In recent years, online community colleges have become increasingly popular, driven in part by comparatively low tuition rates: The average community college student already pays thousands of dollars less in tuition costs than students at four-year schools, and online education is even less expensive than a traditional community college program. Additionally, many associate degree online programs follow an asynchronous (or self-paced) schedule, which allows students to consume lectures at their convenience. Online community college classes are also much smaller ― courses usually have 25 to 30 students ― allowing each distance learner to receive more individual attention from their professors.
A community college is any postsecondary institution that primarily offers two-year educational programs. Most community colleges provide courses in the liberal arts, as well as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Some schools are entirely dedicated to STEM disciplines and job-training; these institutions are commonly referred to as technical or vocational colleges.
According to the latest data from the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), there are 1,108 community colleges currently operating in the United States; 982 are public colleges, while the rest are classified as independent or tribal schools. Roughly 12.3 million students were enrolled in credit and noncredit community college programs in the fall of 2015. Most community college students are pursuing associate degrees or professional credentials, though some enroll simply to take a few classes.
Below, you will find our list of the best 50 online community colleges in the nation. Read on to learn more about the precise methodology we used to generate our ranking, and about these top schools.
|Rank||School Name||School Logo||City||Cost||Address & Contact Info||School Links||Acclaim for Online Programs||School Description|
|1||South Piedmont Community College||Polkton||$$$$$||680 Highway 74 West|
Polkton, NC 28135
South Piedmont’s online course catalog lists nearly 300 individual classes in nine different academic fields. More than one-third of the school's online courses are grounded in technology and computer programming subjects. Other online course categories include courses from popular fields like business, accounting, finance, and healthcare, as well as niche subjects like Spanish in the workplace, green and renewable energy, and career and hospitality.
SPCC utilizes the Moodle learning management platform. Most of the college's online programs are self-paced and available for open enrollment. Students who commit five to seven hours per week to their coursework can typically complete their program within four to six months.
|2||Cleveland Community College||Shelby||$$$$$||137 S Post Rd|
Shelby, NC 28152-6224
The fall 2016 catalog at this North Carolina institution lists 260 web-based courses. Most online courses at CCC are taught asynchronously, though some have scheduled online class sessions or labs. Distance learners can also sign up for accelerated Ed2Go courses in subjects like grant writing, digital photography, and medical terminology. These six-week continuing education courses are entirely online, and usually consist of 12 two-hour class sessions.
Distance learners at this online community college use the Blackboard learning management platform. The school is a member of the Southern Regional Education Board -- Electronic Campus (SREB-EC), a consortium representing web-based college and universities in 16 states.
|3||Holmes Community College||Goodman||$$$$$||#1 Hill St|
Goodman, MS 39079
As a member of the Mississippi Virtual Community College (MVCC) consortium, Holmes' online course offerings include classes from 14 different postsecondary schools in the state. Holmes offers more than 300 courses in two dozen academic subjects. Biology, English, mathematics, and sociology are among the most represented fields of study for online students at HCC.
HCC uses the Canvas learning management system to facilitate its online programs. Most online courses at the school are taught asynchronously, although each one features at least two proctored exams that require students to visit the campus or a designated testing center. Many of the school's online courses come with preloaded ebooks, which do not have any special software requirements.
|4||Lenoir Community College||Kinston||$$$$$||231 Highway 58 South|
Kinston, NC 28502-0188
Lenoir’s online offerings include exclusively online associate degrees, diplomas, and certificates in 16 different fields of study. In addition to core subjects like accounting, business administration, and information technology, online students can take classes in aviation management and career pilot technology, emergency medical science-bridging, and supply chain management.
Distance learners at LCC use Moodle to access online materials. Most courses are taught asynchronously, although online students must submit one assignment on Moodle 10% of the way into term; otherwise they will be dropped from the course. Online classes incorporate two-way video technology to mirror the classroom experience. The school also offers hybrid and web-assisted courses.
|5||Pamlico Community College||Grantsboro||$$$$$||5049 Hwy 306 South|
Grantsboro, NC 28529
The fourth North Carolina school in our top five, this Greensboro institution offers a range of exclusively online and hybrid courses. The school's mission is to "promote excellence and persistence" and to "coach and support each individual to overcome obstacles, discover their potential and achieve their educational and career goals."
Online students at this online community college use Moodle; a Moodle FAQ is available for PCC students. Additional resources for online students include tutorials for English, math, and psychology, as well as links to further tutoring opportunities and a disclaimer regarding plagiarism. An extensive ebook library is also available.
|6||Hutchinson Community College||Hutchinson||$$$$$||1300 N Plum St|
Hutchinson, MN 67501
Hutchinson offers more than 250 online courses. Additionally, online students can pursue 10 different associate degrees online, including four associate of science (AS) and five associate of applied science (AAS) options. Eight professional certificates are also available to distance learners, in subjects like business technologies, early childhood education, IT in healthcare, and paralegal studies.
Online programs at HCC use the Canvas learning management system. Some courses take place over an entire semester, while others can be completed in just eight weeks. Clinicals and/or onsite practicum courses will be required for certain fields of study, including healthcare subjects and lab sciences. Most courses feature online discussion boards, and students are graded in part on their participation in class discussions.
|7||East Mississippi Community College||Scooba||$$$$$||1512 Kemper Street|
Scooba, MS 39358-0158
EMCC's online catalog for fall 2016 includes nearly 200 courses in 29 academic disciplines. Popular subjects include biology, history, mathematics, and psychology. Additional courses are available through the Mississippi Virtual Community College catalog.
