Online community college provides affordability, flexibility, and great education. Attending a community college online, no matter what subject or career interests you, is a great way to get a certificate, diploma, an associate degree , or even a bachelor’s degree. Enrolling in a community college is an affordable way for anyone to pursue further education and reach their career goals. But you still might be wondering what are the best community colleges, and also which community colleges are the cheapest.
If you are considering community college, read this guide to see what an online community college is all about and where to find the best community colleges and also the cheapest community colleges in the US. We will also discuss the best online community colleges, hidden fees, accreditation, the job and salary outlook for online community college graduates, and what financial aid you can potentially get as a community college student.
Why Attend Community College Online
Many students are choosing to pursue their studies online rather than in a classroom these days. In fact, according to the Global Learner Survey 2020 , 78 percent of students around the world prefer online learning because of its benefits over traditional learning.
Online programs offer students with other priorities a less expensive and more convenient way to learn. An online community college usually trumps a traditional program in terms of cost because you do not have to pay for other services such as commuter fares, boarding fees, or supplies. Also, they are ideal for someone looking to make a career path change after acquiring certification in their field.
Top 5 Reasons to Attend Community College Online
- It allows for greater school-life balance as you will be able to decide when you study.
- It sustains a greater sense of independence as you will in some cases be managing your time and teaching yourself, preparing you well for a career or further education.
- Class sizes are typically smaller, so students can expect more significant interaction with and accessibility to their professors.
- It is usually exceptionally cheaper than pursuing your college degree on-campus, with a broader variety of certificates and diplomas available to choose from.
- Online community colleges often offer night and weekend classes, offering further flexibility for students with a busy schedule.
Best Online Community Colleges
For the schools listed below, we defined community colleges as public institutions that primarily offer online associate degree programs, diplomas, and online certificates (technical/vocational). We used multiple school ranking resource guides and studied each college and added information published on their websites.
Below are 10 of the best online community colleges.
- Raleigh, NC
- Associate Degrees/ Diplomas/ Certificates
Wake Tech is North Carolina’s largest community college, serving more than 74,000 adults annually. Wake Tech is accredited and offers more than 200 associate degrees, diplomas, and certificates that prepare students for university transfer or immediate employment. The college also offers short-term, non-degree programs in IT, healthcare, hospitality, public safety, skilled trades, and more.
- Wausau, WI
- Associate Degrees/ Diplomas/ Certificates
Northcentral Tech has over 190 programs, including two-year associate degrees that combine technical skills with general education, one- and two-year technical diplomas that provide concentrated hands-on-learning, and short-term certificates to improve job skills. They have everything from business to marketing associate degrees, accounting to medical coding diplomas, and even counseling certificates.
- Watertown, SD
- E-Degrees/ Certificates
Lake Area Tech is more of a 50/50 online college that offers e-degrees in a unique blend of online and on-campus learning. As an e-degree student, you’ll complete some classes through its online eLearning system. Students must also go to the Lake Area Technical College campus for crucial hands-on training and clinical experience. The school primarily focuses on agriculture, business associates, and medical and fire rescue certification and degrees.
- Great Bend, KS
- Associate Degrees/ Certificates
BARTonline provides you the opportunity to complete an associate degree online or a variety of certificate programs. It also provides a learning platform that puts you in charge of scheduling. Courses are scheduled in weekly blocks, meaning you determine the time of day and week that you will attend class while accomplishing the required course work by the weekly due dates.
- Columbus, OH
- Associate Degrees/ Diplomas/ Certificates
Columbus State has a wonderful range of synchronous, asynchronous, and partial in-person types of study. Not only is it a very flexible online college, but they have a huge range of career and academic pathways from liberal arts , humanities, health and social sciences to engineering, construction, and skilled trades.
- Granite Falls, MN
- Associate Degrees/ Diplomas/ Certificates
At Minnesota West focuses on developing Internet-based courses that parallel campus courses. Online courses are taught by college faculty who work with students throughout the duration of the course. This school has a huge range of online courses for students to choose from, so click the above link for guides or other information published on this site.
- Elko, NV
- Associate Degrees/ Bachelor’s Degrees/ Continuing Education Programs
GBC offers hundreds of classes and diverse certificates and degree programs fully online and is regarded as one of the top, affordable online colleges. Its online certificate and degree programs provide web-based instruction for students seeking a career in several exciting fields. It is structured for students who require the flexibility and accessibility to coursework outside the typical undergraduate learning environment.
- Springfield, IL
- Associate Degrees/ Certificates
LLCC has been a leader in online education for 23 years as it provides affordable, high-quality courses online. It offers three categories of study: online, remote, and flex courses. LLCC distance education degrees are offered through a combination of online classes with some hybrid requirements (such as public speaking and lab sciences.) A few distance education degrees have required on-campus courses, specific to the major.
- Killeen, TX
- Associate Degrees/ Certificates
At CTC, a range of degree programs are available online, from business administration to teaching certifications. Central Texas College provides accessible and quality educational opportunities that support a diverse student population and promote student success, completion, and employability.
