Finding the Best Online Community Colleges

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40 Top Online Community Colleges for 2014 - 2015

Some community colleges offer a handful of online programs and courses. Others go above and beyond, with strong collections of distance learning options, hybrid programs, technological resources and faculty with experience delivering lessons to and engaging with students remotely. Furthermore, these schools keep their commitment to the community intact, with tuition, fees and support services that help students move their higher education in the right direction. See which online community colleges truly stand out for the 2014 - 2015 school year.

For more information on our rankings, please visit our methodology page.

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Foothill College
Tuition and Fees: $360 Enrollment: 30,120 Website:

Foothill College, located in Los Altos Hills, California, remains one of the premier community colleges in the state of California. With a combined total of nearly two hundred career certification programs, accelerated learning programs, and offered associate degrees, this college is a superb educational choice for students looking for a briefer post-secondary educational facility. Foothill College’s online programs can be completed fully online or largely online. Online degree programs at the school occur at the associate degree level and include subjects like accounting, art history, psychology, business administration and women’s studies. Exams associated with some of the programs may require students to test in-person. In addition to conferring undergraduate degrees, Foothill College administers online certificate programs. Subjects students can earn a certificate in while completing an online program include music technology, tax accounting, financial accounting, payroll preparation and web design and development.

Bunker Hill Community College
Tuition and Fees: $576 Enrollment: 17,853 Website:

Charleston, Massachusetts, a quaint suburb of bustling Boston, is the home of Bunker Hill Community College. With its close proximity to the urban opportunities of Boston and the variety of associate degrees and certification programs, this college sees a regularly growing student population. This community college is a popular choice for international students seeking education in the New England area. Bunker Hill Community College offers eight online certificate programs. Areas of focus include accounting information, computer forensics, computer tomography, database support, law enforcement, magnetic resonance, mammography and world studies. Students must complete an estimated 27 credit hours to graduate from each program.

Mt. San Antonio College

Mt. San Antonio College is a community college located in Walnut, California. Because this community college is located within a suburb of the greater Los Angeles area, it is a very popular community college system. Mt. San Antonio College has the distinction of having one of the biggest campuses in the entire state, and the campus continues to grow with new construction and an increasing student population. Online programs at Mt. San Antonio College range from technology to hospitality certificate credentials, with the majority of the online programs offered in the technology space. These programs are fully online and include a professional certificate in networking, operating systems security, programming, telecommunications, visual basic, restaurant management and hospitality management. It takes from 12 to 21 credits to graduate from the college’s online certificate programs.

MiraCosta College

MiraCosta College is located in Oceanside, California. This public community college has two-year associate degree education paths from which students can choose. MiraCosta College, located close to downtown San Diego, also offers career certification courses in the health sciences, business and marketing, information technology and computer technology, and much more. MiraCosta College has a series of medical and technical online programs available. Concerning the medical field, students can enroll in the medical transcription with editing online program, an academic program with 640 hours of course material. Additional medical online programs at the college include professional medical coding and billing and pharmacy technician. These programs take 565 and 285 hours to finish, respectively. The college also has technical online programs such as electronics technician, robotics technician, electromechanical technician and programmable logic controller tech.

Mission College
Tuition and Fees: $864 Enrollment: 16,522 Website:

Mission College is located in the city of Santa Clara, California. In addition to a beautiful, modern campus, this two-year community college offers a wide variety of course offerings to its student population, including public service certification, fire prevention and safety, and information technology. Mission College’s computer application curriculum is delivered online. Courses covered in the online program include JavaScript, Visio and Microsoft Office. Two associate degrees include an Associate of Science in Office Administration and an Associate of Science in Office Information Systems. Certificates give students a chance to earn professional skills in a variety of subjects, such as help desk specialist, internet application, office administration and office support specialist.

Monterey Peninsula College

Monterey Peninsula College is located in Monterey, California. This community college offers two-year associate level degree opportunities as well as several certification courses. Many students opt to attend Monterey Peninsula College because of its lineup of accelerated educational opportunities and non-traditional classroom hours Five online degree programs are available at Monterey Peninsula College. These five degrees include an Associate of Science in Business Administration, Associate of Arts in General Studies with an emphasis on humanities and fine arts, Associate of Arts in General Studies with an emphasis on social science, Associate of Art in Family Research Studies and an Associate of Arts in Hospitality. The three certificate programs available via online learning at Monterey Peninsula College include general business, great books and family research studies. Students need approximately 16 credit hours to graduate from a certificate program and 60 credit hours to earn an associate degree.

Ohlone Community College
Tuition and Fees: $864 Enrollment: 17,973 Website:

Ohlone Community College is located in Fremont, California, and operates a single main campus as well as several smaller, satellite campuses in the surrounding area. Because it serves several cities in and around Fremont, the student population continues to grow. Students are attracted to Ohlone Community College’s affordable tuition and quality accreditation standards. At Ohlone Community College, online programs are largely offered through community-based courses. Examples of these online programs include the California notary class and a tax education course. The school’s online programs also partner with external colleges such as Michigan State University and Villanova University to teach business courses such as Six Sigma, supply chain management and project management.

Pasadena City College
Tuition and Fees: $912 Enrollment: 35,756 Website:

Pasadena City College is one of the most well-known and highly respected community colleges in the state of California. Pasadena CC has the third largest junior college campus in the U.S. Located in Pasadena, California, Pasadena City College offers nearly a hundred associate degree educational paths as well as vocational training and certification. Pasadena City College’s speech-language pathology assistant online program is approved by the Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology Licensing Board. The online program is comprised of five semesters of study. Core courses that make up the curriculum include Behavioral Management in Special Education, American Sign Language, Infants and Children with Exceptional Needs, Voice and Diction and Intercultural Communication. A total of 62 credit hours are required to earn an associate degree in the subject.

Los Angeles Harbor College
Tuition and Fees: $958 Enrollment: 15,515 Website:

Los Angeles Harbor College is located in Wilmington, California. This two-year educational institution has featured a constantly growing student population, likely due to its proximity to the heart of L.A. With associate degree programs, credits that can be transferred to other schools, and a variety of career certification programs, Los Angeles Harbor College is expected to continue growing. Los Angeles Harbor College offers a number of online associate degrees in areas such as administration of justice and fire technology. These two online programs lead to undergraduate degrees in public safety. Specific courses that make up the program curriculums include English, history, administration of justice, philosophy and political Science. A total of 60 credit hours are necessary to graduate from both programs.