EMCC’s online programs use the Canvas learning management platform. A detailed step-by-step guide for prospective online students is available on the school's website, as is a 'cheat sheet' for enrolled online learners. Online students may be required to visit the EMCC campus in order to purchase course materials; a complete course-by-course list of books and other required materials for the 2016-17 academic year is available.
|8||Pitt Community College||Winterville||$$$$$||1986 Pitt Tech Road|
Winterville, NC 28590
Pitt offers 50 online programs for distance learners. These include 10 exclusively online associate degree options in fields like early childhood education, health information technology, marketing, and office administration. Additionally, 31 online certificate programs are available; most of these options are concentrated in computer programming, early childhood education, or healthcare. Students can also pursue nine online diplomas in fields ranging from dental office administration to nuclear medicine technology.
Pitt's online programs use Moodle. The school's online courses offer a combination of exclusively online and hybrid programs. All first-time freshmen -- including distance learners -- must attend the on-campus new student orientation prior to beginning their first semester.
|9||Craven Community College||New Bern||$$$$$||800 College Ct|
New Bern, NC 28562-4900
Craven offers several partially and exclusively online programs for distance learners. These include seven AAS degrees, as well as 10 diplomas in fields like accounting, entrepreneurship, and information technology. The school also offers more than two dozen professional certificates, including three in business administration, four in criminal justice technology, and 10 in IT.
Students enrolled at this online community college use Moodle to access their online course materials. Although most courses are taught asynchronously, students must submit at least one assignment early in the term; students who fail to do so will be dropped from the course. More information about the school's online programs can be found in the school’s comprehensive 2016-17 Distance Learning Student Handbook.
|10||Wayne Community College||Goldsboro||$$$$$||3000 Wayne Memorial Dr|
Goldsboro, NC 27534-8002
In addition to associate of general studies (AGS) and associate of arts (AA) degrees, students at WCC can take classes in one of seven AAS programs as well; all associate options are offered entirely online. Additionally, the school offers 11 online diplomas and professional certificates in business administration, office administration, criminal justice technology, and emergency management technology. Other individual online courses are available at WCC in fields like animal science and livestock production, American history, and principles of marketing.
Online students at WCC use Moodle. Most online courses are taught asynchronously, and require between 10 and 15 hours of study per week. All online courses require students to purchase physical textbooks; a complete course-by-course listing of required books and materials is available on the website for the WCC bookstore.
|11||Wake Technical Community College||Raleigh||$$$$$||9101 Fayetteville Road|
Raleigh, NC 27603-5696
Online students at Wake Tech can choose from a range of degree, diploma, and certification pathways. Nine associate degrees are available entirely online; these include degrees in advertising and graphic design, office administration, and web design/development. Additionally, eight associate degrees are offered in a hybrid format. Students can also pursue a diploma in accounting, medical office administration, or office administration; more than 70 professional certificates are also available.
This online community college uses the Blackboard platform. A comprehensive 'eLearning intro' is offered in three learning modules; most students complete the program within five hours. Online students can also access free tutoring services through the school's Individualized Learning Center.
|12||Allen County Community College||Iola||$$$$$||1801 N Cottonwood|
Iola, KS 66749
Allen County CC offers several degrees and certificates entirely online. The school's fall 2016 catalog features more than 200 online courses; while most will cover the entire semester, accelerated options are available in the first and second halves of the term. Online associate degree options at Allen County vary in length and course requirements. Some associate programs, like the early childhood education and addictions and preventative studies degrees, are designed for students who plan to transfer into a four-year bachelor's program.
Students attending this community college online use the Blackboard learning management platform. Resources for distance learners include an online writing lab, virtual library, and the Online Student Resource Center. Most courses require students to rent textbooks (rather than purchase them), and the rental fee is included in your tuition.
|13||Oconee Fall Line Technical College||Sandersville||$$$$$||1189 Deepstep Rd|
Sandersville, GA 31082
Part of the Georgia Virtual Technical Connection (GVTC), this Sandersville institution allows enrolled students to choose from online and hybrid courses offered through technical colleges throughout the state. The current GVTC catalog lists nearly 293 online courses; the most represented fields of study include allied healthcare, business, mathematics, management, and paralegal. OFLTC's detailed mission statement regarding online education is available on the school's website.
Online programs at OFLTC use Blackboard Learn. Start and end dates for online courses match the school's traditional calendar, although many follow an asynchronous schedule. Free online tutoring is available to all distance learners.
|14||Montgomery Community College||Troy||$$$$$||1011 Page St|
Troy, NC 27371
Online students at MCC can choose from 40 degrees and certificates concentrated in five core academic fields. Associate degrees in liberal studies, secondary education, accounting, and business administration are offered entirely online. You can also pursue online certificates in homeland security, public relations, and 11 business-related fields. Hybrid degrees and certificates are also available.
MCC's online courses use the Blackboard learning management platform. Advising, tutoring, and tech support are provided free of charge to all enrolled online students. Other resources for distance learners include career-building tutorials and links for entrepreneurial events and services. Most online courses at MCC are taught asynchronously, although the syllabus will typically adhere to the school's traditional semester schedule.
|15||Cochise County Community College District||Douglas||$$$$$||4190 W Highway 80|
Douglas, AZ 85607-6190
The virtual campus at this Arizona community college was launched in 1998, and today's online students can choose from 12 online associate degree programs. These options include seven AA degrees grounded in liberal arts fields, two associate of business degrees, and AS degrees in computer programming and intelligence operation studies (IOST). A professional certificate in Linux systems administration is also available online. Online College Plan has listed Cochise's virtual education program among the top 20 online community colleges for return-on-investment.
