Online Community Colleges

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School Comparisons, Planning Resources and 4-Year Transfer Advice


Best Online Community Colleges -- 4-year

As online class and degree offerings continue to expand at rapid rates, community colleges are increasingly becoming major players in the game. While some only offer individual courses through distance learning, the top schools provide entire degree programs online. The following scorecard of online community colleges represents hours of research and data collection on tuition costs, alumni earnings, student-to-teacher ratios, program and financial aid offerings, and other essential factors. Discover which schools rose to the top of this year's rankings of best online community colleges.

Compare Online Community Colleges Side-by-Side

As with traditional brick-and-mortar institutions, students want to know they have all the information needed to make an informed decision and find a school fitted to their needs. The following search tool helps students create a tailored list of online community colleges that takes into account important factors such as tuition, acceptance rates, student-faculty ratios, and the number of online programs available.

Student Snapshot: Who Goes to Online Community Colleges?

According to a survey by theNational Center for Education Statistics, 39 percent of all postsecondary students were enrolled at two-year institutions during the 2014 academic year. Many elect to complete coursework online via community colleges with distance learning options, from single parents and full-time professionals looking to fit school into their hectic lifestyles to low-income college hopefuls needing to save on tuition. Here's a snapshot of students who tend to benefit most from attending an online community college:

The Back-to-School Grown-up


The First-Gen College Student

First generation college students are highly motivated learners, yet they are often unsure of the process since they are the first in their family to walk through it. Online community college classes allow them to dip their toe in the water and familiarize themselves with how higher education functions while also earning a two-year degree at a fraction of the cost.

The Future 4-Year Transfer

Students who complete online classes at a community college in their state benefit greatly from in-state tuition, making it possible to complete half of a bachelor's degree at a fraction of the cost. Because approximately half of the courses which make up four-year degree can be gained at a community college, this option is especially attractive for the cost-conscious student.

The Student With a Disability

Online community colleges are consistently growing in popularity amongst students with disabilities as these programs allow them more flexibility to learn in a way that suits them best. Online learning also means students with disabilities spend far less time seeking out accommodations to make classrooms or coursework more accessible.

The Re-Entry Veteran

Having spent four or more years learning and using specific skillsets, community colleges are often appealing to veterans for their focus on vocational skills and knowledge. Online community colleges also help veterans adjusting to civilian life ease back into their communities.

The Low-Income Student

The cost of an academic year at a local community college significantly undercuts that of a private four-year institution and allows many low-income students the opportunity to complete courses they otherwise wouldn't be able to afford without incurring significant debt. Students who rise to the top of their classes at the associate level may also qualify for additional scholarships if they choose to transfer to a four-year institution.

The Credit-Hungry High Schooler


Benefits of Online Community Colleges and Potential Drawbacks


Career-Focused Curriculum

Community colleges allow students to focus on future careers without requiring additional coursework in unrelated disciplines.

Development of Foundational Knowledge

Online community colleges are excellent for students who need to establish or build upon the core concepts of several academic subjects.

Flexible Class Schedule

Asynchronous classes allow learners to complete assignments on their own schedule, while many schools also allow students to start at different times throughout the year.

Ability to Transfer to Four-Year School

A significant portion of students begin their collegiate career at a community college thanks to significantly lower costs and ease of transfer.

Continuing Education and Professional Development


Space to Explore Academic and Career Goals


More Affordable

As you'll see below, the cost of postsecondary education is a massive consideration for students, and community colleges almost always come out favorably in this area.

Subdued Campus Culture

Because students are interacting behind computer screens, it can be difficult to feel truly connected to peers and develop a strong school spirit.

Limited Program Availability

Since community colleges typically receive less funding than four-year institutions, their online offerings are typically not yet as expansive as universities that grant bachelor's degrees.

Extra Accountability


Untranslatable Topics

While many programs translate seamlessly to an online environment, other disciplines (especially those that are visual or hands-on) may suffer in this format.

Computer Literacy

Knowing the ins and outs of a school's learning software platform, along with common programs used, is a huge component of whether or not a student feels their time at an online community college was valuable.

A Closer Look at the Affordability of Online Community Colleges

Academic program options and extracurricular activities are important factors when considering a college, but a2015 study by Sallie Mae and Ipsosshowed that the price tag of an education also ranks high on the list. This survey found cost to be the third biggest consideration when choosing a college, and online community colleges can score very favorably in this respect.

In addition to money saved on tuition, online community college students also benefit from the absence of other expenses incurred by campus-based learners. Private room and board is often much cheaper than options offered by colleges and universities, and students also save costs on commuting and car maintenance.


Note:Figures are enrollment-weighted


Student Roadmap Through Online Community College


Setting a plan in motion

打算转学四年制大学的学生需要确保他们所上的课程能被下一所学校接受。If a student plans to stay in their state to complete a bachelor's degree, they should find out if their community college has transfer partnerships (also called articulation agreements) with state schools.

Preparing for next steps


Finishing strong

As graduation nears, students need to make sure all of their ducks are in a row for a stress-free transfer. Get in touch with an admissions advisor at your future school and also work closely with the advisor at your current school to make sure all applications, transcripts, and other paperwork is received in a timely fashion.

Creating a list of objectives


Getting on-the-ground training

If possible, students should complete an internship to gain experience and make contact within their chosen industry. This is especially true for online students, as networking opportunities may be harder to find.

