Community College FAQs

Community College Enrollment and Completion

How many students are enrolled in community colleges?

Federal data indicate that 7 million students were enrolled in public two-year colleges during the 2020–21 academic year, about 33% of undergraduate students.

In fall 2020, about 4.8 million students were enrolled in public two-year colleges, 29% of undergraduate students. About 1.6 million were full-time students, and 3.1 million were part-time.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to steep enrollment drops at community colleges. The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center estimates that 4.2 million students were enrolled in public two-year colleges in spring 2022, down 7.8% from spring 2021. That's on top of a 10% drop from the year before.

However, these studies underestimate the number of community college students, as about 100 community colleges offer a small number of bachelor’s degree programs and are listed in federal data as four-year institutions. According to a CCRC analysis correcting for this misclassification, 6.7 million students were enrolled at community colleges in fall 2017, and nearly 10 million students enrolled at a community college at some point during the 2017–18 academic year, about 44% of undergraduates.

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?

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.

At public two-year colleges, 78% of Black students, 75% of Hispanic students, and 64% of White students took remedial courses. Of students in the lowest income group, 76% took remedial courses, compared with 59% in the highest income group.

Dual Enrollment and Dual Credit Programs

How many students participate in dual enrollment?

In 2010–11, approximately 1.4 million students took dual enrollment courses. Seventy-six percent of schools reported that students took dual enrollment courses with an academic focus, and 46% reported that students took dual enrollment courses with a career or technical-vocational focus.

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.

Among students who started ninth grade in 2009, 34% ever took a dual enrollment course. White and Asian students were more likely to take dual enrollment courses than Black and Hispanic students.

Former dual enrollment students represented 19% of first-time-in-college, degree-seeking students who started college in fall 2014: 17% of the cohort at community colleges, 23% at public four-year colleges, and 17% at private nonprofit colleges.

Online Education

How many community college students take online courses?

Just over 70% of public two-year college students, about 3.3 million students, took at least one distance education course in fall 2020. Forty-eight percent of public two-year college students were enrolled exclusively in distance education courses. The percentage of students who take distance education courses had been growing steadily and jumped dramatically in fall 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Community College Costs and Financial Aid

What are the average tuition and fees at community colleges?

In 2021–22, the average published tuition and fees for a full-time student at public two-year institutions nationally were $3,800, compared with $10,740 at public four-year colleges. After grant aid, students had an average of $660 left for other expenses, well short of the cost of attendance.

According to a CCRC analysis of federal data from 2018, after accounting for grants, 41% of full-time public two-year college students pay no tuition or receive money to cover other expenses. About 12% pay something but less than $1,000 and 21% pay between $1,000 and $2,500. About 26% 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 31% of community college students who started in fall 2014 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