The main difference between community colleges and four-year institutions is that most community colleges offer only two-year degrees. Compared to four-year institutions, community colleges typically are cheaper, have much less stringent admissions criteria and offer more flexibility for students who have to work full-time or care for children. They typically have smaller class sizes and professors who are more accessible and focused on teaching. However, they lack the social opportunities that four-year institutions provide.
Academics at community colleges used to be less rigorous than at traditional colleges and universities. Academic standards improved as community colleges began to require professors to hold advanced degrees and hired professors with professional experience.
Professors at four-year institutions primarily focus on research, while community college professors focus almost exclusively on teaching. However, community colleges do not offer the variety in majors as four-year institutions, and the classes may move at a slower pace to accommodate the needs of diverse student bodies.
Community colleges tend to attract non-traditional students who need flexible class schedules and convenient locations. Many students attend community colleges to receive training for specific careers, receive continuing education, pursue personal interests or improve their academics so that they may be accepted at four-year institutions.