Nursing School: Community College or University?

Are you familiar with the different types of nursing schools? They give you different degrees at different prices. Some of them take longer than others. Make sure you choose the right one for you. It will make a huge difference.

The different types of nursing schools

Basically, there are three main academic pathways to your goal of becoming a nurse:

  1. State Universities
  2. Community College
  3. Private Nursing School/Technical School


Universities typically have 4-year programs available that give you your Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSN).

Going to a University, you would start with 2 years of general education prerequisites. After that, you then attend two more years in their Nursing Program.

University tuition and fees very greatly, but plan to be paying at least $5000+ per semester if you are a resident of that state. At that rate, for all four years, your total could add up to $40,000 not including room and board.


  • Better opportunity if you’re just coming out of high school.
  • Get your bachelor’s all at once. No transferring, no bridging, and you gain the benefits of a bachelor’s degree.
  • All the benefits of a University. Fun community, big campus, and student support.
  • Optional or no CNA requirement.
  • Reputation. Many universities have a good reputation behind their name. You know they will deliver a good education


  • You don’t get your degree for four years. Not good for people changing careers or with dependent families.
  • May have tougher admission requirements.
  • Expensive tuition and fees, especially if you plan to live on campus.

Read more: Nursing School vs. Surgical Technologist School: Advantages and Disadvantages


Community Colleges are everywhere and very accessible to everyone. They are much cheaper than any other option as well.

A lot of people who are changing careers or getting a degree later in life (not straight out of high school) go to community colleges.

Most community colleges provide a good, solid nursing education. However, make sure your school is a good one.

If you’re worried about measuring your potential school’s quality, take a look at another one of my articles, 8 Signs of a Good (or Bad) Nursing School.

Here’s how most community colleges work:

  • First, you apply for admission to the college itself (not the nursing program). This admission process is usually much easier than a typical University application. There are less requirements and less competition.
  • Second, take your program prerequisites. These are classes you must take before the college will accept you in the nursing program. It will probably take you at least a year (two semesters) to finish your prerequisites for an RN program, and less for an LPN program.
  • Third, apply for the RN or LPN Nursing Program. The program awards you your degree or certificate. These programs can be competitive. You will need to take a pre-entrance exam. Some schools have waiting lists, but many admit students based on entrance-exam scores and your prerequisite grades.


  • Accessible to everyone: new high school graduates, people changing careers, and people with families to support.
  • Choice of taking an LPN or RN nursing program.
  • Less time commitment. LPN (Certification) takes 1-2 years, RN (Associate’s Degree) takes 2-3 years to complete.
  • Price: Much cheaper than any other option.


  • Prerequisites may take time. (A two year RN Program takes 3 years including prerequisites)
  • Most require a CNA Certificate prerequisite, which Universities don’t.
  • High competitition to get into the programs.
  • You will have more schooling to do if you want your BSN or Master’s Degree (MSN).

Read more: Failed The NCLEX? You Might Read This Guide to Succeed


Private Nursing Schools, Colleges of Nursing, and Online Nursing Schools offer any type of nursing program imaginable.

The thing that stands out most about these schools are that they offer many accelerated programs. Some offer BSN degrees in 3 years, Associate’s Degrees in 1-2 years, and many bridges from LPN-RN-BSN.

However, these programs come at a steep price. These types of schools are hands down the most expensive. Here are the published tuition and fees for a few colleges of nursing around the country (2012-2013).

*This is not an exhaustive list. It is not meant to promote these schools. Its purpose is to give you an idea of the general costs of these types of colleges.

CHAMBERLAIN COLLEGE OF NURSINGN/a$56,261$85,301$47,781$30,640
KAPLAN UNIVERSITY$23,410$35,763$55,510N/a$28,350

You see what I mean about the prices? These schools are good if you really want to get your degree quickly. If you are not in such a hurry, considering a community college may be a better option.