Staying ahead of the pack

As graduation nears, students should contact the career services department and take advantage of services offered, including resume review, interview practice, and tips on proper business attire. Students should then research job opportunities, update their LinkedIn page, and contact any acquaintances or colleagues that may have job connections.

Staying two steps ahead


Getting to know your professors


Getting to know your professors

At the end of a certificate program, students have new skills and knowledge and a network of peers and professors closely connected to their chosen field. Finding ways to leverage all of these resources and continue to make the most of the experience will help ensure their educational investment was worth the time and effort. Students should update their resumes, LinkedIn pages, and any websites to reflect their education and stay in regular communication with their colleagues.

Student Transfer Mini Guide: Making the Leap to 4-Year Studies

Transferring to a four-year institution after completing an associate degree is a perennially popular option for students, and for good reasons. Aside from cost-saving benefits, students can also take advantage of the flexibility offered by online programs. Learners considering this path likely have many questions about the logistics of such a transfer, and this section provides answers.

Why Consider 2-Year to 4-Year Transfer?

Theaverage costto complete an associate degree as in-district student came to $6,880 in 2016, while two years at a public or private school would cost $18,820 and $64,820, respectively. Although community colleges have gotten a bad rep as being less academically challenging, the tide is beginning to turn asmore students他们毕业班的前百分之一的学生选择在这些机构完成他们的前两年。因为学士学位的前半部分主要是基础的通识教育课程,所以在转入四年制大学学习专业知识之前,以较低的成本完成这些课程是非常明智的。

How It Works

Students transferring to a four-year institution must submit their community college transcript for review after final grades arrive. While some schools have articulation agreements with community colleges that allow for easy transfer of courses, students outside of these agreements must have their transcripts analyzed. Depending on course content and GPAs, admissions advisors decide how many courses transfer. Under best circumstances, students can begin their first semester as a junior. Some students may need to retake classes if they don't transfer.

Must-Knows About Transferring

Make sure your associate degree is transfer-friendly.
Some schools have more room for transfers than others.
Especially true for small schools or those that don't have large graduating classes, prospective transfer students should research rates of admission to understand their chance of being accepted.

Transfer Glossary

2+2 Transfer.
Articulation Agreement.
Analyzes the requirements of a chosen degree path alongside courses students have already completed in order to provide a progress report for the student.

Resources for Future and Current Online Community College Students


Future Students

10 Truths About Community College Every Student Should Know

Noodle provides this informative look at how to make the most of online community college courses.

Community College: A Viable Option

The National Association for College Admissions Counseling takes a look at why this type of institution is appealing to students from a spectrum of backgrounds and interests.

Community College FAQs

美国大学理事会(College Board)提供了一些关于上社区大学的常见问题的答案,其中许多问题适用于在线学生。

Current Students


Get confused when using MLA, Chicago, or APA styles for citations? Bibme is a fully automatic bibliography creator to ensure students don't get marked down for stylistic errors.

Essay Punch

This website helps students improve their essay writing skills and offers numerous helpful tutorials.


This online social media platform connects likeminded college students to act as online study buddies.

Rate My Professors


Study Blue

This online resource allows college students to create online flash cards for studying without ever having to touch a printer.

The Online Books Page

Provided by the University of Pennsylvania, users can search more than 30,000 book titles that are provided for free online.


New instructors for online community college courses may wonder about some of the common challenges they'll face in this type of teaching environment and how to overcome them. The following section highlights those issues while also providing a list of resources to help them design interactive, engaging courses.

Common Challenges of Teaching a Community College Class Online (And How to Solve Them)


Problem Solution
Not understanding the Course Management System (CMS)

Because community colleges are relatively new to online learning platforms, teachers at these schools may feel overwhelmed when navigating the variety of features available to them.

Programs likeBlackBoard,MoodleandDesire2Learnall have comprehensive tutorials on how to make the most out of the CMS.
Finding ways to engage with your students


Assigning virtual resources

Teachers accustomed to providing book lists and having a brick-and-mortar library to point their students to may feel flustered the first time they design an online class syllabus.

When books aren't an option, harness the vast amount of resources available online – ranging from articles to full publications to instructional videos.
Managing your time

Much like students, teachers transitioning to online teaching must find ways to manage and balance their time – often while also teaching campus-based classes.

Google Calendaris an excellent, free option that is web-based and can be synced to other devices.
Translating room-based activities onto the web

Most teachers have an arsenal of teaching techniques and activities they use to engage students, such as small group discussions, presentations, and guest speakers. Finding ways to translate these activities to a web-based course can be a challenge, but there are resources available.

Cincinnati State provides a list of the15 best activities在线社区大学教师让学生参与到远程学习环境中。

Must-Reads for Online Community College Teachers

5 Ways to Engage Community College Students

本文由CMS-provider Blackboard分享,为在线社区大学生提供了有益的想法。

Engaging Practices, Engaging Students


How Can We Meet the Unique Challenges of Community Colleges in the Online Environment?

This article by Online Learning Consortium addresses the question that's on the mind of online community college instructors across the nation.

Online and Engaged

This article by University Business addresses how to best engage distance learners enrolled at community colleges.

Using Technology to Engage the Nontraditional Student

Educause looks at the best ways to engage students who haven't been in school for a while.

Become Team
Become Team
Contributing Writer 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.

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