Hero Image The 25 Best Online Community Colleges

The 25 Best Online Community Colleges

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Best Online Community Colleges

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.

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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.

Selection Criteria

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.

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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!

  1. Wake Technical Community College
    Location

    Raleigh, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    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
    Score: 100

  2. Northcentral Technical College
    Location

    Wausau, WI

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    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
    Score: 96.9

  3. Lake Area Technical Institute
    Location

    Watertown, SD

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    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
    Score: 90.5

  4. Barton County Community College
    Location

    Great Bend, KS

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    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
    Score: 87.7

  5. Columbus State Community College
    Location

    Columbus, OH

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    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
    Score: 87

  6. Minnesota West Community and Technical College
    Location

    Granite Falls, MN

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    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
    Score: 86.2

  7. Great Basin College
    Location

    Elko, NV

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    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
    Score: 85.3

  8. Lincoln Land Community College
    Location

    Springfield, IL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    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
    Score: 83

  9. Central Texas College
    Location

    Killeen, TX

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    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
    Score: 82.7

  10. Southeastern Technical College
    Location

    Vidalia, GA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    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
    Score: 82.1

Advertisement BestValueSchools.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Featured Online Programs

Figuring out where to apply? These top, accredited schools offer a variety of online degrees. Consider one of these accredited programs, and discover their value today.

Thanks for reading our ranking of the 50 best community colleges online!

Sources:
IPEDS Data Center
College Navigator
Study in the States

Related:
The Top 50 Best Online Colleges Best Value Schools
The Top 50 Best Small Colleges – Best Value Schools

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