Students attending community college online use Moodle. Most courses follow a set timetable; they have predetermined start and end dates, and assignments and other activities are scheduled throughout the semester. All students can access free tutoring and advising services.
|16||Stanly Community College||Albemarle||$$$$$||141 College Drive|
Albemarle, NC 28001
Eight associate degrees are available to online students at this North Carolina school. Popular programs include accounting, criminal justice, human services, and school age education. Additionally, the college offers 14 professional certificates and nine diplomas; nine of these options are concentrated in education, and other options are available in areas of study like IT and small business entrepreneurship.
SCC's online programs use Moodle’s learning management platform. Many online courses last an entire semester, although the lists dozens of accelerated online course options that cover the first or second half of a given term. Resources for distance learners at SCC include an online writing center, counseling, and advising services. Women students in certain fields are also invited to participate in the school's Female STEM Mentorship program.
|17||Rio Salado College||Tempe||$$$$$||2323 W 14th St|
Tempe, AZ 85281
Arizona's Rio Salado CC offers nearly 60 online degree, certificate, and diploma programs. The school's online offerings include 20 programs concentrated in education, child/adult development, and parent education. Other options include associate programs in accounting, general business, computer programming, and sustainable food systems. Certification opportunities include cutting-edge fields like mobile app programming, energy systems technology, and small business/startup management.
Rio Salado's online programs use the proprietary RioLearn learning management platform. Most courses are self-paced, and flexible start dates allow students to begin coursework at any time. Tuition rates are relatively low for online learners; Maricopa County residents can enroll in online courses at $85 per credit, while out-of-state residents pay $215 per credit.
|18||Forsyth Technical Community College||Winston Salem||$$$$$||2100 Silas Creek Pky|
Winston Salem, NC 27103-5197
Students at Forsyth Tech can pursue AS degrees in 12 disciplines. These include core subjects like business administration and computer information technology, as well as niche fields of study like emergency management, entrepreneurship, and project management technology. Thirteen professional certificates and two diplomas - computer IT (helpdesk management) and global logistics technology - are also available. Medical coders can also pursue four intensive online courses.
Forsyth Tech uses the Blackboard learning management tool. All of the school's online degree options are offered on campus as well, allowing students the opportunity to create a customized hybrid schedule if they wish. Personal, career, and academic counseling services are available for online students at Forsyth Tech.
|19||Southeastern Illinois College||Harrisburg||$$$$$||3575 College Road|
Harrisburg, IL 62946
This Harrisburg-based institution offers associate degrees in early childhood education, business administration, and criminal justice. Online certificates are also available in practical nursing, along with five programs concentrated in biofuels, bioenergy, and ethanol production.
All online associate degrees at SIC range from 62 to 67 credit hours in length, and can be completed in two years of full-time study. Most degrees are available entirely online, although some programs require you to complete a practicum, and the nursing certificate features labs and clinicals that must be completed in a medical facility.
|20||Surry Community College||Dobson||$$$$$||630 S. Main St.|
Dobson, NC 27017-8432
Distance learners enrolled at Surry can choose from eight associate degrees and seven professional certificates offered entirely online. Popular degrees include programs in accounting, advertising and graphic design technology, business administration, criminal justice technology, early childhood, medical office administration, and office administration. Diplomas are also available in the latter three fields.
Surry Community College online students use Moodle. The AA is the school's shortest degree program (60-61 credits); all other associate degrees fall between 65 and 73 credits in length. Diplomas are 35 to 47 credits long, while certificate programs range from 16 to 18 credits.
|21||Central Carolina Community College||Sanford||$$$$$||1105 Kelly Dr|
Sanford, NC 27330-9840
CCC allows students to pursue more than 130 associate degrees, certificates, and diplomas, many of which are available at least partially online. Online programs are usually blended, and fall into one of three categories. University Transfer programs are designed for students who eventually plan to pursue a bachelor’s degree, and include AA, associate of engineering, and AS degrees. Career & technical programs include AAS degrees in 10 vocational fields. Finally, accelerated options include both one-year tracks and two-year pathways that require two days of class per week.
CCCC uses Blackboard to facilitate its online programming. Distance learners can access free online tutoring through the school's Upswing program, which is accessible 24 hours a day. An extensive mobile app also makes it convenient for students to access course materials and complete assignments on the go.
|22||Foothill College||Los Altos Hills||$$$$$||12345 El Monte Rd|
Los Altos Hills, CA 94022
California's Foothill College allows distance learners to pursue 14 AA degrees, all of which are offered exclusively or partially online. These degrees include core subjects like accounting, English, and psychology, as well as niche subjects like art history, graphic and interactive design, and music technology.
Online courses at Foothill use either the Canvas or Etudes learning management software. Students should check with their professor to learn about which platform is required for individual classes; the school offers free tutorials for both systems on its website. E-courses at Foothill are not self-paced, and will follow the same schedule as brick-and-mortar classes. There are no scheduled face-to-face meetings for most online classes, though students will be required to log on at certain times during the week for assignments, virtual discussions, and other activities.
|23||Central Georgia Technical College||Warner Robins||$$$$$||80 Cohen Walker Drive|
Warner Robins, GA 31088
Central Georgia Tech allows students to enroll in online courses and pursue web-based degrees from technical colleges across the state of Georgia. A full, customizable list of online programs offered through GVTC is available on the school’s website.
