What Should I Choose – Community College or a For-Profit Career College?

The above question is a hard one to sort through for most as the answer lies in one’s preference. It is very important to consider all factors, including but not limited to one’s salary potential as compared to the amount of debt that one will be in after graduation. Both types of colleges are feasible options, but there are a few things to consider when choosing a community versus a for-profit college. As a disclaimer, this is based on my own experience. I do not have a preference for either one as I have attended both types of institutions.

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Community colleges are publicly owned and receive the bulk of their funding from local and state governments in the form of subsidies. For-profit colleges are privately owned and receive their funding from student aid in the form of grants and loans.


A community college is usually governed by faculty and staff who report to the board. The board members have strong ties to the community and often represent employers, employees, and even current students. They are very much vested in the institution and seem to hold the value that it provides to the students and external constituents to a higher degree. Non-profit schools have stakeholders outside of the institution who oftentimes make decisions that are driven by monetary gains.

Difference in Motive

Community colleges exist to serve the student. At the end of the day, the ultimate goal is to provide an environment that is supportive in all aspects of a student’s academic career. They often have services that reach beyond the academic sphere such as mental health, career counseling, various financial-aid services, and scholarships. Private or for-profit schools are generally in the business to make money whereas community colleges’ goal is to break even. This is not to say that private schools are not there to ensure student success; believe me, some are. However, the main goal of a private college is to make money.


Due to the nature of the business, community colleges are generally less expensive than private colleges. In comparison, it could be a drastic difference. For example, it could be as much as a $200 to $300 difference per credit hour. Again, not all private colleges cost that much more, but in general, that is what you are going to see as an average.

I have attended both types of colleges. I will say that I received the biggest bang for my buck at a community college. In the community college, I felt like the instructors cared. They were willing to spend time and teach me. I felt like the money I was paying was actually going toward my education. At a private college, I did not feel like instructors cared as much. They seemed very unwilling to help me; I always felt like I was bothering them. I am not saying that all for-profits are like the one that I attended; all I can do is speak from experience. I would encourage you to do your own research and figure out what you would like to get out of your educational experience

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Elina works full-time at Southeast Community College, running an ASHP-accredited pharmacy technician program, and works part-time for the Arts and Sciences division.

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