West Los Angeles College
Tuition and Fees: $958 Enrollment: 17,410 Website:

West Los Angeles College is located just outside of Los Angeles in Culver City, California. Unlike other community colleges within the state, West Los Angeles College offers a wide variety of athletic opportunities to its students. This community college also offers three educational opportunities: transfer courses, certificates and two-year degree programs. Through West Los Angeles College’s online programs, students can earn degrees and certificates fully and partially online. Degrees are fully online in programs in areas such as accounting, anthropology, business administration, fire technology, English, marketing and real estate. Fully online certificates include computer network management, hotel front desk management, back office operations and computer web support. Graduating from these programs could take from two semesters to two years.

Amarillo College
Tuition and Fees: $960 Enrollment: 15,823 Website:

Located in Amarillo, Texas, this two-year college has continued student enrollment of about 10,000 students each semester. The junior college serves several different counties around the greater Amarillo area, and students can choose to complete either an associate degree or vocational training. Amarillo College has six fully online programs, five at the associate degree level and one certificate of completion. Programs include business administration, criminal justice, general studies, human sciences, psychology, and mortuary science (certificate). Amarillo College’s Associate of Science in Criminal Justice program requires 66 credits for completion. Focus areas for the program include corrections, law enforcement and court systems.

Santa Barbara City College
Tuition and Fees: $1,008 Enrollment: 27,236 Website:

Santa Barbara City College is a community college in Santa Barbara, California, and is one of the oldest community colleges in the state. The two-year college has been offering educational courses to students for over a century, and students can still complete associate degrees in the sciences, arts and humanities, fine arts, and technology fields of study. General education requirements must be met before students enroll in associate online programs at Santa Barbara City College. After completing enrollment requirements, students can register for several fields of study. Certificates offered through the school’s online programs include access SQL and computer applications and office management. Depending on the program, it could take up to a year to earn a certificate and two years to earn an associate degree if students enroll in the programs full-time.

Southwestern College
Tuition and Fees: $1,008 Enrollment: 25,907 Website:

Chula Vista, California, is the home of Southwestern College, a community college with both vocational training opportunities and associate degree opportunities. Even though Southwestern College has only been operational for about fifty years, an estimated 500,000 students have received education and training from the community college. Online programs at Southwestern College supplement working adults’ professional experience and skills. They also give adults the skills and knowledge to enter certain career fields. Types of online programs taught at the college include leadership and supervision, international business, insurance and travel and tourism. At the end of the online programs, students receive a professional certificate. Total units necessary to graduate range from 13 to 22.

Navarro College
Tuition and Fees: $1,080 Enrollment: 15,272 Website:

Navarro College is located in Corsicana, Texas, and offers two-year educational opportunities and pursuits to its student population. The nearly 10,000 students who enroll in Navarro College each year can choose to pursue associate degrees, vocational training or transfer course credits to universities such as Texas A&M, with which it has a close affiliation. Eight degrees are conferred through Navarro College’s online programs, including a number at the associate level: Associate in Applied Science in Criminal Justice, an Associate in Applied Science in Cosmetology, an Associate in Arts in English and an Associate in Arts in General Studies. The online programs are offered through Navarro College’s eLearning Campus.

Skyline College
Tuition and Fees: $1,080 Enrollment: 16,298 Website:

Skyline College is located in San Bruno, California. This community college is a two-year post-secondary institution that was established to provide alternative education opportunities for students who cannot afford four-year programs in the state. One of the colleges in the San Mateo district, Skyline College offers eighty different degree options. Skyline College has online programs in several business, art, education and science fields. For example, the college operates online programs in accounting, business computer systems/management, biology, psychology, English, business and childhood education. Skyline College also offers a blend of online and classroom academic programs. Each course built into the online program generally takes a semester to complete.

San Jacinto Community College
Tuition and Fees: $1,512 Enrollment: 41,792 Website:

San Jacinto Community College is located in Pasadena, a part of the larger Houston area. Because of its proximity to urban development and expansion in South Texas, this school has ballooned to a population of nearly 30,000 students each semester. San Jacinto Community College is a two-year academic institution that offers career certification programs and associate degree options. San Jacinto College’s human resources fast-track certificate program is fully online. Performance management, compensation and benefits and strategic human resources planning comprise a portion of the online program. The course is designed for small business owners and human resources professionals, particularly human resources professionals entering the career field.

Mesa Community College
Tuition and Fees: $1,824 Enrollment: 41,836 Website:

Mesa Community College is located in Mesa, Arizona, and this junior college is a part of the larger Maricopa County College District. The two-year learning institution specializes in career certification and training. Students choose Mesa Community College for certification in engineering, agriculture, medicine, public service, and several other industries that require certificate training. Mesa Community College has about two dozen online programs, each leading to an associate degree. Fields of focus include administration of justice, bookkeeping, business communication, business management, real estate, music business and international trade. Additionally, students can graduate from some of the school’s online certificate programs after they complete 18 credits. Associate degrees take an estimated two years of full-time study to finish. Many certificates can be completed in less than two semesters.

Rio Salado College
Tuition and Fees: $1,824 Enrollment: 67,273 Website:

Rio Salado College is a community college located in Tempe, Arizona. This community college is regionally accredited, which means students can easily transfer college credits, courses or even entire associate degrees to many four-year colleges or universities. Students who are interested in vocational education, distance learning and associate degree paths often choose Rio Salado College. Rio Salado College offers a broad range of online programs. Some of its online programs, such as the public administration and the accounting programs, lead to associate degrees. Other degree and certificate subjects taught online include infant and toddler development, military leadership, adult development and aging, computer technology, dental assisting and professional addictions counseling. The two-year online programs prepare students to meet the requirements to get accepted into bachelor’s degree studies.

