Community colleges, sometimes called junior colleges, are institutions that specialize in providing affordable, open access to postsecondary education. In contrast to traditional universities, most community colleges accept all applicants, meaning prospective students do not have to compete for spots on the basis of academic track record or other merits.
Best Online Community Colleges
|#1||Wake Technical Community College||$2,768||Raleigh, NC|
|#2||Northcentral Technical College||$4,313||Wausau, WI|
|#3||Lake Area Technical Institute||$5,076||Watertown, SD|
|#4||Barton County Community College||$3,328||Great Bend, KS|
|#5||Columbus State Community College||$3,808||Columbus, OH|
|#6||Minnesota West Community and Technical College||$5,640||Granite Falls, MN|
|#7||Great Basin College||$2,910||Elko, NV|
|#8||Lincoln Land Community College||$5,784||Springfield, IL|
|#9||Central Texas College||$2,940||Killeen, TX|
|#10||Vidalia, GA||$2,784||Vidalia, GA|
Featured 2-year Colleges
Junior colleges also differ from traditional universities in that they don't usually offer four-year degrees. Instead, they provide two-year (associate's) degrees as well as certificate, diploma, and vocational training programs. Many people start taking classes at a community college and then transfer to a larger university to finish their bachelor's degree.
The 25 Best Online Community Colleges Ranking Methodology
There are at least 1,100 community colleges in the U.S., and we sorted through them all to find those that offer the very best value.
For the purposes of this ranking, we defined community colleges as public institutions that primarily offer associate's degrees, diplomas, and technical/vocational certificates. As our focus was on online colleges, we only considered schools that offer at least one degree or certificate entirely through distance education. Online skills training and non-credit courses did not meet this criterion.
Finding the Best in Each State
Our ranking of the best community colleges online includes one school from each of the 50 states. As such, the first step in our methodology was to identify the top junior college in each state.
For this first round of filtering, we focused mainly on the number of online degrees - counting only associate's, certificate, and diploma programs - that each college offers. If two schools in one state provide a similar number of degrees online, we then looked at retention and graduation rate statistics to tip the balance.
Ranking the Top 50
Once we had identified the best online community college in each state, we ranked these top 50 schools by assigning them points in four categories:
- Their selection of online degrees and certificates (including hybrid programs with at least 75% of coursework available at a distance)
- Undergraduate retention rate (the percentage of new students who returned to the school for a second year)
- Undergraduate graduation rate (the percentage of full-time students who completed their program in at least 150% of expected time)
- The annual total cost of in-state tuition and fees
All the information we used in this ranking came from either the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), the related College Navigator database, or directly from the colleges' official websites.
After calculating the results for each school in each category, we added up the point totals and assigned final scores. Lastly, we scaled these scores so that the #1 community college earned a full 100 points. Look below to read more about the best, most affordable community colleges online!
25. Casper College
Colorado residents who want to attend a top community college online will want to consider Front Range. FRCC boasts an expansive array of wholly online programs - more than two dozen A.A., A.S., and A.A.S. degrees plus another dozen training certificates. What's more, there are another dozen degree and certificate options that are available at least 80% online. And many of these programs pair nicely together, allowing you to make the most out of your education and maximize your appeal in the job market. For example, you might earn an A.A.S. in Business with a certificate in Accounting, an A.A. in Communication with a certificate in Marketing, or an A.A.S. in Programming with a certificate in Web Development.
In-State Tuition & Fees: $2,832/yr
24. Front Range Community College
For rock-bottom prices, you won't beat Clovis Community College. The school provides some of the most affordable online associate's degree programs in the country. Yet its low prices come with a powerful return on investment. In fact, Clovis specializes in tightly-focused programs that help students quickly advance their careers. The A.A.S. in Legal Assistant Studies leads directly to a career as a paralegal, for example, while the A.A.S. in Computer Information Systems will grant you job marketability in a number of fields. You can even pair the latter with an industry-recognized certificate to really boost your resume! Or if you plan to earn your bachelor's, degrees like the A.S. in Behavioral Science serve as a strong foundation for further study.
In-State Tuition & Fees: $3,660/yr
23. West Kentucky Community and Technical College
Distance learners at Herkimer County Community College don't have to worry about missing out on important activities or resources. As one of the top community colleges online, HCCC provides online students with access to all the same services as their on-campus counterparts. Plus, they even benefit from a specialized, 24/7 E-Tutoring center. As for the types of online degrees available, this school is a home run for anyone interested in the travel industry. First, there's the slightly more traditional (but still uncommon) A.A.S. in Travel and Events Management. Or you might go for the truly one-of-a-kind A.A.S. in Ecotourism and Adventure Travel, which promotes socially-conscious travel practices that protect the environment and indigenous populations.