Most online courses at CGTC use Blackboard’s learning management software, although some use different platforms, such as MyMathLab. Online courses at CGTC vary in length and delivery. Some cover a full semester, while other 'mini session' options run for the first or second half of a given term. Most courses are offered entirely online, although some have in-person practicum requirements.
|24||Kirtland Community College||Roscommon||$$$$$||10775 N Saint Helen Road|
Roscommon, MI 48653
Online students at Kirkland can pursue associate degrees in accounting, business administration, business management, and health information technology. Professional certificates in accounting and small business management/ entrepreneurship are also available. Kirtland students can also select online courses offered through the Michigan Community College Virtual Learning Collaborative -- all offered at Kirtland's low tuition rate.
Online degree and certificate programs at Kirtland feature web-based lectures, labs, and classroom discussions. Associate degrees range from 60 to 64 credits in length, and can be completed within two years of full-time study; the health IT pathway carries a practicum requirement. Certificates range from 30 to 35 credits, and can be completed in two semesters with an additional summer session.
|25||Barton County Community College||Great Bend||$$$$$||245 NE 30th Road|
Great Bend, KS 67530
Barton County CC offers three options for distance learners. Online students can pursue an associate degree through BARTonline: 16 degrees are available, including six in business/economics and two programs concentrated in dietary management. Standalone BARTonline courses are offered as well, and online students can also enroll in web courses through edukan, a Kansas-based consortium of six online schools. Finally, Barton County CC is a participant in the Kansas State University Global Campus Partnership; this agreement allows online students to enroll in courses through Kansas State.
Online students receiving veteran's benefits from the CH 30-Montgomery GI Bill, CH 33-Post 9/11, CH 35 Survivor-Dependent, and CH 1606 will only pay up to 25% of their total tuition costs. The BARTonline website includes a 'Featured eCourse', as well as updates for students and a running Twitter feed.
|26||Eastern New Mexico University||Portales||$$$$$||1500 S Ave K|
Portales, NM 88130
The 2016-17 catalog for ENMU-Roswell lists 100 online courses that don't require any campus visits or onsite training. Students can pursue associate degrees online in core fields of study like criminal justice, accounting, and statistics. Additionally, the school offers a range of programs in less common fields like alcohol and drug abuse studies, medical coding, renewable energy, and media arts.
Some health-related programs carry practicum requirements; ENMU-Roswell operates three health centers based at local high schools. Most associate programs at the school are geared toward students who plan to transfer into a bachelor's program, and degree requirements can be completed within two years.
|27||Wiregrass Georgia Technical College||Valdosta||$$$$$||4089 Val Tech Rd|
Valdosta, GA 31602
Three associate degrees are available to online students at WGTC: business management, marketing management, and web design. Diplomas are also available in these three fields of study. Additionally, online students can earn professional certificates for child development specialist, early childhood program administration, and technical specialist. All of these programs are delivered entirely online. Hybrid degree programs are also available.
Online programs at WGTC use the Blackboard learning management platform. All associate programs at the school range from 63 to 65 credits in length. The business and marketing pathways including required specializations, while the web design option largely consists of occupational training courses. Each online course generally requires eight to 10 hours of study per week.
|28||Lanier Technical College||Oakwood||$$$$$||2990 Landrum Education Dr|
Oakwood, GA 30566
Online students enrolled at this Georgia-based institution can choose from eight online associate programs; these include degrees in accounting, applied technical management, fire science technology, and business/marketing management. Professional certificate options include programs for fire officers, early childhood care specialists, sales professionals, and medical coding specialists. Six diplomas are also available, and students can explore other online courses through the GVTC.
Lanier Tech's online programs use the Blackboard platform. The associate in healthcare management technology is 73 credits long; the remaining seven associate options range from 60 to 68 credits. All of these programs can be completed in two years of full-time study. Diplomas range from 55 to 62 credits, and most certificates are 15 credits or less.
|29||Spokane Falls Community College||Spokane||$$$$$||3410 W Fort George Wright Dr|
Spokane, WA 99224-5288
Online students Spokane Falls can choose from a range of web-based programs. A total of 21 associate degree options are available, including a transfer-ready program in early childhood education and associate of arts and business degrees that include direct transfer agreements with four-year colleges and universities in the state. Additionally, 17 professional certificates are offered in fields like education paraprofessional, legal office software specialist, and social media marketing.
Spokane Falls CC is a member of the Community Colleges of Spokane online consortium, and the school's web-based programs use Canvas’ learning management software. While most degree and certificate programs are delivered entirely online, the hearing instrument specialist, medical assistant, and pharmacy technician pathways have in-person requirements.
|30||Western Wyoming Community College||Rock Springs||$$$$$||2500 College Dr|
Rock Springs, WY 82902-0428
Located in Rock Springs, WWCC offers 11 associate degree programs for online learners. These include four AS degrees in business-related fields, three AA degrees in social sciences, and an AAS degree in office information systems. Additionally, online professional certificates are available in accounting, digital design technology, emergency management, journalism, website development, and Western American studies. WWCC also participates in WyCLASS, a Wyoming-based college consortium that allows students to enroll in online courses offered throughout the state.
WWCC's online programs use the Blackboard learning management tool. The school's ACE IT Center provides free career counseling, academic advising, and tutoring services to students. Additional resources for students include online tutorials about plagiarism, technical writing, and 'netiquette’.
|31||Crowder College||Neosho||$$$$$||601 Laclede Ave|
Neosho, MO 64850
Online students at Crowder can choose from a range of associate degree options. These include 26 AA degrees geared toward students who plan to transfer into a bachelor's program, a teaching degree, four AS programs, and 30 AAS degrees in agriculture, alternative energy, healthcare, automotive, business and other technical fields. Additionally, 19 professional certificates are offered online.