- Vidalia, GA
- Degrees/ Diplomas/ Certificates
Southeastern Technical College offers a wide variety of online courses each semester to meet its student population needs. There is a range of associate degrees, diplomas, and certificates that can be done online.
Online Community Colleges: Things to Look Out For
Making sure your online college is an accredited college is important. To earn a valid degree, you will need to pick a school accredited either nationally or regionally (regionally is more prestigious).
The national accreditations are the US Department of Education (ED) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). These accreditations, regional, plus the more career particular accreditations, are essential proof that the school adheres to the professional standards required to get the career you seek.
You also need to be aware of hidden fees with online community college learning. Some colleges will require you to buy textbooks and other materials needed for study, pay registration fees, and possibly even graduation ceremony fees. You may also see technology fees and required travel fees for graduates who need to go into residency training. So, be sure to inquire and do some research about any extra fees so you are completely sure it is the right path for you.
Furthermore, it would be a good idea to research whether your distance education is synchronous or asynchronous. The difference is the synchronous program is online learning that happens in real-time, with set class schedules and required login times (much like a real school). Asynchronous means it is a self-paced course and the content is online for students to use when they wish.
Colleges offering asynchronous courses are considered more convenient than their traditional counterparts. If you have a part-time job, are caring for someone, or are located far away from any schools, then asynchronous online learning is a great tool.
Job and Salary Outlook for Online Community College Graduates
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics 2019 , someone with an associate degree will earn a median income of $887 per week, whereas someone with a high school diploma earns a median income of $746 per week. Furthermore, gaining an associate degree can help students move on to a bachelor’s degree program, after which they could potentially make an average of $1,248 per week.
Highest-Paid Online Associate Degrees
There is a wide range of careers open to online community college graduates. Your interests could lay in computer programming , nursing , early childhood education , medical coding , construction, and even electric or fire protection services.
Below is a list of the highest-paid careers you can get with an online associate degree.
- Physician Assistant Studies : $76,950
- Radiation Therapy : $77,350
- Nuclear Medicine : $71,150
- Software Engineering : $69,400
- Project Management : $69,100
- Instrumental Technology : $64,200
- Computer Science (CS) & Engineering : $62,150
- Biomedical Engineering : $62,450
- Construction Management : $61,850
- Fire Protection Engineering : 60,100
What Are the Cheapest Online Community Colleges?
The cheapest online community colleges include Central Texas College, Tallahassee Community College, Carl Albert State College, Daytona State College, and others that we have ranked below from cheapest to most expensive.
Cheapest Online Community Colleges That Won’t Break the Bank
|School||In-State Tuition||Out-of-State Tuition||Graduation Rate|
|Central Texas College||In-district: $95 per credit hour
Out-of-district: $119 per credit hour
|$248 per credit hour||11%|
|Tallahassee Community College||$100.83 per credit hour||$387.27 per credit hour||37%|
|Neosho County Community College||$77 per credit hour||$77 per credit hour||43%|
|Carl Albert State College||$91.25 per credit hour||$228.75 per credit hour||29%|
|Coffeyville Community College||$39 per credit hour||$88 per credit hour||39%|
|Albany Technical College||Full-time: $1,500
Part-time: $100 per credit hour
Part-time: $200 per credit hour
|Daytona State College||$79.22 per credit hour||$311.18 per credit hour||36%|
|Atlanta Technical College||$100 per credit hour||$200 per credit hour||30%|
|North Florida Community College||College Credit: $99.80 per hour
PSAV, Vocational Prep: $85.00 per hour
|College Credit: $396.30 per hour
PSAV, Vocational Prep: $339.30 per hour
|Middlesex Community College||$252 per credit hour||$505 per credit hour||Bedford, Massachusetts: 24%
Middletown, Connecticut: 19%
What Is the Cheapest Online Community College?
Central Texas College
Central Texas College is an online school in Killeen, Texas, and was founded in 1965. It offers two delivery methods of online courses, the Online Lecture (OLL) and Online Self-Paced Lecture (OSL). It also provides a wide range of online programs such as online career training for continuing education, online certificate programs, and online degree programs.
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Tallahassee Community College
This public college is located in Florida. Tallahassee college offers online associate degree programs such as an Associate of Science Degree in Criminal Justice Technology, Associate of Arts Degree, and a bachelor’s degree program which includes a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Tallahassee’s BS in Nursing is ranked on the list of most affordable online nursing degrees in 2021 school rankings.
Neosho County Community College
Neosho is located in Chanute, Kansas, with a secondary campus in Ottawa. Neosho provides online learning for its students and offers hybrid and online courses such as payroll accounting, home health aide, and health information technology. Distance learners can also choose from a wide range of distance education programs at this community college, like the Business Administration and Computer Technology programs.
