The 5 Best Community Colleges Online

Updated June 30, 2022 | Thomas Broderick

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Community Colleges

Four-year schools train students for careers. However, these schools cost more than community colleges. This higher price tag may keep some degree- and certificate-seekers from enrolling. Community colleges offer learners an affordable way to advance their education. Many of these colleges also offer online programs, allowing students to continue working and raising a family.

The following article features five top online community colleges. Read on to explore the benefits of attending community college. Students can also contact prospective schools' admissions departments for information.

Questions About Community College

Do community colleges accept everyone?

Many community colleges use an open-access enrollment policy. These schools admit nearly all applicants. Other schools limit enrollment to applicants with a high school or GED diploma.

Why are community colleges cheaper?

Community colleges charge less than four-year schools because they offer fewer services and maintain less infrastructure. Community colleges also offer fewer extracurricular activities.

Is community college easier than a university?

Reputable community colleges offer first- and second-year college classes comparable to those at four-year schools. However, community colleges do not offer upper-division classes bachelor's programs require.

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5 Community Colleges to Explore

The five online community colleges below attract in- and out-of-state students. Prospective learners should consider their career goals before applying. Students should also research each school's transfer policies, online programs, and on-campus requirements. Additionally, learners should check whether prospective schools offer financial aid to online learners.

true Pitt Community College

Winterville, North Carolina-based PCC offers over 50 online programs. Associate degree offerings include early childhood education and nuclear medicine technology. The medical office administration track features three specializations. Some programs use a hybrid curriculum. In-state virtual students pay the same tuition as in-state students enrolled in on-campus programs.

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true Barton Community College

Online learners at Great Bend, Kansas-based BCC can choose from four degrees and three certificates. BCC also offers short, online classes on hazardous materials management and OSHA training. Classes run asynchronously. However, some programs require on-campus visits. All online students pay the same per-credit tuition rate regardless of residency.

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true Copiah-Lincoln Community College

Wesson, Mississippi-based Co-Lin offers online associate degrees in political science, exercise science, and economics. The college also features four career-technical programs in areas such as administrative office technology. Students use Canvas to access asynchronous classes. Out-of-state students pay about 60% more than in-state learners. Co-Lin also charges a per-class online learning fee.

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true Central Texas College

Killeen-based CTC offers online degrees in fields such as child development and criminal justice. Online certificates include global supply chain management specialist and medical coding and billing. Online learners use Blackboard to complete classes asynchronously. In-district and Texas residents pay the most affordable tuition.

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true Washtenaw Community College

WCC in Ann Arbor, Michigan, features many community college online programs. Examples include general studies and business office administration. Some classes run synchronously. Online students receive the same academic and career-planning resources as on-campus learners. WCC offers online out-of-state students a large tuition discount. Recent high school graduates may qualify for an automatic merit-based scholarship.

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Why Attend Community College Online?

Community colleges offer many advantages over four-year schools, including lower tuition, flexible curriculum, and smaller class sizes. Community college students may use their credits to transfer to a bachelor's-completion program. See below for the benefits of attending an online community college.

Community colleges charge less than four-year schools. They can do so because they offer fewer nonacademic services, such as extracurricular activities. However, top community colleges still provide academic resources and career counselors.

Some online community colleges feature classes on demand. Learners can start their education soon after applying. Other advantages may include four- and eight-week classes. Many online classes also run asynchronously, allowing students to listen to lectures and complete coursework around their schedules.

Some learners need individualized attention to understand challenging concepts. Community colleges' smaller classes help professors provide this support. Many online classes cap class sizes.

Community colleges use transfer advisors to help learners apply to bachelor's-completion programs at other schools. Prospective students should research four-year schools' transfer policies before starting at a community college.

How Much Does It Cost to Attend Community College Online?

Community colleges offer learners an affordable education. In-district students pay an average of $3,400 in tuition, according to EducationData.org. Out-of-state learners pay an average of $8,210. Students attending private two-year schools may pay as much as $25,000 per year.

Community college students pay much less than learners at four-year schools. In-state students attending a public, four-year school spend an average of $25,610 for one academic year.

Community college students can reduce their expenses by applying for scholarships and grants. These forms of financial aid provide free money for college. Learners should also complete the FAFSA to qualify for federal grants and loans.

What Online Fees Should I Expect?

Community college online programs help students save money. However, learners should plan for extra costs such as technology or graduation fees. Learners may need to upgrade their internet or buy a new computer. They can save money by exploring student discounts.

Online students should also budget for books and supplies. Schools may charge a fee for assessments, including the ACCUPLACER. The ACCUPLACER and similar exams place new learners into first-year math and English classes.

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Attend an Accredited Online Community College

Online community colleges need at least two forms of accreditation: regional and national. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) charters regional accreditation agencies to assess the nation's postsecondary schools. These agencies use ED guidelines to determine whether a school offers a satisfactory educational experience.

The Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) assesses online schools nationwide. DEAC accreditation means that a school's online students receive the same education as on-campus learners.

Some online programs feature programmatic accreditation from a private agency. These agencies specialize in specific academic areas. Their experts assess whether a program uses the latest best practices and trains learners for jobs. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation lists programmatic accreditation agencies.

What Degrees Are Available at Community Colleges?

Online community colleges offer degrees, certificates, and diplomas. Degrees appeal to learners planning to transfer. Many certificate and diploma programs use a career-aligned curriculum. Some community college online programs include professional development classes.

See below for common offerings at community colleges. Please note that not all colleges offer the opportunities below. Students can research prospective schools' websites for the latest information. Enrollment advisors can also help learners choose a college and major.

An associate of arts (AA) degree appeals to students planning to transfer to a bachelor's-completion program. The curriculum covers the same general education classes that learners at four-year colleges take. AA degree-seekers also select a major but take fewer major classes than students earning an associate of science (AS).

AS degrees prepare students to transfer or for a career. Some schools refer to these degrees as an associate in applied science. AS programs require about 60 credits and include general education, major, and elective classes. Some classes feature hands-on vocational training on campus or at a worksite. Online students may need to live near campus to complete these training sessions.

College credit certificate programs help students train for a specific career, such as business specialist or paramedic. Other options include robotics technician and stage technologist. Like degrees, certificates require learners to complete prerequisites and meet a GPA cutoff. Some certificate programs accept transfer credit. A typical college credit certificate transfers to an AA or AS program.

Career and technical certificates involve hands-on training. Options include collision repair, applied accounting, and solar technology. Most programs prepare learners for jobs and one or more industry certifications. Employers value certifications as they show mastery of different skills. Like college credit certificates, career and technical certificates take one year or less to complete.

Students unsure about their plans after graduation can pursue an applied technology diploma (ATD). A typical ATD awards either college or technical credit. ATD majors include dental assisting and emergency medical technician. Prospective learners should note that not all diploma-seekers qualify for federal financial aid programs. Please consult with a school's financial aid advisor to learn more.

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