Who are Community College Students?

The typical college student no longer is an 18 to 24-year-old, living on campus and attending one school full time. In fact, that description applies to only one in six undergraduate students in the United States.
Community college students, comprising almost half of U.S. undergraduates, typically are older, and they have more varied educational goals.(1) They also are more likely than the “traditional” student to attend college part time, commute to school, work, care for dependents, and be financially independent. This means that students have to work harder to achieve their academic goals, and colleges have to address significant challenges to retain and educate them.(2)

student reading

According to the American Association of Community Colleges, (as of 1997):

  • During the 1996-97 academic year, more than 9 million students took credit courses

  • 46% of all first-time college freshmen attended community colleges

  • 63% of community college students attended part time

  • 58% were female

  • Minority students accounted for about 30% of community college enrollment (varies greatly by area)

  • More than half of all undergraduates with disabilities attended community colleges

  • 60% were over 21 years of age

  • 16% were older than 40

  • Nearly 50% of all community college students worked full time

  • 30% of full time community college students also worked full time

(1) Statistics from National Profile of Community Colleges: Trends and Statistics, Third Edition (2000), available from Community College Press.

(2) Engaging Community Colleges - Community College Survey of Student Engagement (2002 Findings), Community College Leadership Program
The University of Texas at Austin.