Disadvantages of Community Colleges

Transferring credits can sometimes be a problem, as each four-year college has its own requirements for enrollment. However, many four-year colleges (usually near the community college) have made arrangements, known as articulation agreements, allowing associate degrees to qualify for transfer, some cases allowing the student to complete the bachelor's degree via distance learning from the community college campus. Some states have passed rules whereby certain associate's degrees in a field will automatically transfer to state universities as the core curriculum for specified bachelor's degrees. Minnesota and Oregon have created a statewide "transfer curriculum" allowing credits to be transferred to any other public university and almost all of the private colleges. The North Carolina system has a similar agreement, whereby specific courses are designated for mandatory transfer credit to all statewide public four-year institutions. Illinois's I-transfer program program aids students in transferring credits across the state. California has a system known as Assist, which labels course equivalencies between all California Community Colleges and California public four-year colleges. In Arizona, the completion of the Arizona General Education Curriculum, or AGEC, at any Arizona community college guarantees residents of Arizona admission to any public university in the state of Arizona.

It is frequent for many courses to be taught by part-time lecturers holding a master's degree (or bachelor's degree) in the field. Research conducted by the University of Washington's Labor Center suggests that community colleges' reliance on part-time (adjunct) faculty results in lower graduation rates than colleges with a full-time workforce. According to federal statistics, 42% of public community college freshmen take remedial courses, and further studies show that 79% of remedial courses are taught by part-time faculty.

Many community colleges lack on-campus housing (most common in urban area colleges; rural area colleges are more likely to offer such housing due to the overall lack of housing in such areas). This creates so-called 'commuter campuses', in which nearly all students commute to class only, with the campus completely deserted during off-hours. This makes participation in group collaboration exercises and study groups difficult to coordinate, and extracurricular activities suffer as well. In turn, the social benefits of college are essentially lost, which can adversely affect future professional employment opportunities.

Research shows that individuals with Associate's degrees earn less than those with Bachelor's degrees.

Community colleges typically have smaller libraries than universities, possibly reducing the research opportunities of their students (though libraries may be part of an interlibrary loan agreement with other libraries at universities, or community college students may be eligible for privileges at a local university library). Additionally, online academic database subscriptions are widely made available to community college students, which diminishes the disadvantages of the smaller physical circulation capacity of the library itself.

Community colleges might have fewer sections available for students to enroll. For example, there might be only one section in higher physics while a four-year college might have four or five sections of its equivalent. Some equivalent lower-division classes required for the major may not be offered.

There is a historic connotation that community colleges are often considered the schools of last resort, because of their open-admissions policies, which may reflect poorly upon students who were unable to receive admission to a college offering a wider variety of degree programs. Their open-admissions policies have been the subject of sarcastic humor in popular media. However, films such as Rudy have portrayed junior colleges in a positive light.

Many community colleges engage in various Cooling Out processes.