You may have heard the terms “junior college” and “community college” used interchangeably to refer to postsecondary schools that last for two years. But are junior college and community college the same? 

Both “college” and “university” are generally considered interchangeable terms for the same level of education, at least in the United States. So, is the same true with “junior” and “community”?

Below you’ll learn whether junior and community colleges are one and the same. Or do they refer to two different types of schools?  

Are Junior College And Community College The Same?

No, these types of schools are not the same.

In a way, they are similar, yet there are a few noticeable differences. That is why most people often confuse them with each other. 

A junior college is an institution of higher education that offers two years of academic instruction beyond secondary school and technical and vocational training to prepare students for careers.

To make things confusing, some public junior colleges are sometimes referred to as community colleges. (We’ll clear all this up below, we promise!)

To further grasp how they differ, let’s examine the genesis of the name junior college and its original meaning.

The History of Junior Colleges

These schools have existed for more than a century. Historically, these were typically the lesser divisions of private universities.

Junior colleges were initially intended to be a stepping stone of sorts. Their objective was to educate high school graduates who might not have otherwise attended college. The goal was to prepare these students better for a larger institution.

They taught high school students, who struggled with schoolwork, how to thrive in a collegiate setting.

These colleges were not certified in the same manner as their four-year counterparts because they relied heavily on state funding to accept students.

However, the concept eventually caught on and began to spread. As the network of these colleges in the United States expanded, so did their importance. Soon after, they changed how they worked, the services they provided, and the customers they served.

The History of Community Colleges

That change marked the beginning of the system of community colleges. The schools provided courses that matched the needs of the local populations.

The majority of community colleges are tax-funded. They collaborate with local businesses and groups to provide job training that suits the region’s employment needs.

Some offer technical degrees such as vehicle maintenance and welding. Many educate beautician students and nursing students. The institutions provide two-year degrees, such as Associate of Arts, Associate of Science, and Associate of Applied Science, as well as diplomas and certifications with varying time requirements.

Community colleges continue to prepare students for university; some even have arrangements with universities that grant automatic admission to two-year degree recipients. Community-based organizations usually provide adult and community education courses such as computer literacy and art.

How Do The Two Schools Now Differ?

Even though 2-year community colleges originated from the junior college system, these institutions in their original form no longer exist. Community colleges may still be referred to as junior colleges. However, this is entirely inaccurate.

The community college system has expanded far beyond its original purpose of serving high school students. Community colleges are so-named because they serve the entire community.

The majority of students may still be high school graduates. Still, there are also adults who have been in the workforce, parents who have spent the last several years raising children, and even retirees who are looking for new challenges or pursuing a degree now that they have the time and money to do so. In brief, everyone is permitted to attend community college.

The other major distinction is that not all community college students consider the institution as a stepping stone to a four-year institution.

Some community college students will learn a trade (such as nursing) and work toward certification or licensure. Others will pursue degrees online.

Some community college students are only interested in obtaining an associate’s degree, with no desire or need to pursue their education beyond that point.

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