In-State Tuition & Fees: $3,936/yr
22. Herkimer County Community College
Kennebec Valley's accredited online college programs are ideal for students with an interest in health and/or technology. Fully and partially-online degree options include Mental Health Technology, Pulp and Paper Technology (both 100% online), Computer Information Systems, Health Information Technology, and Radiologic Technology (partially online). The Pulp and Paper Tech program in particular is one that you're unlikely to find anywhere else. This unique curriculum - which is available as either an A.A.S. or certificate - prepares degree candidates for work as lab technicians, engineering assistants, line supervisors, materials suppliers, and other essential jobs within the paper industry.
In-State Tuition & Fees: $4,980/yr
21. Kennebec Valley Community College
Oklahoma's top online community college has plenty to recommend it: affordable tuition, a high retention rate, and a respectable selection of accredited online certificate programs and degrees. Carl Albert State College's Virtual Campus department keeps an eye on course content, quality, and delivery to ensure online learners aren't just a second thought, and multiple course delivery options (video, recorded lectures, live discussions) provide variability. Educators in particular can choose from quite a few options, including three certificates in child development and an A.A. or A.A.S. in the same subject.
In-State Tuition & Fees: $3,790/yr
20. Carl Albert State College
A stable internet connection and solid work ethic are all you need to complete your degree at Carl Albert State College. This accredited online community college offers a diverse selection of online associate degrees, including programs in Business Administration, Sociology, or Computer Technology. Eager to finish? Enroll in CASC's accelerated, eight-week course options and fast-track your graduation timeline. In addition, all of Carl Albert's general education courses are available online. This makes it easy to transfer your credits to a four-year university - and makes CASC a top choice for budget-minded undergraduates who want to save money on the road to their bachelor's.
In-State Tuition & Fees: $3,160/yr
19. Southern Arkansas University Tech
Complete one of SAU Tech's affordable online associate's degree programs and you'll have the freedom to transfer to any other college in Arkansas. But why bother attending this community college first? Because you can complete your general education requirements for half the cost of a larger university! Of course, some SAU Tech applicants are more interested in quick vocational training. For those trade-focused students, the community college offers industry-specific certificates in fields such as computer information technology, environmental facility management, and fire science. But SAU Tech also offers a special teacher education initiative. Thanks to partnerships with Henderson State and Southern Arkansas University, aspiring teachers can transfer seamlessly to either school and earn entire four-year degree online.
In-State Tuition & Fees: $4,677/yr
18. White Mountains Community College
Choosing the right school for your online degree or certificate can be a tough decision. And while there's no single college that's best for everyone, WMCC certainly makes a compelling argument. For one, the school has one of the highest graduation rates on this list (over 50% earn their degree in the expected timeframe). And its retention rate is even higher! These stats should give you confidence that WMCC cultivates a supportive learning environment that promotes student success. And indeed, the community college has designed programs for all types of learners. Whether you have an interest in Health and Wellness, Criminal Justice, Library Technology, or Autism Education, WMCC has some of the best online certificate programs that we've found.
In-State Tuition & Fees: $7,344/yr
17. Ocean County College
Toms River, NJ
True professionals are always thinking ahead to their next career move. Fortunately, OCC supports a number of affordable online certificate programs that will help you do just that. Whether you need to study for the LSAT, brush up on essential creative software, or review the fundamental principles of grant writing, OCC has what you need. Aspiring university graduates will also find plenty of options as well. Along with traditional degrees in fields like Computer Science and Engineering, the college also offers specialized programs like the A.S. in Homeland Security. You might even couple it with a certificate in Middle Eastern Studies to really enhance your rÃ©sumÃ©!
In-State Tuition & Fees: $5,035/yr
16. Northern Virginia Community College
Most distance learners opt for online classes because they prioritize three things: flexibility, time, and affordability. If this describes you, then you're sure to get excited about NOVA's diverse array of online programs. The community college offers degrees in everything from International Studies and Political Science to Business Management. And while most of these degrees prepare you to transfer, the school also offers vocational certificates in cutting-edge fields like Social Media Marketing and Cyber Security. To top it all off, NOVA has one of the highest retention rates on our ranking - a stat that only solidifies its reputation as one of the best online community colleges in the nation.
