Some students look forward to attending a traditional four year college and living in dormitory housing provided by the institution. Others may prefer to attend college-level classes or receive adult career training while living at home or in other off-campus housing. A college or university which caters primarily to the needs of commuting students is commonly referred to as a commuter college. A commuter college provides the instructors, buildings and support facilities needed to complete a course of instruction, but not necessarily the dormitories, student life centers, or sports facilities associated with traditional colleges.
A small community college or private training school may not promote itself as a commuter school, but its student body is often composed of local residents who live with their parents or live in their own off-campus apartments. Older students returning to school for additional training or a new degree often choose to attend a local college instead of moving to a distant traditional college which may be too youth-oriented. A commuter school may offer some social programs for students, but its main emphasis is on instruction.
Attending a commuter college often makes better financial sense for students who are not interested in the traditional college lifestyle or experience. Dormitory housing is often required for at least a student's freshman year at a traditional four year college, and may be the most affordable option for the student's remaining years. Living in dormitory housing is not always a pleasant experience for older students or those who desire more privacy. Attending a college with no dormitory housing requirements can be a more workable solution for students who only want to attend classes and go back to their jobs or private homes.
Some commuter colleges offer a limited number of degrees or specialized training courses because they do not have all of the facilities of traditional colleges. Some courses of study, such as business or accounting, may be easier to take at a commuter college because of fewer on-campus distractions. Other degree fields such as fine arts or liberal arts are often better served at traditional colleges with a more diverse student body. This type of college functions most often as a less expensive alternative for students who seek higher education opportunities closer to friends, jobs and families.