public two-year colleges in fall 2023 grew by 4.4% from fall 2022.  

Among all students who completed a degree at a four-year college in 2015–16, 49% had enrolled at a public two-year college in the previous 10 years. Nearly 6% attended public two-year colleges only as high school dual enrollment students. Texas had the most former public two-year college students among bachelor's degree earners in 2015–16 with 75%. Rhode Island had the fewest with 24%.

Developmental Education in Community Colleges

How many community college students enroll in remediation? How does it differ across demographic groups?

According to a New America analysis of federal data, 40% of students at public two-year colleges in the 2019-20 academic year had ever taken a developmental course, compared with 56% of students surveyed in 2015-16. At public four-year colleges it was 25%. Black, Hispanic, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander students were overrepresented, with 50% of Black students, 45% of Hispanic students, and 44% of Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander students ever having taken a developmental course.

Among students who started at public two-year colleges in 2013–14, 60% took one or more remedial courses within three years. They took an average of 2.9 courses. That compares with 32% of public four-year college students, who took an average of two courses.

Federal data indicate that 68% of students beginning at public two-year colleges in 2003–2004 took one or more remedial courses in the six years after their initial college enrollment; 59% took at least one course in math, and 28% took at least one course in English. At public four-year colleges, 40% of students took one or more remedial courses within six years.

Dual Enrollment and Dual Credit Programs

How many students participate in dual enrollment?

Dual enrollment students (students under the age of 18) were 16% of the enrollment at public two-year colleges in spring 2023. The number of dual enrollment students attending public two-year colleges increased 8% from spring 2022. The number of dual enrollment students in community colleges has grown dramatically in the last several years.

In 2020-21, 1.6 million public high school students were enrolled in dual enrollment or dual credit programs, according to the Department of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection. About two thirds were enrolled at public two-year colleges, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

Former dual enrollment students represented 23% of first-time-in-college, degree-seeking students who started college in fall 2016: 20% of the cohort at public two-year colleges, 26% at public four-year colleges, and 20% at private nonprofit four-year colleges.

Eighty-two percent of public high schools reported that students participated in dual enrollment courses in 2017–18. Funding was provided by the school, district, or state in 78% of schools with dual enrollment, while in 42% of the schools, families or students paid for the courses. In 10% of schools, another entity provided funding.

Online Education

How many community college students take online courses?

Just over 65% of public two-year college students, about 3 million students, took at least one distance education course in fall 2021. Forty percent of public two-year college students were enrolled exclusively in distance education courses. The percentage of students who take distance education courses was growing steadily before the COVID-19 pandemic and then jumped dramatically in fall 2020 but fell in fall 2021.

Community College Costs and Financial Aid

What are the average tuition and fees at community colleges?

In 2023–24, the average published tuition and fees for a full-time student at public two-year institutions nationally was $3,990, compared with $11,260 at public four-year colleges, according to the College Board. After grant aid, full-time students had an average of $330 left for other expenses, well short of the cost of attendance, which was estimated at $15,540.

According to a CCRC analysis of federal data from 2019-20, after accounting for grants, 35% of full-time public two-year college students pay no tuition or receive money to cover other expenses. About 14% pay something but less than $1,000 and 21% pay between $1,000 and $2,500. About 30% pay $2,500 or more after accounting for grants.

Transfer to Four-Year Colleges

How many entering community college students transfer to a four-year college within six years?

While about 80% of entering community college students indicate they want to earn a bachelor's degree or higher, only 32% of community college students who started in fall 2015 actually transferred to a four-year institution within six years. Among community college students who transferred to a four-year college, 75% transferred to public institutions, 19% to private nonprofit institutions, and 6% to for-profit institutions.

Economic Returns to Community College

Do students who complete community college earn more than students who don't?

On average, community college students earn significantly more over their lifetimes than individuals who do not go to community college. Many studies have shown higher earnings for workers who earn community college awards. The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce estimates that graduates with associate degrees make $2 million in lifetime earnings, compared with $2.8 million for bachelor’s degree holders and $1.6 million for full-time workers with a high school diploma. 

But the exact amount varies. It depends on the type and length of the credential and what subject is studied, with fields including engineering and health care leading to higher earnings for associate degree holders. Other factors include whether the student transfers to a four-year college and how well their program aligns to a bachelor's degree, as well as the strength of the labor market.

Based on large-scale studies from six states, the average student who completes an associate degree at a community college will earn $5,400 more each working year than a student who drops out of community college. This estimate adjusts for factors such as the subject studied, college attended, and college GPA.

For more facts on community colleges and postsecondary education, visit:

American Association of Community Colleges—Fast Facts