Distance programs at Crowder use the Blackboard learning management platform. Online courses are taught in a synchronous format, and students are expected to log in each week and complete assignments in accordance with the syllabus.
|32||Maysville Community and Technical College||Maysville||$$$$$||1755 U.S. Hwy 68|
Maysville, KY 41056
Distance learners at Maysville can choose from 22 online certificate programs. These include 16 certificates in business-related fields, three options for medical coding professionals, and tech-oriented programs in IT security and data entry. Standalone online courses are also available; nearly 200 web-based classes were offered this fall.
MCTC's online programs use Blackboard learning management software; a video tutorial for first-time Blackboard users is available on the school's website. Most online courses at the college run the length of an entire semester, although students can also take fast-track courses that last just half of a semester. Online students have access to web-based academic counseling from faculty advisors.
|33||Gateway Community and Technical College||Florence||$$$$$||500 Technology Way|
Florence, KY 41042
Gateway CTC allows students to fulfill degree requirements by enrolling in exclusively online courses. The school offered 28 web-based courses this fall across 16 academic disciplines. Popular programs include biology, computer information technology, and English.
GCTC's online program uses the Blackboard Learn platform. Individual online courses may be delivered in five, eight, 10, or 12-week schedules. The curriculum for online courses at GCTC consists of online and textbook readings, video lectures, and virtual class discussions. Distance learners can learn more about Blackboard and receive technical support by visiting the school's Center for eLearning at Gateway.
|34||Brunswick Community College||Bolivia||$$$$$||50 College Rd|
Bolivia, NC 28422-9021
Distance learners can pursue associate degree programs, including offerings in early childhood education and early childhood education with a special education emphasis. Additionally, distance learners can obtain an online diploma or professional certificates in early childhood education (with or without a special education emphasis) or aquaculture.
Both ECE associate options are 76 credits in length, while the AA degree consists of 66 credits; all three can be completed in two years of full-time study. In addition to standard online courses, BCC also offers scheduled 'interactive video courses', along with hybrid and web-assisted course modules. An online career development center is available for distance learners who seek academic and/or professional advising.
|35||Sinclair Community College||Dayton||$$$$$||444 W. Third St.|
Dayton, OH 45402-1460
Distance learners at Sinclair CC can pursue 14 different online associate programs. Popular options include degrees in business administration/management, computer information systems, and criminal justice. Additionally, six one-year certificate programs and eight fast-track certificates are available for online students. The 'Ohio Transfer Module' is a separate online course program that helps students planning to attend a four-year school complete basic graduation requirements.
Sinclair's online programs use the eLearn educational management tool; an eLearn student guide and video tutorial are available for first-time platform users. Some online courses run the length of an entire semester, while others take place during the first or second half of a given term. An online course schedule planner allows students to easily browse and sign up for open web-based classes.
|36||Western Texas College||Snyder||$$$$$||6200 College Ave|
Snyder, TX 79549
As a member of the Virtual Texas College consortium, this Snyder-based institution allows online students to enroll in web-based courses available at colleges and universities across the state. The current catalog lists a range of options for online students; courses are offered in 16 academic areas of study, as well as career/technical fields like IT business management, petroleum technology, and turfgrass/landscape management.
Web courses at Western Texas are taught in a synchronous format, and carry regular requirements; students who do not log in at least once per week will be dropped from the course. Online students must register for all courses no later than two days prior to the start of the given semester. Academic advisors are available to answer questions about course transfers, degree and career planning, and other key concerns for distance learners.
|37||West Kentucky Community and Technical College||Paducah||$$$$$||4810 Alben Barkley Drive|
Paducah, KY 42002-7380
Located in Paducah, WKCTC has offered online courses and web-based degree programs for more than two decades. Students can follow an exclusively online schedule, or create a hybrid mix of online and on-campus courses. More than 300 online courses are offered through ed2go; an online refresher course is also available for nurses.
In addition to standard semester-length online courses, students can participate in WKCTC’s Learn in Demand program by taking 11 accelerated self-paced courses over the span of a semester; each mini-course lasts three to five weeks. Distance learners can receive academic and career advising from a dedicated online student services counselor.
|38||Metropolitan Community College Area||Omaha||$$$$$||30 & Fort Street|
Omaha, NE 68111-1610
Metropolitan offers a range of associate degree programs for online students. Many technology-oriented programs are available, including seven degrees in information technology, three in health information management studies, and three computer-oriented pathways for students who plan to transfer into a bachelor's degree program. Other associate options include degrees in criminal justice, early childhood education, and office technology, as well as transfer-ready tracks in business and liberal arts. Students can pursue 14 certificates of achievement and four career certificates as well.
Online courses at WKCTC use Blackboard’s learning management software. Most associate degree tracks range from 95 to 105 credits in length, and can be completed over six or seven quarters of full-time study.
|39||Northeast Community College||Norfolk||$$$$$||801 E Benjamin|
Norfolk, NE 68702-0469
Online students enrolled at this Nebraska institution can pursue more than a dozen web-based associate degrees. These options include three business-oriented programs, along with degrees in criminal justice and education. Additionally, the school offers 'partner programs' in early childhood education, library/information sciences, and culinary arts; these programs are co-sponsored by community colleges across Nebraska. A diploma in general business and professional certificates in insurance services and food service/dietary management are available to distance learners as well.