In-State Tuition & Fees: $5,313/yr
15. Coastline Community College
Fountain Valley, CA
With an impressive 30 years of experience in distance education, Coastline has developed a tried-and-true approach to online learning. Their secret? At its core, this remarkably affordable online community college emphasizes effective and innovative teaching methods. Of course, its 40+ online associate's degrees and certificates don't hurt, either! Future transfer students can earn their A.A. in a traditional subject (e.g. American Studies or Science and Math) and make a seamless transition to a liberal arts program at any CSU institution. More career-minded applicants could opt for an A.A. in Gerontology, Health and Fitness, or Business Administration, or earn a certificate in a practical field like accounting, management, or process technology.
In-State Tuition & Fees: $1,136/yr
14. Shoreline Community College
If live in Washington and you're determined to receive an affordable education, take a close look at Shoreline Community College. After earning their A.A. from this top online community college, most graduates can transfer to an in-state university with junior-level status. To start, enroll in Shoreline's AA-DTA ("Associate in Arts - Direct Transfer Agreement") program, which offers diverse majors like Criminal Justice, English Language & Literature, History, and Psychology. Or if you'd rather get the ball rolling and jump into a career as soon as possible, check out SCC's numerous certificate programs. Options range from 19 (Cert. of Completion - Short Term) to 89 credits (Cert. of Proficiency) and cover relevant subjects like Microsoft Software Applications and Clean Energy Technology.
In-State Tuition & Fees: $3,735/yr
13. Mesa Community College
Whether you're interested in the music business, international trade, or organizational leadership, Mesa Community College has a tailored business track just for you. Not only that, but you'll benefit from unique course options that directly prepare you for success in your chosen field. For example, music business majors can complete an internship in the entertainment industry, while students focused on international trade are required to take foreign language courses. And since these accredited online associate's degree programs come at such a reasonable price, there's no reason not to supplement your degree - and boost your job prospects - with a certificate, too.
In-State Tuition & Fees: $2,094/yr
12. Northwest Iowa Community College
If you think distance learning is for you, you'll be happy to hear that NICC is a member of Iowa's online community college consortium. That means that you'll have access to approximately 750 web-based courses at schools across the state - not just NICC. Another reason people choose Northwest Iowa is because of its emphasis on professional fields like education, business, and law. Degrees are also available in specialized trades, such as NICC's accredited A.A.S. in Healthcare Information Technology. Participants in this top online college program boast a 100% exam pass rate on the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) credentialing exam!
In-State Tuition & Fees: $5,760/yr
11. Central Community College
Grand Island, NE
Central Community College has some of the best online college programs in the applied sciences, where hands-on, technology-oriented training is the name of the game. Consider CCC's Quality Technology program, for example. Classes like "Design of Experiments" and "Statistical Sampling & Reliability" will prep you for in-demand positions in research analysis, quality assurance, and more. And if you're not sure about your job prospects, CCC's "Career Coach" interface will help you get started. You can browse job types, learn about average salaries, and consider potential workplace responsibilities before you choose the career-track that's right for you.
In-State Tuition & Fees: $2,880/yr
10. Southeastern Technical College
One of the best things about online technical colleges is that they're perfect for working adults. Indeed, busy professionals and high-school graduates with full-time jobs will have no trouble planning for success at Southeastern Technical. With its myriad certificate programs, this accredited online community college can help you become a specialist in professional fields like IT, business, and healthcare. Of these three, STC probably places the most emphasis on technology. You can even earn a degree (or technical certificate or diploma) in Website Design and Development. This degree includes over 50 hours of courses like "Web Graphics I", "Java Programming I", and "Interactive and Social Apps Integration."
In-State Tuition & Fees: $2,784/yr
9. Central Texas College
If your heart's set on earning a two-year degree, Central Texas College may be the place to go. It offers some of the best online associate's degree programs in a broad range of subjects, from Applied Technology to Medical Coding to Social Work. And while these programs are clearly career-oriented, CTC also wants to make sure you have the opportunity to explore. As such, students can take courses in a number of topics and majors before committing to a course of study. And if you still can't decide, the school offers a design-your-own Interdisciplinary Studies major that you can transfer to a four-year baccalaureate program.