Hillsborough Community College

Hillsborough Community College is located in Tampa, Florida and serves students in Hillsborough County and some other cities in the general area. This community college offers two-year degree programs and transfer credits, but many students choose Hillsborough because of its expert and highly recommended training and certification programs. Online programs are taught through Hillsborough Community College’s Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice Studies. Criminal justice technology is the specific online program offered at the school. Courses taught during the online program include Introduction to Criminology, Introduction to Criminal Justice, Criminal Investigations, Juvenile Delinquency and Constitutional Law. Each of the courses runs three credits and can be taken individually or as part of an associate degree or certificate program.

Georgia Perimeter College
Tuition and Fees: $2,065 Enrollment: 38,015 Website:

Georgia Perimeter College operates within the University System of Georgia. While the school was initiated strictly as a two-year academic institution offering only career certification and associate degrees, the Georgia State Board recently allowed the school to add a few bachelor level degree programs to its lineup of academic offerings. One of the most popular is the Bachelor of Arts in American Sign Language Interpretation. Georgia Perimeter College’s business administration department operates online programs with a three-year and a four-year graduation option. Both online programs are administered in conjunction with Georgia Southwestern State University. Other degrees offered through the school’s online programs include an Associate of Arts in Communications, an Associate of Science in Criminal Justice, an Associate of Arts in Philosophy and an Associate of Science in Psychology. A blend of core courses and electives make up the undergraduate online programs.

Central Piedmont Community College
Tuition and Fees: $2,128 Enrollment: 31,997 Website:

Charlotte, North Carolina is home to many different community colleges and junior colleges, but Central Piedmont Community College is by far the largest. The school was actually founded when two preexisting colleges merged, and today Central Piedmont Community College has an average yearly student enrollment that exceeds 68,000, making it one of the largest community colleges in the state. Central Piedmont Community College operates online Certificate programs in several different career fields, including business administration, computer technology integration, construction management technology, criminal justice, fire protection technology and office administration. The school also offers two associate online programs, one in health information technology and another in fire protection technology. The third associate online program is in computer technology Integration. Certificate programs can generally be completed in one year, while associate programs take two years to complete if students are enrolled in the programs full-time.

Wake Technical Community College
Tuition and Fees: $2,128 Enrollment: 26,315 Website:

Wake Technical Community College is located in Raleigh, North Carolina. It also has satellite campuses elsewhere in Wake County. The North Carolina Community College System includes Wake Tech offers both certificate and associate degree in a wide range of academic and technical disciplines. Wake Technical Community College offers online programs that lead to degrees such as the Associate in General Education, Associate in Arts, Associate in Computer Information Technology and an Associate in Medical Office Administration. Some of these programs include a blend of online and classroom coursework. However, the Associate in Fire Protection Technology and the Associate in Medical Office Administration are fully online. Certificate and diploma programs can be taken in subjects like accounting, advanced web development, IT foundations and manufacturing process control. Full-time students should plan on spending a semester to earn a diploma, a year to earn a certificate and at least two years to earn an associate degree.

Oklahoma City Community College
Tuition and Fees: $2,146 Enrollment: 22,522 Website:

While other community colleges in Oklahoma City compete for dominance, Oklahoma City Community College continues to be one of the most popular and highest rated. Nearly 20,000 students attend Oklahoma City Community college, and the school offers one of the widest varieties of associate degree and certification courses in the state of Oklahoma. The speech-language pathology assistant online program at Oklahoma City Community College is designed for working adults, particularly adults working a full-time job. A total of 61 credit hours are built into the curriculum. Nineteen hours of coursework reside in general studies, and 42 hours of the curriculum in speech-language. Upon graduation from the online program, students receive an associate in applied science degree.

Brookhaven College

A part of the Dallas County Community College District, Brookhaven College is located in Farmers Branch, Texas. Because it operates slightly outside the Dallas city center, its student population is not as large as other junior colleges. However, the vocational certification courses offered at Brookhaven College are some of the most varied and comprehensive in the state of Texas. Undergraduate degrees like the Associate in Arts and the Associate in Science are offered through online programs at Brookhaven College. Students must obtain a minimum of 60 credit hours to graduate from most online programs. Students must also earn at least a 2.0 GPA in core courses such as English, critical reading and writing, wellness and the human experience and self and society. These online programs can be completed fully online or in conjunction with classroom courses. Additionally, Brookhaven College offers online certificate programs in a variety of subjects, including accounting assistant, accounting clerk, administrative, teaching careers and criminal justice.

Eastfield College
Tuition and Fees: $2,490 Enrollment: 23,435 Website:

Eastfield College is located in Mesquite, Texas. This community college, offering two-year academic degree paths and vocational training for job certification, is a part of the large assortment of Dallas County Community Colleges. Over 11,000 students attend Eastfield College each semester, and some of these students are pursuing non-traditional learning programs online or in the evenings. The following online undergraduate degree programs are taught fully online at Eastfield College: Associate in Arts in Criminal Justice, Management Associate in Applied Science, Associate of Arts in Teaching and an Associate of Science in Business. A total of 60 credit hours and a minimum 2.0 GPA are required to graduate from the programs, which usually take two years to complete on a full-time basis. Certificate online programs available to Eastfield College students include an Administrative Certificate and a Criminal Justice Certificate.

El Centro College
Tuition and Fees: $2,490 Enrollment: 19,312 Website:

El Centro College in Dallas, Texas, is part of the Dallas County Community College District, also known as the DCCCD. El Centro offers classes in both English and Spanish to help serve the diverse language needs of the community. In addition to bi-lingual flexibility, the college has a top-ranked Allied Health Program with courses and full degree programs available both on campus and online. Distance learning programs at El Centro generally take two years of full-time study to complete. Its online certificate programs can take between 30 and 46 semester hours to finish, depending on the subject area. Degrees are conferred at the associate level; specific degrees students could earn include an Associate in Arts, an Associate in Science with a business focus and an Associate in Applied Science in Business Administration. Certificate programs that are fully online include network administration and support, software programming and information technology support, among others.

Mountain View College
Tuition and Fees: $2,490 Enrollment: 15,107 Website:

Mountain View College is located in Dallas, Texas, and this junior college is just one of the schools that belong to the Dallas County Community College District. While the school only has a full-time enrollment of about 10,000 students, almost that same amount of students take part-time credits at Mountain View College to continue their education. Mountain View’s collection of online programs includes two-year credentials in criminal justice, business, computer design and architecture. For example, students can earn an Associate of Arts in Criminal Justice or an Associate of Arts in Business Administration. These programs require 60 credit hours to be eligible for graduation. Online programs at Mountain View College are also offered in 30 – 46 semester hour certificate subjects like accounting, architectural drafting, network administrator and support and computer aided design operator.

