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Types of Higher Education

Nationwide, there are thousands of colleges offering a wide variety of degrees and majors. These include community colleges, state universities, and elite research institutions. Liberal arts colleges aim to give you broad exposure to different subject matter and help you build a well-rounded skill set that can be applied to many different professional pursuits. Meanwhile, professional or technical schools focus more narrowly on preparing you for a specific career or professional pathway. 


When you consider higher education, you have to think about your goals and the type of experience you hope to have when you get there.

In general, there are four different systems of higher education:

  • Private 4-year institutions 

  • Public 4-year institutions 

  • Public 2-year institutions

  • Vocational/technical schools



Do you already know what job you are hoping to pursue, or do you need some time to figure it out?  Are you hoping for small classes and lots of interaction with your professors? Or would you prefer to be on a large campus with larger lecture-style courses? Are you interested in entering the workforce as quickly as possible? Are you hoping to study abroad? Your answers to these questions should factor into how you focus your research on the systems of higher education.

Research universities online or using a guidebook. Every college and university has a story so start narrowing in on specialties of colleges across America that may fit you. You might be surprised that private colleges could be more affordable than you think. 


  • Think about what you are really looking for in a college for academic fit.

  • Consider the size of the institution in regards to the number of students (small/med/large) and the size of the community (urban versus rural).

  • Determine which campus activities are important to you (sports, clubs, civic engagement, etc.).

  • Visit the colleges in person or virtually and attend college representatives when they visit Rio’s campus or at hotels or conferences in the area.

  • Know the school’s graduation rate and the average student debt upon graduation.


Search Engines




Outside California

  • You may want to consider the West Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) to see which participating out-of-state community colleges and universities are part of this reduced fee program, i.e. if you receive a WUE scholarship it means you will pay only 1.5 times in-state tuition.

  • VIDEO:  Why Consider Out of State?



  • Los Rios and Sierra community college districts are the closest geographically to Rio. 

  • You can study at any community college in the state and receive the same low-cost tuition for all California residents.  Visit California Community Colleges to see the state-wide listing.


If you intend to transfer to 4-year institution, start planning from DAY ONE on campus. Meet with the community college advisor so that you don’t waste time and money taking classes that won’t be a good fit for your 4-year degree. The community colleges will guide you in the "TAG" agreement procedures.


Visit the CTE (Career and Technical) webpage. 

College Night Sept 26th 2024

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