What’s the Difference Between Junior College and Community College?

Eye on EducationIt’s a common question that even some college professors wouldn’t be able to answer confidently.

What’s the difference between junior college and community college?

Before we delve into the question, let’s take a quick look at the history of both community and junior colleges.

Junior colleges came first. In the 1920s, educators began experimenting with institutions of higher learning that were more accessible to a wider range of students. Students could stay closer to home for two years before transferring to a traditional college or university. Originally, many junior colleges were an extension of the local high schools, but as they got bigger, they expanded to their own campuses.

In the 70s, the term “junior college” began to lose prominence, since these colleges began catering to the community as a whole instead of simply serving as a two-year prep school. Community colleges have always provided services for the community, including continuing education and adult classes, and vocational degree programs for job training, while still providing college prep and associate degree programs.

Depending on where you live in the country, you’ll still hear both terms but in today’s world we can conclude that:

Junior colleges and community colleges are essentially the same thing.

In large cities like Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles, community colleges are often referred to as city colleges. Additionally, New Jersey community colleges are sometimes called county colleges. No matter what you call them – junior, city, community, or county – their functions are all the same.

The term “junior college” is especially prevalent in the Midwest and with community colleges that have expansive sports programs. These schools are often referred to as “Jucos.”

According to the National Center for Educational Studies,  there are over 1,700 two-year colleges today, which make up 44% of all educational institutions in the U.S. And their popularity is growing, so it’s about time we got the terminology straight.

Tell us: Where are you from and what do they call them in your area?

6 responses to “What’s the Difference Between Junior College and Community College?

  1. I was always under the impression that a junior college was more of a college prep type of school and I had no idea that you could earn an Associates Degree at a junior college. Thank you for teaching me something new today : )

  2. I love the community college concept. I think we should all be able to enter into the academic world without the pressures or expense of universities.

  3. I picked up an AA at a “JC” in Elementary Ed before moving on to Cal State. Got my undergrad work out of the way so I could focus on my major. The “JC” or Community College is a great stepping stone and a place to sharpen up one’s study habits.

  4. Very interesting, great explanation of the differences between the colleges. I had no idea ;)

  5. Anita Fiander

    Learned something new today. I didn’t know the differences between the two colleges. Thanks:)

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