Students must complete between 60 and 70 credits to graduate, depending on their program; this normally requires two years of full-time study. First-time distance learners can learn more about the school's online courses and degree programs through a video tutorial. Once in school, all online students can access NCC’s writing clinic and online tutoring services.
|40||Albany Technical College||Albany||$$$$$||1704 South Slappey Boulevard|
Albany, GA 31701
Albany Tech allows distance learners to pursue exclusively online associate degrees in nine occupational fields, including fire science technology, hotel/restaurant/tourism management, law enforcement technology, and six business and management fields; diplomas are available in these areas of study as well. ATC's emphasis on fire training extends to its online certificate programs, which include three programs for fire officers. Other certifications are offered in fields like entrepreneurship, industrial preparation, and supply chain management.
ATC's online courses use the Blackboard learning management system. Online students are expected to log into their course portal at least three to five times per week for class discussions and information about upcoming assignments and exams. All associate degree programs can be completed in between 18 months and two years of full-time study.
|41||Shoreline Community College||Shoreline||$$$$$||16101 Greenwood Ave N|
Shoreline, WA 98133-5696
Located a few miles north of downtown Seattle, Shoreline CC offers a variety of courses and degrees to online learners. Associate programs for online students include six AA degrees in career-oriented fields and 10 AA offerings designed for students who eventually plan to transfer into a bachelor's program. Shoreline also offers six certificates of competency (45 to 89 credits), four certificates of completion (20 to 44 credits), and 11 short-term certificates (19 credits or less) online.
Shoreline CC's online courses use the Canvas learning management platform. The school's associate degree programs range from 90 to 94 credits in length, and can be completed within two academic years (or six to seven quarters) of full-time study. Services for online students include web-based tutoring, counseling, and virtual 'success coaching'.
|42||Trinity Valley Community College||Athens||$$$$$||100 Cardinal Drive|
Athens, TX 75751
TVCC offers online associate degree and certificate programs for distance learners. According to the school's mission statement for online learning, TVCC is "committed to advancing the quality of our online education to meet the standards of our courses delivered in a traditional, face-to-face manner." Only Texas residents can enroll in online courses at TVCC.
Trinity uses the Blackboard Learn learning management platform to facilitate online courses. An 11-page Distance Learning Student Handbook is available to distance learners, and first-time online students can learn more about the school's web-based programs by logging into their account and accessing the Student Orientation to e-Courses tutorial.
|43||Henderson Community College||Henderson||$$$$$||2660 S Green St|
Henderson, KY 42420-4699
Henderson offers online associate degrees in agricultural technology, business administration, and computer/information technology. Online students interested in a bachelor’s degree can also take 2+2 associate-to-bachelor's pathways. The school also offers more than 1,000 standalone online courses through the Kentucky Community & Technical System.
HCC’s online courses use the Blackboard learning management platform. Most courses are taught entirely online, although some may require students to visit their campus for proctored exams. In addition to the standard semester-length schedule, online students can participate in the Learn on Demand program, which features mini-courses that last between three and five weeks.
|44||Madisonville Community College||Madisonville||$$$$$||2000 College Drive|
Madisonville, KY 42431
Madisonville CC offers a comprehensive online program for surgical first assistants. Using a combination of online coursework and onsite training, students master a range of competencies in the field. The school also features online associate programs in energy management, human services, and paralegal technology. Diplomas and certificates in these fields are available to distance learners as well.
MCC's online courses use Blackboard’s learning management platform. All associate degrees at the college are delivered entirely online, and are between 61 and 66 credits in length. Most programs can be completed within two years of full-time study.
|45||Cowley County Community College||Arkansas City||$$$$$||125 S 2nd St|
Arkansas City, KS 67005
Online students enrolled at Cowley County can earn an online associate degree in 35 different academic disciplines. Popular subjects include core fields of study like accounting, computer science and psychology, as well as less common fields, like agribusiness, equine management, and sports management. Online professional certificates are also available in business administration, medical coding/transcription, medical office support, and milling technician. The school also offers more than 600 standalone online courses.
Cowley uses Blackboard to host online class materials. Courses are taught synchronously, and follow a standard semester schedule; students are required to log on at least once per week to receive instructions and assignments from their professors.
|46||Snead State Community College||Boaz||$$$$$||102 Elder Street|
Boaz, AL 35957-0734
Snead State offers hundreds of online courses. Additionally, distance learners can earn an AAS degree in applied business, child development, and office administration. Online students who wish to become registered nurses can also participate in Snead’s LPN-to-RN mobility program. Standard certificates and short certificates are available, as well.
Snead State's online programs use the Blackboard learning management platform. The child development and LPN-to-RN programs feature practicum/clinical components that must be completed onsite, but all other online options are delivered entirely online. Each online course requires roughly six to seven hours of study per week. The school provides a Distance Learning Handbook to all new online students.
|47||Mesa Community College||Mesa||$$$$$||1833 W Southern Ave|
Mesa, AZ 85202
A range of online associate degrees and certificate programs are available to distance learners enrolled at Mesa CC. Most associate options are categorized as AAS degrees; these include fields like residential appraising, computer programming, fashion merchandising and design, music business, and seven other business-oriented fields. Mesa also offers 11 certificates of completion; most are offered in either business or information technology.