North Lake College
Tuition and Fees: $2,490 Enrollment: 20,817 Website:

North Lake College is located in Irving, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, but the school is still a part of the Dallas County Community College District. North Lake College is only a two-year educational institution, offering associate degree pursuit options and career certification courses for its average of 10,000 students who enroll annually at the school. Students at North Lake College can enroll in online programs leading to a certificate or an associate degree. Certificate-level academics include the human resources assistant certificate, administrative support certificate, software application specialist certificate and the help desk/user support technician certificate. When enrolling in the college’s hybrid programs, students should prepare to spend between 30 and 46 semester hours on campus, in addition to study and coursework time, to graduate. North Lake College also offers associate in arts and an associate in science online programs; both of these degree programs can be completed fully online and cover 60 credit hours.

Richland College
Tuition and Fees: $2,490 Enrollment: 34,627 Website:

Richland College is located in Dallas, Texas, which makes this community college one of the many colleges included in the Dallas County Community College District. As such, this college receives regular accreditation and complies with strict educational standards, so students can trust the education they receive at Richland College to be of the highest quality. Richland College is the only community college in the Dallas Community College District that offers an online program where students can earn an Associate of Arts in Mass Communication/Journalism. Other degrees available online include an Associate in Sciences in Business and an Associate in Applied Science in Business Administration. These programs take about two years for full-time students to complete, and up to five years to complete on a part-time basis. Additionally, Richland College offers online certificates in accountant assisting, accounting clerk preparation, software application specialist and personal computer user.

Spokane Falls Community College
Tuition and Fees: $2,531 Enrollment: 16,367 Website:

Spokane Falls Community College is located in the beautiful and wooded region of Spokane Falls, Washington. This college has a sprawling and natural-looking campus with modern buildings and lots of student activity. Students can complete associate degrees at Spokane Falls Community College, but over half of the student population ends up transferring credits to a four-year school. Types of associate online programs that students can enroll in at Spokane Falls Community College include Associate in Business, Associate in Arts, Associate in Applied Science in Accounting Assistant and an Associate in Applied Science in Gerontology. Students can also enroll in online programs that lead to certificates in early childhood education, legal office software specialist and medical office receptionist.

Arapahoe Community College
Tuition and Fees: $2,540 Enrollment: 18,336 Website:

Arapahoe Community College is located in Littleton, Colorado, but it was created to add yet another junior college option to the growing Denver community. Though it was only founded in 1965, Arapahoe Community College now offers more than a hundred different associate degree paths and vocational training certification options. Arapahoe Community College offers a number of online programs, including a flexible medical billing and coding program, which can be taken jointly if students choose. The medical billing online program is also offered independently for students who may already have the coding credentials. Courses covered in the programs include medical procedure coding, exploring pharmacology, exploring healthcare reimbursement and technology and the medical profession. The medical coding and billing online programs center on ICD-9 and ICD-10 code sets, while the independent medical billing program centers on ICD-10 and X12510 code and billing sets.

Red Rocks Community College
Tuition and Fees: $2,540 Enrollment: 15,229 Website:

Red Rocks Community College, located in Lakewood, Colorado, is named for its proximity to the famous Red Rocks National Park. The college has a satellite campus in Arvada, but most of the student population pursues associate degrees, credit transfer courses and vocational training and certification at the main campus in Lakewood. Fire science, fire technology, criminal justice, childhood education and technology represent five of the online programs offered at Red Rocks Community College. Some of the programs are fully online, while others are a blend of online and classroom courses. The fire science online program leads to an Associate in Applied Science Fire Science Management. There is also an option to focus on emergency management and planning. An Associate of Arts in Criminal Justice or Victim Assistance can be obtained through the criminal justice online program. The computer information systems online program focuses on web development and design, multimedia software developer and computer support technician. Additionally, under early childhood education, students can earn group leader, preschool group leader or infant/toddler group leader certificates.

Lone Star College System
Tuition and Fees: $2,640 Enrollment: 86,966 Website:

The Lone Star College System is a junior college system in The Woodlands, Texas. Students who graduated high school from or live in the northern part of Houston are able to take college-level courses that can either be transferred to a four-year university or used to achieve an associate degree. There are many different colleges in the Lone Star College System from which to choose. Fully digital, Lone Star College System online programs are taught largely at the associate degree level. Particular associate degrees designed with courses taught 100% online include an Associate of Arts in Criminal Justice, an Associate of Arts in International Studies, an Associate of Arts in Speech Communication, an Associate of Applied Science in Administrative Medical Specialty and an Associate of Applied Science in E-Business Web Developer Specialization. If attending college full-time, students can expect to graduate in two years. Lone Star College System also offers certificate online programs such as business management specialization, programming specialist, human resources specialty and business operations support. These certificate programs require from 20 to 40 credits to finish.

Tidewater Community College
Tuition and Fees: $2,676 Enrollment: 44,393 Website:

Tidewater Community College serves southeastern Virginia with campuses in Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Virginia Beach and regional centers devoted to automotive technology, the visual arts, health professions, and workforce development. TCC offers two-year associate degrees and more than 150 credentials in career and technical fields. Tidewater Community College students can choose from hundreds of online courses each semester. Through its Center for Military and Veterans Education (CMVE), the college offers a special collection of classroom, online and hybrid programs for military members, including maritime logistics, project management, OSHA-authorized maritime safety, and basic instructor training. Some of the certificate programs can be completed in 10 to 30 hours. In addition, through the Navy College Program Distance Learning Partnership, military professionals can earn associate degrees in accounting, management and industrial technology. CMVE specialists help military-affiliated students apply for and use military benefits, making college even more affordable.

