Junior College is the term accepted under trilateral agreement (last updated 2012) between the Canada, Mexico and the United States encompassing most post secondary schools, not offering a four-year degree.

The term Junior College, has been used in some other countries outside of North America, however use of this term is limited and in some cases has a different meaning than that typically understood in the North America.

Since the 1970s many junior colleges re-branded themselves as a community college. In some, few cases various other terms such as city college, technical institute and otherwise were chosen. While some claim that there is now a distinction between a junior college being a private school, versus a community college being a public school, this is neither accurate nor universally accepted. There is no stipulation specified by the U.S. federal government for distinguishing these schools by named type (i.e. junior, community, vocational, trade etc) nor is there a singular governing body for which a junior college or community college must belong or through which must necessarily be certified.  State laws on this subject also vary and many schools become affiliated with one or more conferences or associations which have their own wide variety of standards and requirements.   However the U.S. Census in trilateral agreement with Canada and Mexico, classifies most of these types of schools under the category of: Junior College. 

In some cases, these schools develop close associations with both public and private colleges and universities within their state.  In many cases, coursework at a particular junior college may be treated as the equivalent of coursework taken at the college or university that a student would be transferring into, in pursuit of their Bachelor's degree.   Particular junior college programs may in fact be the highest rated /regarded, within that state or even recognized nationally as a superior program beyond that of even most such programs at four-year colleges or universities.*

Historically what became generally known as a junior college ("JUCO" for short), were schools that offered a two-year degree (Associate degree) AND all schools beyond high school (post secondary) that did not offer a four-year degree (Bachelor's).  This encompassed the types of schools that we know today such as community colleges, as well as many types that are no longer in common usage. These include:

  • Junior College
  • Community College
  • Normal School
  • Teacher's College
  • Seminary (in specific types of education and not necessarily religious training as it is almost exclusively understood today)
  • Technical School / Technical College / Technical Institute / Instituted of Technology
  • Vocational School / Vocational College
  • Training Center (degree granting)
  • City College (offering two-year degree)
  • Business College (offering two-year degree)
  • Professional College (offering two-year degree)

The term "JUCO" is a term created to refer to these schools: JUnior COlleges and in academic and collegiate sports circles it encompasses all of these types of institutions.

Generally a junior college will offer two-year programs and Associates Degrees. These schools are most often characterized by open admissions and a variety of training and educational opportunities that are both specific to the industries of the local community and to the general standards of higher education and industry norms. Students of community colleges normally have wide ranging educational options.

The variety of options available at junior colleges most often include:

  • Associate Degree (normally a two-year degree)
  • Transfer credits (some or all credits are transferable to a four-year college or university and applicable towards a four-year undergraduate degree such as a B.A. or B.S.
  • Transferable degrees (when transferring to four-year colleges or universities some will accept part or all of the Associate Degree as the equivalent or partial equivalent of two of the required four years of coursework required for that degree.)
  • Vocational training
  • Occupational training and professional continuing education
  • Adult basic education
  • Certificate coursework
  • ESL (English as a Second Language)
  • Remedial coursework.
  • Non-credit coursework and training
  • Certificate courses
  • Small business development

An example of this is the nursing program at the Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC) in Santa Rosa, California.  This program is considered one of the best of its kind anywhere in the United States.  Graduates are in high demand and unlike most programs at junior colleges, the program is so popular with students that the school cannot accommodate all applicants and there is a long waiting-list and even lottery to get into the program.

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