MCC’s online courses use Canvas’ learning management software. Most associate programs are delivered exclusively online, and can be completed within two years. Each certificate program features six to eight courses, and typically takes one year to complete.
|48||Laramie County Community College||Cheyenne||$$$$$||1400 E College Dr|
Cheyenne, WY 82007-3299
Distance learners enrolled at LCCC can earn online associate degrees in nine academic disciplines. Seven of these options -- including programs in accounting, cybersecurity, health IT management, and homeland security -- are exclusively online. The remaining two, business management and early childhood education, are blended programs. Online students can also earn a professional certificate in medical claims coding, as well as diplomas in fields like entrepreneurship and web design.
Online programs at LCCC use the Desire2Learn learning management platform. Most online courses at the college are synchronous, with weekly assignments and planned exams that mirror the traditional semester schedule. LCCC's online learning page features surveys to help prospective web students assess their abilities in time management, computer operations, and online learning compatibility.
|49||Central Piedmont Community College||Charlotte||$$$$$||1201 Elizabeth Avenue|
Charlotte, NC 28204
Central Piedmont allows web-based students to earn a general AA or AS degree. Both of these options are geared toward students who plan to eventually transfer into a bachelor's degree program. Additionally, distance learners can pursue associate programs in three other fields: fire protection technology, health information technology, and simulation and game development. The school's offerings are particularly robust in this latter category: in addition to the associate, students can earn eight different diplomas or certificates in simulation and game development.
CPCC facilitates its online courses with the Blackboard learning management tool. Associate degree programs are roughly 60 credits long, and can be completed in two years of full-time study. The school also offers 'TELEWEB' courses, accredited classes that incorporate streaming video and broadcast lessons on the CPCC cable channel; lessons are available any time of day on the internet.
|50||State Fair Community College||Sedalia||$$$$$||3201 W 16th Street|
Sedalia, MO 65301-2199
Online students State Fair CC can select from three web-based associate degree programs: a general AA degree, as well as AAS programs in medical assistance and business management. A professional certificate for medical assistants is offered online as well. Additionally, students can take standalone online courses to fulfill their degree requirements, and SFCC offers a mix of exclusively online and hybrid course options. The school's partnership with the Community College of the Air Force also enables U.S. Air Force service members and employees to take general education courses online through SFCC.
SFCC's online courses use the Blackboard learning management tool. Online students at the school receive free academic advising and career counseling through the Student Success Navigator program. Online tutoring services in math, English, and writing are also available to distance learners.
How We Rank the Best Online Community Colleges
In order to produce our top 50, we scored each school using a range of factors. All criteria were subdivided into three distinct categories, and each carried a different weight for determining a school’s overall score. Our categories are online flexibility, academics, and experience and affordability.
For online flexibility, we looked at the total number of online associate degree and certificate programs at each school, as well as the quality and availability of different online resources. We also calculated the percentage of students enrolled at the school that took at least one online course per quarter or semester. This category accounts for 35% of each college’s score.
The academics category measures schools on three key student outcomes. First, we looked at transfer rate, or the percentage of students who earn an associate degree online and then go on to enroll at a four-year college or university. Next we calculated the graduation rate of all students enrolled at the school (including community college transfers). Finally, we accounted for each college’s student-faculty ratio. Academics are worth 40% of each school’s score.
Our final category is experience and affordability, which accounts for the final 25% of the score. This category measures average tuition rate and the average net price (or total costs minus financial aid) of tuition. We also evaluated schools based on loan default rate, which is the percentage of student loan recipients who are unable to repay their loan.
How We Measure Online Flexibility
|Factor||Weight||Why It Matters|
|Total Number of Online Media||30%||Learning management systems and educational software programs are cornerstones of the online college experience. The best online community colleges offer engaging, functional, and user-friendly tools and platforms. They also provide students with supplemental resources, like e-books, online journals, periodicals, and databases. Many online postsecondary schools use the same learning management systems; popular platforms include Moodle, Blackboard, Edmodo, ConnectEDU, and SumTotal.|
|Number of Online Associate Programs||40%||Community colleges with a range of associate online degree program offerings are best equipped to serve a diverse student population. Degrees in certain fields of study ― such as business, nursing, and social work ― are particularly common and desirable. The top schools also offer degree and certificate programs in niche subjects in the liberal arts, social sciences, humanities, and STEM subjects.|
|Percent of Students Participating in Online Classes||30%||The percentage of students enrolled in at least one online course per semester or quarter correlates with a school’s overall popularity and perceived quality of its online offerings. A higher percentage of distance enrollees also helps generates more feedback for the school, which allows them to modify and improve its programs. Approximately 5.8 million college students were enrolled in at least one online course that term.|
How We Measure Academics
|Factor||Weight||Why It Matters|
|Transfer Rate||45%||Inside Higher Ed notes that one in five community college students will transfer to a four-year college or university, and more than 71% of transfer students holding an associate degree from a community college will graduate with a bachelor’s degree within four years. A high transfer rate indicates that an online community college effectively prepares students to earn a bachelor’s degree.|
|Graduation Rate||30%||Graduation rates measure the total number of students who complete their coursework and graduate within a certain number of years. Graduation rates are directly linked to a school’s academic quality.|
|Retention Rate||20%||Knowing a school’s retention rate is important when considering whether students enjoy attending that particular institution. Comprising 20% of the overall academics score, the retention rate is the percentage of students that stay in school after matriculation.|
|Student-Faculty Ratio||25%||The student-faculty ratio represents the number of students enrolled at a given school for each current professor or faculty member. This ratio is important for determining the level of individual attention students can expect to receive from professors. A school with a student-faculty ratio of 30 or less is well-equipped to engage with students and address their individual concerns.|
Experience and Affordability
How We Measure Experience and Affordability
|Factor||Weight||Why It Matters|
|Average Net Price||35%||Net price represents the total cost of college attendance. To calculate net price, we totaled the costs of tuition, books, course materials, administrative fees, and other essential costs at each school. Then, we subtracted the average amount of financial aid from this total. Net price is key for understanding how much a student should expect to pay out of pocket at a given school. As a group, online community colleges have a lower average net price than four-year schools or traditional community colleges.|
|Average Tuition||25%||Unlike net price, average tuition refers to the total cost of attending courses, without factoring in financial aid. Tuition is one of the most prohibitive reasons why students decline to attend a given school, and institutions with lower tuition rates tend to attract a more diverse pool of students. It’s important to note that many schools offer different tuition rates for students based on their state of residence; those who hail from out-of-state usually pay more in annual tuition than those who live in the same state as their college.|
|Average Default Rate||40%||According to AACC data, 72% of community college students receive financial aid. Some forms of aid, such as student loans, must be repaid after graduation. Default rate refers to the percentage of students who are unable to make scheduled student loan payments. A low default rate implies that a school is able to turn students into top job candidates.|
Benefits of Earning an Online Associate DegreeEnrolling in an online community college and earning an associate degree carries a variety of benefits for undergraduates. Crucially, these degrees are affordable. According to the College Board, the average community college student pays $3,440 in annual tuition; by comparison, the average student enrolled at a public four-year institution will pay $9,410 per year for in-state tuition rates, or $23,890 in out-of-state tuition. U.S. News & World Report also noted that the cost of online community college courses can be half ― in some cases, even one-third ― the cost of equivalent classroom-based courses.
