I am working on a persuasive paper about free college. I am trying to find the opposite of community college. Does anybody know a good word or phrase for this?

  • 5
    Define what you mean by "community college". As Wikipedia says, the term can have different meanings in different countries. You should probably also explain what you mean by "free college" (and "opposite", in this context). May 26, 2016 at 13:37
  • 1
    In my experience in the U.S., "community colleges" are ordinarily low-cost institutions granting only 2-year associate degrees and maybe technical certificates. They often are not completely free, however, and they are not the only institutions that grant 2-year degrees and technical certificates. By itself, the term is too vague to have an opposite per se, at least none any more specific than "other post-secondary institutions".
    – PellMel
    May 26, 2016 at 13:43
  • Please include your own research in your question. May 26, 2016 at 13:56
  • 6
    "Opposite" is not a term that can be applied to everything. What is the opposite of the Eiffel Tower? What is the opposite of food? Community college is a very complex multidimensional phenomenon, while opposite requires a concept with a single dimension, like hot-cold, good-bad, thin-fat, tall-short. May 26, 2016 at 14:06

3 Answers 3


In the United States, the term four-year college or four-year university is used, since a community college here typically grants an associate's (two year) degree.


In the United States, the most direct opposite of community college is residential college or residential campus. From the Free Dictionary:

Adj. 1. residential - used or designed for residence or limited to residences; "a residential hotel"; "a residential quarter"; "a residential college"; "residential zoning" nonresidential - not residential; "the commercial or nonresidential areas of a town"; "community colleges are typically nonresidential"

Note that in the UK and some higher-level US universities, residential colleges are something else; a group of "houses" within the university that each have their own separate identity. But when contrasting community colleges and residential colleges, this meaning would not be inferred.

Note also that there is a very informal term for a college with living facilities, which is sleepaway colleges.


I believe the term typically used is a traditional institution to express community college vs. other schools. Having gone to both a community college and a technical school that offered two-year degrees, I have often seen literature and recruitment representatives refer to UPenn, Drexel, Temple, et al. (I live in the Philadelphia area) as traditional four-year schools.

Edit: To clarify, I had personally observed this convention while working at a Research Organization that focused on education, but many of those papers I am unable to disclose for legal reasons. However, many sites use the term "traditional four-year schools" to compare and contrast with community colleges. Two examples:



While I would think traditional is generally used in contrast to online courses, these are examples of the usage I was describing.

  • There are non-traditional community colleges to be sure, but there are plenty of traditional ones as well with teachers and classrooms and courses and books. Can you demonstrate that this term is used, either by the general public or in educationist circles?
    – choster
    May 26, 2016 at 15:41
  • I have edited my answer to clarify. Hopefully this addresses your question.
    – jaichele
    May 26, 2016 at 19:35

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.