Portland Community College
Tuition and Fees: $2,844 Enrollment: 53,172 Website:

Portland Community College is located in Portland, Oregon. The school currently offers several different associate-level degree options as well as one of the biggest assortments of vocational training courses in the state of Oregon. With an enrollment of over 80,000, Portland Community College is the biggest junior college in Oregon and one of the largest in the United States. Portland Community College offers several online programs, many leading to associate degrees. Examples of these online programs are the Associate of Applied Science in Computer Information Systems, the Associate of Applied Science in Management and Supervisory Development, the Associate of Applied Science in Fire Protection and the Associate of Applied Science in Health Information Management. Taking approximately two years to complete if students enroll in the programs full-time, the programs are fully online.

Columbus State Community College
Tuition and Fees: $2,879 Enrollment: 49,256 Website:

Columbus State Community College is located in Columbus, Ohio. This community college has an incredibly large population of students when compared to other junior colleges in the state. Over 30,000 students pursue two-year degrees and vocational training or certification at Columbus State Community College each semester. Columbus State Community College offers 12 associate degree programs online. Undergraduate degrees are conferred in subjects that range from business management, digital design and graphics, finance, nursing and marketing. Up to 24 certificate programs exist in specialty fields such as electronic marketing, international business, medical coding and office communication. Laboratory and clinical courses associated with some of the programs like nursing may need to be completed on-site.

Johnson County Community College
Tuition and Fees: $2,880 Enrollment: 32,597 Website:

Johnson County Community College, located in Overland Park, Kansas, is one of the biggest community colleges in the Midwest. There are nearly 40,000 students who attend Johnson County Community College, and these students are either pursuing a college education for the first time or returning as adults, often to continue a partially earned degree. At Johnson County Community College, adults can get professional certificates while enrolled in online programs. More than a dozen online certificates could be obtained at the school, in subjects like complementary and alternative medicine, end of life care, food, nutrition and health, physical therapy and spirituality, health and healing. Several of these programs are administered as part of the school’s health care independent study branch.

Ozarks Technical Community College
Tuition and Fees: $2,916 Enrollment: 19,054 Website:

The Ozarks Technical Community College is located in Springfield, Missouri. This community college was actually established by the city of Springfield and a partnership with surrounding high school districts looking for a reputable and affordable college option for high school graduates. The technical community college has a medium enrollment of about fifteen thousand students each semester. Students have the option of enrolling in nearly a dozen online programs, including associate degree and certificate programs at Ozarks Technical Community College. Developed the same as courses taught in the classroom, the online programs lead to Associate of Arts in Business, Associate of Applied Science in Accounting, Associate of Applied Science in Business and Marketing, a Certificate in Business Technology and a Certificate in Business and Marketing.

Chabot College
Tuition and Fees: NR Enrollment: 21,214 Website:

Chabot College is a community college that operates with a semester system and is located in Hayward, California. The school is quite varied for a community college, offering nearly two hundred different degree options and educational pursuits. Students can choose to complete either career certification programs or pursue an associate degree. Certificate and associate online programs at Chabot College are taught fully online. The programs are designed for adults who want to pursue careers in business, the social sciences and technology-related areas. Common online degree programs include an associate degree in behavioral sciences and an associate degree in business. Chabot College also offers online certificates in marketing, management, retailing, office technology and administrative assisting. The numbers of courses required to complete the programs varies, but ranges from 6 to 11.

Cosumnes River College
Tuition and Fees: NR Enrollment: 22,825 Website:

In Sacramento, California, Cosumnes River College was established in 1970. This two-year community college offers career certification programs, accelerated education programs, non-traditional college education programs and associate degree programs. The school has an average yearly enrollment of over 13,000 students, and its satellite campus recently became an independent institution. Students can earn an associate of science degree through Cosumnes River College’s nutrition and foods online program. Chemistry, food theory and preparation, composition and nutrition and metabolism and related topics fill the curriculum. On-site lab work may be required to complete courses like food theory and preparation. Graduating from the online program prepares students to pursue a bachelor’s degree in dietetics.

Online Community Colleges

Where flexibility and affordability meet

Like for-profit schools and non-profit universities, community colleges across the country have added distance learning to their program and course lists, helping students earn credits and work toward a degree with maximum flexibility. Yet one important thing sets community colleges apart: affordability. Using insight from distance learning experts and online students, the following guide examines how (and why) community colleges hit the cost and flexibility sweet spot.

About the Author

Jennifer Koebele, MS Ed. Jennifer Koebele, MS Ed. is a freelance writer and educator from Charlotte, NC. She has more than a decade of experience researching and writing on topics related to higher education, college financing and technology.

Expert Sources

Jennifer S. Distance Learning Instructor Tompkins Cortland Community College Dryden, NY
Mark Thompson Florida Tech Online Student
Nicole Campbell Online Student Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC)


As the cost of tuition and fees at colleges and universities continue to rise, students are looking for creative ways to keep expenses down. Traditionally, community colleges have provided students the opportunity to pursue a certificate or degree at a low financial cost. Whether students wish to pursue an associate degree, receive training to enter the workforce, or earn a two-year degree to transfer to a four-year institution, community college can be an effective solution.

The increase in the number of online degree programs in the U.S. makes attending community college even easier. According to the U.S. Department of Education, there are over 1,655 community colleges in the country, many which offer distance learning programs and courses. By making online classes available, community colleges are able to reach students located close by and in remote areas.

Distance learning has many benefits, including flexibility, fewer expenses and the ability to continue working. Of course, it is important for students to make sure the school they attend is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education-recognized agency.

Distance Learning Basics and Benefits?

Distance learning gives students the opportunity to pursue a certificate or degree without being physically present in the classroom. Instructors utilize a variety of formats when teaching classes online. Some classes require students and instructors to be online simultaneously (synchronous), while other classes provide more flexibility, allowing students to log in within a certain period of time (asynchronous). Hybrid courses are a combination of in-person instruction and online learning.

Instruction takes place through interactive videos, digital textbooks and virtual learning software such as Blackboard. Students interact with instructors and peers via e-mail, online discussion boards and Skype.

Advantages of Distance Learning

Flexibility: Students can complete coursework from any location where there is a computer and internet connection, allowing them to fit classes around busy family and work schedules.

No commuting: Location flexibility allows students to save money on the costs associated with commuting, such as gas and wear and tear on a vehicle.

Greater choice: Prospective students who live in small communities without nearby schools can attend online degree programs even if there is not a community college located nearby.


