In our Spring 2015 Student Engagement Insights survey, we included a number of questions designed to better understand the needs and experiences of community college students. Among our own questions for this group, we wanted to find out their top reasons for choosing community college over other available educational options.

Nearly 2,700 students who are currently attending community college, or who have already transferred, responded to the question: Why did you opt to attend a community college? Below, we take a look at what they had to say, and summarize some of the trends we observed.

Top five reasons students choose to attend community college

Students’ top reasons for choosing community college

1.  For students who want to save money or time, community colleges present a strong value in education.

Of the students who responded to this question on our survey, the greatest number (69%) said that they chose to attend community college to save money. Meanwhile, 66% told us that they chose their school because it was close to where they live, and 19% responded that the school is close to where they work. Furthermore, 18% of respondents chose community college because of scholarships. These responses confirm what many would naturally assume: that, due to their cost and location, community colleges offer students an excellent value in education.

2. Course offerings and schedules work well for many community college students.

Of our respondents, 46% said that they decided upon their community college because it offered the courses they need or want, and 43% told us that they made the decision because the classes fit their schedule. Additionally, close to one-quarter of respondents (23%) said that the online options are preferable at their community college.

Though much smaller percentages of students told us that they chose because their desired program is community college-based (9%), or that they attended community college to pick up classes they couldn’t get at their primary institution (5%), these options aren’t completely off the radar of those who are looking for programs that suit their particular academic or career goals.

3. Community colleges play an important role in supporting students’ current and future academic success.

As you’d probably expect, many students who choose community colleges view them as a stepping stone to furthering their education or increasing their chances of greater academic success. Over one-third (37%) of students entered community college knowing that they want to transfer to a four-year institution, and 26% want to improve their grades or study skills before attending a four-year institution. What’s more, 35% enjoy the smaller class sizes, which indicates that they value the close student–teacher interaction that they may not receive in a large, lecture-style course.

Discover additional student perspectives on community college

At Cengage Learning, we aim to focus on the student experience. We recently surveyed thousands of college students across the country to help us better understand how students live and learn. In our recently published infographic, we explored and shared “Student Perspectives on Community Colleges.” Take a look and see what else students had to say about their community college experience.


Can you think of additional reasons for choosing community college, which could benefit the student? Share your responses in the comments.

We also invite you to read our recent white paper, which discusses how community colleges are successfully reinventing their mission