In-State Tuition & Fees: $2,940/yr
8. Lincoln Land Community College
Lincoln Land's progressive approach to online education works to the advantage of its many nontraditional learners. LLCC understands that many students need to balance work and family life on top of their classes, and so the faculty have created a distance education system that is both flexible and dynamic. If you want to attend classes entirely through the web, LLCC offers a nearly overwhelming list of options. Associate's degrees are available in more than 20 subjects, from Accounting to Sociology, Applied Computer Programming to Speech Communication. LLCC offers affordable online certificate programs in nearly as many subjects, with a focus on career-relevant topics like network administration and fire service/tactics.
In-State Tuition & Fees: $5,784/yr
7. Great Basin College
Like many of the best community colleges online, GBC primarily offers academic programs in popular career fields such as business, technology, and education. However, GBC is also a top choice for applicants who are drawn to less typical areas of study. Students interested in graphic communication, land surveying, and human services will all find associate's degrees that match their career goals. But what makes Great Basin College even more unique is that it also offers online B.A.S. and B.S.N. degrees. This means that you could earn your full four-year bachelor's at Great Basin without having to transfer to another university.
In-State Tuition & Fees: $2,910/yr
6. Minnesota West Community and Technical College
Granite Falls, MN
Whether you only need to take a few online classes or want to complete your entire degree at a distance, MWCTC has what you need. The school offers more than 40 degrees and certificates entirely online, to say nothing of the many other programs that provide partial web-based instruction. And if you're looking to break into a lucrative career field as quickly as possible, take note: Minnesota West has some of the best online associate's degree programs and certificates for accomplishing exactly that goal. In just one to two years, you could be ready for a job in biofuel technology, wind energy, manufacturing production, community health, or one of many other in-demand industries.
In-State Tuition & Fees: $5,640/yr
5. Columbus State Community College
With more than 60 top online college programs and a retention rate north of 50%, it's easy to see why Columbus State deserves a spot on our ranking. Degrees are available in all the traditional areas, of course, as well as several unconventional topics. Want a certificate in digital photography? How about an A.A.S. in Sports Management? Or maybe a degree in Geographic Information Systems? CSCC has them all - and then some. And transferring to another university to earn your bachelor's is especially convenient at Columbus State. The school has even put together a list of other more than a dozen online universities with bachelor's degrees that mesh nicely with at least one of CSCC's two-year programs.
In-State Tuition & Fees: $3,808/yr
4. Barton County Community College
Great Bend, KS
Few schools are as committed to distance learning as Barton County Community College. Nearly all of its programs are available online, meaning virtual students won't miss out on any academic opportunities. Accredited online associate's degree programs are available in traditional liberal arts subjects (Biology, Math, Liberal Studies, History, etc.) as well as vocational topics (e.g. Early Childhood Education, Physical Therapy, Veterinary Medicine, and Emergency Management). And since many of the online programs are also available on at least one regional campus, students always have the option to blend their e-coursework with some traditional classes.
In-State Tuition & Fees: $3,328/yr
3. Lake Area Technical Institute
Lake Area Technical Institute takes a slightly different approach to its "eDegree" program than many other online community colleges. As an online student at LATI, you'll take most of your classes through the internet, but you'll still have to travel to campus for certain hands-on training or clinical experiences. And while this may seem like an unnecessary hassle, LATI emphasizes the importance of practical, real-world knowledge in preparing students for 21st-century work. Indeed, many of the school's eDegrees focus on cutting-edge technical subjects; examples include Robotics, Precision Machining, and Electronic Systems Technology.
In-State Tuition & Fees: $5,076/yr
2. Northcentral Technical College
It's hard to overstate the benefits of attending Wisconsin's top community college online. First of all, Northcentral Tech has created a dedicated distance learning division known as "Virtual College." Members of Virtual College enjoy unprecedented flexibility in deciding when to begin class, how (and how quickly) to study, and even when to turn in assignments. This level of convenience might explain why more than 60% of NTC students return for a second year. Of course, it could also be due to the college's vast array of online programs, which includes unique degrees in Digital Marketing, Leadership Development, and Small Business Entrepreneurship.
In-State Tuition & Fees: $4,313/yr
1. Wake Technical Community College
What does it take to earn the number one spot on our ranking? Although there are plenty of great schools on this list, none hold up to the overall variety, affordability, and quality of WTCC. For starters, Wake Technical Community College boasts a truly enormous selection of online programs - 130, to be exact. Good luck picking a major from this set, which includes everything from a Baking and Pastry Arts certificate to an AAS in Storage and Virtualization (whatever that is). Add high retention and low tuition rates on top of everything else and what do you have? The best community college online.
In-State Tuition & Fees: $2,768/yr
Thanks for reading our ranking of the 50 best community colleges online!