U.S. Distance Learning AssociationNonprofit association that supports Distance Learning research and development across the complete arena of education, training and communications

Distance Education Associations and Professional OrganizationsLinks to associations and organizations compiled by the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Why Do Students Attend Community Colleges?

A community college is a two-year institution of higher education that offers different levels of instruction. Generally, community colleges are open to everyone, providing a quality learning opportunities with low tuition and fees. Students attend community college for a variety of reasons:

Career education: Students complete a two-year degree or certification program that allows them to enter the workforce immediately upon graduation. There are numerous career options for students to pursue in these programs, depending on the school. Here are some examples:

  • Accounting Certificate (entry-level accounting)
  • Automotive Technology Certificate (automobile repair technician)
  • Dental Assisting (Dental Assistant)
  • Early Childhood Education: (Preschool or daycare employee)
  • Information Technology (entry-level IT position)
  • Nursing (Certified Nursing Assistant)
  • Paralegal Studies (Paralegal)

Transfer education: After completing a two-year degree program, students can transfer to a four-year institution to pursue a BS or BA degree. For example, University of California Board of Regents reports that 30 percent of UC graduates attended a community college before transferring to the university. Many colleges and universities have articulation agreements with community colleges that clearly spell out what students need to do in order to transfer. provides a list of schools with articulation agreements.

Developmental education: High school graduates who are not academically ready to enroll in college-level courses can take remedial education classes at community colleges. For example, Columbus State Community College has a Developmental Education Department with the goal of providing an educational opportunity for each learner to assist the college with the retention of students. Students take basic level courses and receive special support services.

Industry training: Local companies contract with community colleges to provide specific training or courses for their employees. Many community colleges have a Center for Workforce Development that provides training on site or on campus by experts to enhance employee skills. Services may include consultation and planning development and continuing professional education. Some examples of industry-specific skills are:

  • Electrical Pre Apprenticeship
  • Construction Estimating
  • Computer Skills
  • Project Management
  • Technical Writing

Continuing education: Individuals can take non-credit courses for personal development and interest in continuing education programs at community colleges, which can include courses, conferences and certificate programs. Students have the opportunity to refresh their knowledge and skills in self-directed and group-based classes. Individuals pursue continuing education to:

  • Earn a GED
  • Receive on-the-job training
  • Participate in corporate training
  • Gain English as a Second Language (ESL) experience
  • Build a business
  • Strengthen basic skills
  • Enjoy personal development


Department of Developmental Education, Columbus State Community CollegeAn example of a comprehensive developmental education department, including goals

Developmental Education Aligned to the Common Core State StandardsArticle about the connection between Common Core State Standards and developmental education

Developmental Education in Community CollegesAn in-depth examination of developmental education programs offered by community colleges

Tips for Transferring from a 2-Year to a 4-Year CollegeTimeline for transferring to college or university along with suggestions for making the process run smoothly

UC Seeks to Increase Transfer Students from Community CollegesArticle about California’s goal for transferring community college students to University of California schools

Affordability of Online Classes at Community Colleges

Students save a considerable amount of money by attending classes at community colleges. According to The College Board, the average tuition and fees at community colleges are less than half that of public four-year institutions and one-ninth that of private four-year institutions.

Community college students who enroll in online degree programs, or who take online classes, can save even more money because of the cost-saving benefits of distance learning, such as:

  • No commuting and parking fees
  • Ability to eat meals at home
  • Fewer childcare expenses
  • Uninterrupted work schedule

Even students at four-year institutions are beginning to understand the financial benefits associated with online community college classes. In some cases, students are taking online classes at community colleges and applying the credits to their bachelor’s degree requirements, saving hundreds of dollars per course.


Distance Education Training CouncilDETC is a private, nonprofit organization that operates as a national accreditor of distance education institutions

Get 4-Year Credits with Online Community College ClassesArticle about how students at four-year institutions are taking classes at community colleges to save money

Why Distance Education?The benefits of Distance Education by the Career Institute

Online Community College Degree Timeline

The flexibility of distance learning means students can create their own timelines in many cases. However, the following schedule illustrates how some students approach an online program from start to finish.


Most schools have an online application link on their website. In some cases, students must print out the application and mail it in. Applications are also available at high school guidance offices, libraries and human service agencies. In addition to submitting an application, students must send or fax their official transcript or a copy of their GED diploma and scores to the college. If applying for financial aid, students must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®).

Year One

In order to graduate with an associate degree in two years, students must take five classes per semester, or 15 credit hours. During the first two semesters, students enroll in core general education courses.

  • Career Education: You have some time before you need to begin actively searching for a job. However, the first year is a good time to begin to investigate places where you would like to work. Seek internship and volunteer opportunities to build your resume.
  • Transfer Education: If you plan on transferring to a four-year school, meet with your transfer advisor during the first semester. Begin researching colleges and universities that interest you so that you can become familiar with their transfer policies. Begin to visit each school and talk to the transfer coordinator in the admissions office.

Year Two

The second year at community college involves taking classes within a student’s major. These classes prepare students to enter the workforce or transfer to a four-year institution.

  • Career Education: Students who will begin working after graduation need research job opportunities early. Each school has a career development center where students can receive guidance during their job search, including resume assistance, mock job interviews and job leads.
  • Transfer Education: Students planning to transfer to a college or university need to take entrance exams, fill out applications, and update FAFSA® forms. Many community colleges have articulation agreements with four-year institutions, so it is important to speak with your advisor.

Questions to Ask Before Enrolling

  • Does the institution have a special transfer relationship with any four-year colleges?
  • Will the institution accept all of my earned credits if I transfer?
  • Do I need to earn a minimum GPA to transfer?

Online Degree Profile: Associate of Arts in Business Administration

Although each school is different, these courses exemplify what’s typically found in an Associate of Arts in Business Administration online degree program.