Benefits of attending an online community college:
- Positive Student Outcomes: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rates for associate degree-holders is relatively low. Students who earn an occupational associate degree face an unemployment rate of 4.0%, while those with an academic associate degree have a 4.8% unemployment rate. Comparatively, the unemployment rate for students with ‘some college, no degree’ is 6.1%, while the unemployment rate for those with a high school diploma or less is 7.5%. These rates reflect an overall decrease in unemployment rates for associate degree-holders over the last decade. In April 2015, the unemployment rate for individuals with ‘some college or an associate degree’ was 4.7%; five years earlier, this figure stood at 8.4%.
- Flexibility and Convenience: Online associate degree programs offer a flexible alternative to traditional, classroom-based learning. Online learning platforms allow students to perform a range of functions ― such as accessing course materials, submitting papers, taking exams, and communicating with professors ― from the comfort of their home.
- Environment: Current technology enables students to complete their assignments from home and to study on the go. Online coursework also eliminates your need to commute to campus.
- Career advancement: The asynchronous schedule found in most online associate degree programs is ideal for students who must work to support themselves while still in school. Online students also have more free time to participate in internships, practicums, and other hands-on training programs related to their field.
Things to Ask Yourself When Choosing an Online Community College
Here are some of the common questions and concerns students face when selecting a community college online.
What do I want to study?
Choosing a major is one of the most important decisions college students make. In order to determine the right program, you’ll need to consider several factors, including employment rates, salary expectations, industry growth projections, and other variables for career paths related to different majors. Engagement is another important factor; students tend to excel in fields closely linked to their interests and hobbies.
What will it cost?
Even the cheapest community colleges cost thousands of dollars. Fortunately, financial aid can help you reduce your expenses. In addition to federal student loans and other financial aid, many colleges and universities offer exclusive scholarships and grants to their students. Most of these awards are given to students with a strong academic history or demonstrable financial need. Attending community college online may also help you minimize your room and board expenses, particularly if you are able to live at home with parents or guardians.
Which school will provide the best education?
The best online community colleges post key data on their website. You can narrow your list of potential schools by examining student outcomes for graduates at your target schools. Among other potential metrics, you should look closely at transfer rates, graduation rates, and loan default rates.
Not Planning on Transferring? Consider These Common Associate DegreesMost online associate degree programs require a two-year commitment, although accelerated options are also widely available. While plenty of graduates from associate programs eventually go to a four-year school, the degree is sufficient for entry-level employment in many fields, and many degree-holders directly enter the workforce after graduation.
Associate degrees usually fall into one of three categories:
- Associate of Arts (A.A.): The A.A. is typically awarded in liberal arts subjects. Most A.A. recipients plan to transfer into a bachelor’s degree program after they graduate.
- Associate of Science (A.S.): Community college students may earn an A.S. in STEM fields like physics, chemistry, and engineering. Like the A.A., the A.S. is sufficient preparation for students looking to transfer to a bachelor’s program.
- Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.): Generally awarded at technical and vocational schools, the A.A.S. is designed to train students who plan to permanently enter the workforce immediately after graduation. A.A.S. programs are generally concentrated in niche fields like automotive repair or HVAC.
In addition to associate degrees, many online community colleges offer professional certificates. Certificate programs are often much shorter, as students can usually complete all of their academic requirements within a year or less. Some of the most common certificate options for community college students include the following:
- Tax or Financial Accounting
- Law Enforcement or Criminal Justice
- Computer Programming or Information Technology
- Restaurant or Hospitality Management
- Office Administration
- Real Estate
- Human Resources
- Psychology or Professional Counseling
Choosing the right online community college will come down to your personal preferences regarding price, location, class size and other key factors. Our suggestion: make a list of the most important factors for your two-year education, and then use this list as a guide while you search for potential schools. And don’t be afraid to reach out to professors, admissions counselors and other faculty members — they will be able to provide answers you can’t find on college websites. For more information on community colleges and transferring to a four-year college, please visit our Online Student’s Guide for Transferring College Credits.