Carl Albert State College
Prospective students for this community college are offered various online programs and online degrees. These degrees and programs include an Associate of Arts in Child Development and an Associate of Science in Enterprise Development, as well as programs in history, political science, and a certificate in law enforcement procedures.
Coffeyville Community College
If you’re looking for the cheapest online community colleges, Coffeyville is a good one that offers affordable tuition rates for online programs. These include subjects like general biology, college algebra, and the fundamentals of business. Online classes take place on the Moodle platform, an online course delivery service provided by the Coffeyville Community College.
Albany Technical College
Various online courses are available at this college for full-time and part-time students. These include Associate of Applied Science degrees in subjects including business management, fire science technology, and business technology. Diploma programs include business logistics management, cyber security, and criminal justice technology. They also provide technical certificate options in various fields including supply chain management, entrepreneurship, and basic fire officer subjects.
Daytona State College
Online learners can choose from a wide range of subjects and online programs at Daytona State College. Daytona offers about 350 online programs for students. You can either take a fully online degree program or selected online classes.
Atlanta Technical College
Atlanta Technical College, previously known as Smith-Hughes Vocational School, was founded in 1945. In 1997, this institution was renamed Atlanta Technical Institute and became part of the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG). This was formerly known as the Department of Technical and Adult Education. Online learners can enroll in several self-paced online courses.
North Florida Community College
North Florida Community College offers online academic programs like a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, and an Associate of Science in Accounting Technology and Criminal Justice Technology. This community college is located in Madison, Florida, and is part of the Florida College System.
Middlesex Community College
Middlesex Community College offers various online classes, including asynchronous, synchronous, and blended methods. Some online programs include associate degree programs and online certificate programs.
How Much Do the Cheapest Online Community Colleges Cost?
One of the most affordable online community colleges would be Coffeyville, at an average cost of $39 per credit hour. Neosho County is coming in just behind at $77 per credit hour. The National Center for Education Statistics states that the average cost of tuition and required fees for a two-year college is $3,862 for public institutions and $17,968 for private, non-profit institutions.
Online Community Colleges Costs Breakdown
- Student insurance. Insurance can be used for unexpected medical expenses and preventive care such as vaccines and check-ups.
- Registration fee. Students pay for registration when they enroll in or sign up for a course.
- Instructional fee. This is a tuition revenue earned from distance learners. This may cover laboratory fees and other materials used for instructional services.
Financial Aid for Online Community College
There are different types of financial aid available for students going to community college online. Although some may think that community college is relatively affordable, there is still a lot of money and time that goes into an online course. So, below are some of the financial student support services available to prospective students.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is where students can go to find out what financial aid they qualify for. Additionally, the FAFSA comes with zero risks. The FAFSA submission period for colleges opens on October 1 for the following academic year. Confirm your school’s deadline with an advisor, but you should submit the FAFSA as promptly as you can.
If you are entitled to a FAFSA grant, once you’ve filled in an application form with your income details, your citizenship details, and more, you may not need to pay this back. In some cases, you will be asked to pay a small portion of the grant and your school will notify you if you must repay part of your grant. From that point, you will have 45 days to either pay that portion of the grant back in full or enter into a satisfactory repayment arrangement.
Student loans are given to students who require financial aid. However, with loans come terms and conditions for repayment once you have solidified a career and begin earning a designated income. Below is more information from the FAFSA website on the four types of Direct Loans available:
Direct Subsidized Loans are loans made to eligible undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need to help cover higher education costs at a college or career school.
Direct Unsubsidized Loans are loans made to eligible undergraduate, graduate, and professional students, but eligibility is not based on financial need.
Direct PLUS Loans are loans made to graduate or professional students and parents of dependent undergraduate students to help pay for education expenses not covered by other financial aid. Eligibility is not based on financial need, but a credit check is required. Borrowers who have an adverse credit history must meet additional requirements to qualify.
Direct Consolidation Loans allow you to combine all eligible federal student loans into a single loan with a single loan servicer.
These are more like gifts from the school, which you will not need to pay back at all. Some college scholarships are merit-based. You earn them by meeting or exceeding certain course requirement standards set by the scholarship provider.
Merit scholarships might be awarded based on academic achievement or a combination of academics and unique talents, traits, or interests. Other scholarships are based on financial need.
Tips for Saving Money While Attending Online Community Colleges
- Pay bills on time. If you are an online student attending a college, you need to pay your bills before the deadline to avoid fines or late fees. This will prevent additional and unexpected expenses.
- Avoid unnecessary purchases. Plan your budget and stick to it. Avoid buying unnecessary, unimportant, or expensive items. Look for free student resources.
- Use your student discounts. Buy in stores that offer student discounts. Keep your student ID with you in case you need to present it anywhere.
Can You Attend Online Community Colleges for Free?
Yes, you can attend an online community college that offers free online programs. Online colleges that provide free online courses are Hillsborough Community College, Albany Technical College, and Amarillo College. Getting a college education today means using online methods to teach students, and online colleges offer programs with affordable tuition fees and sometimes free online courses.
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