Required Hours: 60 credit hours Time to Complete: 2 years (4 semesters)
Business Administration Courses:
24 credits total   BUS 100- Introduction to Business (3 credits) BUS 185- Business Law I (3 credits) BUS 220- Introduction to International Business (3 credits) BUS 101- Principles of Management (3 credits) BUS102- Introduction to Marketing (3 credits) BUS 106- Human Resources Management (3 credits) ACCT 131- Principles of Accounting 1 (3 credits) ACCT 132- Principles of Accounting 11 (3 credits)
General Education Courses:
36 credits total at 100 or 200 level
English Composition
WRIT 120 College Writing (4 credits) WRIT 130 Research Paper (2 credits)
MATH 160 College Algebra (3 credits) MATH 180 Applied Calculus (3 credits)
SPC 101 Fundamentals of Oral Communications (3 credits)
SCIE 112 Intro to Human Biology (4 credits) SCIE 211 Understanding Science: Principles, Practice & Theory (2 credits)
Social and Behavioral Sciences
ECON 210 Introduction to Microeconomics (3 credits) ECON 220 Introduction to Macroeconomics (3 credits) PSYCH 110 General Psychology (3 credits)
Arts and Humanities
HUMN 211- Intro to Ethical Analysis and Reasoning (3 credits) HUMN 232- Introduction to Literature (3 credits)


10 Tips for First Year Community College StudentsSuggestions for making the first year of community college successful from Folsom Lake College in Folsom, CA

College InsiderTips for transferring from community college to a four-year college

Federal Student AidOnline FAFSA® form

Internship ProgramsWebsite with information and resources for finding internship opportunities

Tips on Transferring from a 2-Year to 4-Year CollegeIncludes interview with Stephen Handel, Ph.D., Executive Director, Community College Initiatives, The College Board

Who Learns Online at Community Colleges (and Why)?

Community college distance learning programs are ideal for many situations, from students who have just graduated from high school to working professionals seeking greater job security. There are online programs for people of all ages who wish to learn for personal advancement, degrees and pleasure.

[Community college students] come from all types of backgrounds — recent high school graduates, men and women employed full-time, women returning to school after raising children. Community college — and online programs in particular — is ideal for so many situations.

Jennifer S. Distance Learning Instructor Tompkins Cortland Community College Dryden, NY

Working Professionals: Job Security and Advancement

Unemployment is on the rise, and competition for available jobs is high. Professionals with advanced training and education have an advantage when it comes to keeping their jobs or getting promoted to higher roles. Additional training can also increase an employee’s chances of receiving a raise in salary.

Next Step: Contact your local community college for information about their continuing education classes and certificate programs that you can complete during your free time. Your employer may even reimburse you for taking classes.

I didn’t go to college after high school because I wanted to start working right away. Last year I started thinking about going back but didn’t think I could make it work with my schedule. Turns out my employer helps out through the tuition assistance program and I schedule classes around my work schedule. So in the end it was an easy decision.

Mark Thompson Florida Tech Online Student


Benefits of Continuing EducationDescription of the benefits for full-time employees who take continuing education classes

Continuing Education Programs Benefit Employees and EmployersArticle about the success of continuing education programs in the workplace

National Council for Continuing Education and TrainingOrganization committed to providing benefits that keep members up to date on new trends, help them to maintain a personal and professional network, and give access to leading-edge programs.

Peterson’s Education and Career CenterEducational opportunities at all levels, including distance education for continuing education

Working Professionals: Changing Careers

According to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics, Americans change jobs an average of every five years. For those professionals interested in making a career change, education can be the key to success. Community colleges offer online certification and training programs that ease the transition between careers. People can keep working their existing jobs while training for their career move by scheduling online classes around work hours. In fact, The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) found 21 percent of full-time community college students also work full-time.

Next Step: Schedule an appointment with the Career Services department at your local community college. They have career assessment tests to help you identify your strengths and interests.


FOCUS2 A career and education planning system for students

Keirsey Personality Test More than 40 million people have taken the Keirsey Temperament Sorter (KTS-II) to assess personality types

O*NET Online Free database that contains information on hundreds of standardized and occupation-specific descriptors

The Meyers & Briggs Foundation The Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a personality inventory assessment based on the theories of C.J. Jung

US Bureau of Labor Statistics Information about working conditions, training and education, and job prospects for a wide range of occupations

Traditional Students: Living in Remote Locations

Even though community colleges strive to be accessible to all members of the community, it is not always easy. For people who live in remote areas, it can be tough to attend classes on campus. Online programs at community colleges make it possible for these students to pursue certifications and degrees from home as long as they have access to a computer and an internet connection.

Next step: Call the nearest community college to inquire about their online programs. Many schools will even allow you to take placement tests from a remote location so that you do not have to travel to the campus.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Distance Learning Article CUNY Queensborough Community College

Distance Education Survey Results Instructional Technology Council article part of Trends in eLearning: Tracking the Impact of eLearning at Community Colleges

Community College FAQs Questions and answers

Traditional Students: Needing a Flexible Schedule

Flexibility is one of the biggest benefits of distance learning. Over 60 percent of community college students are over the age of 22. Many of them hold full-time jobs and families. For these students, the availability of online programs makes it easier to schedule around their responsibilities.

Next step: Visit the website for your local community college for information about their distance learning programs.

Interview with an Online Student
Name: Kathleen Schvvoeneck Coursework: A.S. in Veterinary Technology

Why did you choose distance learning at a community college?

Community college was the most affordable way for me to start my degree program. It was about half the price of a four-year college. I chose online education because of the flexibility. At the time, I had an infant and two dogs and needed to study at odd hours like when my daughter napped. The self-paced program made it much easier for me to juggle everything.

What was your biggest fear and did you overcome it?

Two things really worried me. First, I had been out of school for six years, so I was scared that I’d be really rusty with basic skills. I was a little, but soon got in the groove. Second, I had never taken a class online before. How did it work? Was it the same as a traditional class? After talking to the counselors at the school and to a few other students, I had a lot more confidence. Third, I was taking courses to be a veterinary technician, a very hands-on profession. I was skeptical how an online program would handle this. I learned that academic coursework took place online (email, chat, Blackboard) and hands-on activities at clinics and offices that had relationships with the school.

We know some of the differences between online and traditional courses and programs. How are they similar?

The work. I’ve taken classes in both formats, and each one still had work to complete, tests to take, and people to communicate with. I needed to be organized and disciplined. Having a schedule helped, although maintaining it could be tough at times.

What factors were the most important to you when searching for an online program?

