Community college honors programs can be a great way to attend a two-year college at a lower cost while still getting an excellent education.

With tuition skyrocketing at most four-year universities, some students just can't afford their hefty price tag. And other students aren't ready for life at a big university. Although community colleges are often seen as training grounds for skill-specific industries, more and more students are turning to two-year colleges to meet their educational goals.

The advantages of a community college

Beginning higher education at a two-year college makes sense financially. Tuition at a two-year college is often much lower than at any four-year school, and students can save money on room and board by living at home and commuting to class.

Community colleges have classes that are much smaller than those at a four-year school, so students can build both an academic record, as well as confidence in a safe environment close to home. Starting their studies at a junior college eases students into college life, helping them figure out what they're good at, what they're capable of, and what they want to do.

Honors programs at community colleges

Students who may be well suited for the intellectual climate at a four-year school can also find the challenging curriculum they need at a community college. Honors programs have been going strong at junior colleges for more than a decade. Of the more than 800 schools belonging to the National Collegiate Honors Council, about 20 percent are community colleges. In fact, more than a third of two-year colleges offer honors programs equal to any honors track found at a smaller university.

Honors programs at most two-year schools prepare students to continue their studies at a four-year school and a growing number of students do continue their education after completing an associate degree. Many institutions have transfer agreements with community colleges so that an honors student can seamlessly transition from a two-year school to university life.

If you're looking into honors programs, some of your best options might be right in your neighborhood. Whether you have a full-time job or are intimidated by the cost of, and life at, a university, community college honors programs may be a good choice for you.