Three things really stood out. (1) Accreditation. I wanted to make sure the program I chose had been accredited by a government-approved agency, especially with my first time learning online. (2) Cost. I needed a program that fit into my budget, especially with a family. (3) Job placement. I wanted to attend a school with a good job placement program. The last thing I wanted to do was earn a degree and not be able to find a job afterward.


4 Types of People Who Benefit from Community CollegeHow older and younger students benefit

Community College Spotlight Flexibility of community college programs

Community Colleges Need You American Psychological Association

Distance Learning and Community Colleges: The Myths

There are numerous myths associated with both distance learning and community colleges. Let’s take a look at some of the most common assumptions.

1. Community colleges are for people who can’t gain admission to four-year institutions.

Many people believe that students attend community college because they can’t get into a four-year college or university. Community colleges play a significant role in the U.S. educational system. According to the American Association of Community Colleges, almost half of undergraduates in the country attend community colleges. Millions of learners would not be able to access the education they need to be prepared for the workplace without the existence of community colleges. Accredited community colleges meet rigorous quality standards. In addition, instructors at community colleges come from a wide range of backgrounds and specialties.

2. Distance learning programs are not as good as traditional programs

It is important for students to research their options before choosing any program. There are hundreds of community colleges with top-notch distance learning departments. Many times the courses offered online are the exact same courses offered in a traditional classroom. Students interact with expert teachers as they build skills, develop a portfolio and advance in their careers.

3. Community colleges are for people who pursue vocational careers

Although many community colleges have excellent vocational programs, that is only a small part of what they offer. Community colleges allow students to transfer after two years to a four-year institution for further education. Community colleges have continuing education and training programs for people of all interests and backgrounds.

4. Transferring to a four-year university is complicated

Most community colleges have a support and transfer system in place to make the transition to another college or university a seamless process. Many four-year institutions have articulation agreements with community colleges to guarantee transfer credit. Distance learning credits transfer just as easily, as long as the community college is accredited by the proper regional agency. It is essential that students meet with their academic advisor on a regular basis to ensure they are taking the appropriate classes.

Q&A: Are You a Good Fit?

While anyone can benefit from distance learning, some people are better suited for it than others. It is a good idea to think about your personal learning style before enrolling in a program. The following questions can help you decide whether you are a good match for online community college classes.

Do you have a computer and internet connection? Students are required to have a computer with a reliable internet connection. They must also be comfortable communicating via email and chat.
Can you invest time in the course? Online classes are not easier than on-campus classes. Students must still perform research, complete assignments and interact with other students. These tasks require students to log in everyday.
Are you self-motivated? Self-discipline is important. Although online classes are flexible and convenient, students must be motivated to complete coursework on time and to meet the instructor’s expectations.
Are you a procrastinator? In order to have a successful experience at an online community college, students must not leave work to the last minute. In fact, it is important to log in routinely to check for new assignments and instructions.
Do you enjoy reading? Online classes require students to do a large amount of reading and students need to keep on top of reading assignments. The volume of reading required can be overwhelming if students don’t keep up with it on a regular basis.
Are you confident enough to speak up? The only way an instructor will know if there is an issue is if the online student shares concerns. Students need to have the confidence to address questions and concerns as they arise.
Can you communicate clearly in writing? Online students need to be able to communicate effectively through their writing when contributing to online discussions, sending emails to the instructor, and completing coursework.
Do you have strong time management skills? Experts list time management as the number one skill necessary for a successful online learning experience. There are numerous apps and software programs that can help you strengthen your time management skills.
Are you able to communicate without face-to-face contact? Some people have a hard time communicating without being in the same room as the other person. Due to the nature on online learning, contact will be over Skype or through email.


10 Ways to Ensure Distance Learning Success Tips for succeeding as an online learner

CNM Community College Online Resources Website with a wide range of Distance Learning resources including a fact sheet with tips and suggestions

What Every Student Should Know about Online Learning John E. Reid, Jr. PhD. Coordinator of Distance Education Technology at Kennesaw State University addresses ways to ensure a successful online learning experience

Community College Accreditation

Accreditation ensures that schools maintain academic programs, faculty and resources (physical, technological and financial) dedicated to high quality higher education. Both government and private educational agencies work together during the accreditation process. The U.S. Department of Education, for example, does not accredit programs directly, but does endorse the entities responsible for conducting the examinations, all of which must be listed in the Federal Register. The six most notable accrediting bodies in the nation work on a regional basis, each covering a specific set of states and sovereign territories. For a detailed breakdown of the accreditation process, the criteria and the players, including profiles on each major body involved, please visit our complete guide to college and university accreditation.

At the two-year college level, accreditation varies by location. For example, in the western region, governed by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), a special sub-division of the WASC handles quality assurance. This Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges examines all campus-based, online and hybrid programs and courses designed for completion in two years or less. In other regions, the parent agency the one that accredits universities may vet community, junior and sometimes vocational education. Before enrolling at an online community college, make sure to research its accreditation status thoroughly.

Other Accrediting Agencies & Resources

Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges Accreditation of postsecondary, non-degree and degree-granting institutions organized to educate students for occupational, trade and technical careers, including distance education.

Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training Accreditation of institutions of higher education that offer continuing education and vocational programs that confer certificates or occupational associate degrees, including those programs offered via distance education.

Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools Accreditation of private postsecondary institutions offering certificates or diplomas, and postsecondary institutions offering associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degrees in programs designed to educate students for professional, technical, or occupational careers, including those that offer those programs via distance education.

Council on Occupational Education Accreditation throughout the United States of postsecondary occupational education institutions offering non-degree and applied associate degree programs in specific career and technical education fields, including institutions that offer programs via distance education.

Distance Education and Training Council, Accrediting Commission Accreditation of postsecondary institutions in the United States that offer degree and/or non-degree programs primarily by the distance or correspondence education method up to and including the professional doctoral degree, including those institutions that are specifically certified by the agency as accredited for Title IV purposes.


Distance learning programs at community colleges provide students with many opportunities. The benefits of online education include flexible scheduling, affordability and greater choice. Online programs at community colleges combine these benefits with the advantages of attending a two-year program.

In addition to giving students the opportunity to take affordable classes before transferring to a four-year school, community colleges have programs for people exploring new careers, building new skills and exploring personal interests.

With careful planning and research, students can find the best online community college program for their needs to ensure their future success, no matter what their future career plans include.