30 Best Online Community Colleges

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There are many reasons online education has grown so much in the past several years. Expanding technology and more available internet access has opened up doors for online education that once were not available to many.

In fact, lots of people who could not otherwise attend college are able to take college courses and even obtain college degrees thanks to the growth of online education. There simply is no other option for them.

Still more students, who could take online or on-campus courses, now have more options available to them. Online courses allow them to fit college into their complex work and family schedules. For them, online education is a more convenient option.

Top 10 Best Online Community Colleges

Rank School Location
1 Cowley County Community College Arkansas City, KS
2 Northeast Community College Norfolk, NE
3 Walla Walla Community College Walla Walla, WA
4 Flint Hills Technical College Emporia, KS
5 Broward College Fort Lauderdale, FL
6 Illinois Eastern Community Colleges Olney, IL
7 Herkimer County Community College Herkimer, NY
8 South Texas College McAllen, TX
9 Santa Barbara City College Santa Barbara, CA
10 Florida State College at Jacksonville Jacksonville, FL

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Flexibility in scheduling isn’t just confined to what hours on the clock you’ll take online classes or earn an online degree. Many students are better engaged in their course work because they can log on when they are ready, not when a class schedule says it’s time to get to work. But not only are they convenient and flexible, online classes can save money on gas, bus fare, and babysitting costs. And online courses can save time.

Think of all the time you spend driving to campus in traffic, finding a parking space, walking to class; then you still have to get home! With online classes you can be actually working on your class instead of spending so much time getting there.​

Online education is accessible, convenient, flexible, affordable and efficient. But it also takes more responsibility and self-motivation. Students taking online classes have a greater responsibility for their own success than students in traditional classroom settings. A successful online learner is…

  • Self-motivated. Online students must be able to log in regularly, find details about assignments, and seek out help when needed.
  • Self-disciplined. Online students must be able to work on a schedule without getting behind.
  • Dedicated. Online students must set aside enough time to each course. Online classes require at least as much time as traditional classes, and often more. A typical 3-credit online course can easily require 9-12 hours per week.
  • A good reader and writer. Online classes require more reading and writing than traditional, on-campus classes where more can be communicated verbally.
  • Adept with computer skills. Online students must be comfortable sending and receiving e-mail, navigating web pages, and using computer software, such as word processors.
  • Able to access a computer. Online students must have convenient, dependable access to a computer that meets the technical requirements of the school’s learning management system..

There are also many good reasons to attend a community college. These reasons often align with a student’s reasons for choosing online education. Convenience, flexibility, affordability, and efficiency have always been hallmarks of community colleges. The nation’s 1600-plus community colleges have been leading the way for a long time in these very things.

Check out College Choice’s ranking of the Best Community Colleges.

As the name implies, community colleges serve communities. They grant two-year associate degrees, certificates, credentials, and diplomas that prepare graduates for a fulfilling career or successful transfer to a baccalaureate program. Many offer continuing and adult education courses. Some offer dual-credit programs to area high school students.

In these ways and many more, community colleges—often called junior colleges, city colleges, or technical colleges—have a tremendous impact on their region and its population. And now with the tremendous growth and quality of online education at these institutions that have been at the front line of student service for years, community colleges find their reach well beyond their service areas.

What Are the Best Online Community Colleges?

Best Online Community Colleges Badge

College Choice has correlated data from Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program and individual community colleges to compile a list of the 30 best community colleges offering online associate degrees. We considered several factors in developing an institutional performance score, including first year retention rates, three-year graduation rates, credentials awarded, etc.

We also factored percentage of non-traditional and minority students, percentage of Pell grants, and minority graduation rates in order to create a diversity score. Finally we compared online tuition rates to give us a sense of the financial investment students would need to make.

Since much of the focus at College Choice is on helping you choose a college, we did not consider schools that did not offer any online associate degrees. Online courses offer greater flexibility, but those schools offering degrees online increase their appeal to those students wanting more than just a few courses here and there. For that reason, schools were given a procedural bump based on the number of associate degree programs they offered fully online. In the end, we believe these thirty schools represent the best of what can be a wise decision for many prospective college students.

Rankings

See our rankings methodology page.

  1. Cowley County Community College
    Location

    Arkansas City, KS

    Overview

    Cowley County Community College and Area Vocational-Technical School was founded in 1922 in the basement of the high school in Arkansas City, KS. Today Cowley College has expanded to a campus, two educational centers, an online college, outreach centers, and a service center. It serves the Cowley county area with more than eighty degree and certificate programs, educating over 4500 students each year.

    Features

    The online college is authorized for courses in all fifty states, with most courses transferring to a four-year bachelor degree at many colleges and universities. Cowley offers over 600 courses online. Over thirty accredited degrees can be earned completely online, a number more than double the next closest school in these rankings. Students have several options for obtaining Associate of Arts, Associate of Applied Science, Associate of General Studies, and Associate of Science degrees. The flexibility of online courses, the cost of community college, and the number of options make Cowley College stand out among the community colleges across the nation offering degrees online.

    Online Environment

    Cowley College’s online courses are delivered through the Blackboard course delivery system. Once enrolled in an online course, students have access to a support group and support documentation. An enhanced support center provides a 24/7/365 help desk, live-chat feature, email, ticket system, and extensive searchable knowledge base where students can find solutions to common questions. In addition Cowley College provides online tutoring services and access to an E-Library Portal that includes links to select and public Internet sites that offer research informational and materials resources.

  2. Northeast Community College
    Location

    Norfolk, NE

    Overview

    Located in Norfolk, NE, Northeast Community College (NECC) has been serving residents of a 20-county area in northeast Nebraska for nearly 45 years. Formed from the merger of two separate and distinct institutions—Northeastern Nebraska College and Northeast Nebraska Technical College—NECC offers vocational/technical, liberal arts, college transfer, and continuing education courses and degrees. 99% of NECC graduates find jobs or continue their education. In 2017 NECC was named an Aspen Prize Top Ten Community College.

    Features

    NECC offers several online programs and many online courses. Students can complete one of three different Associate of Applied Science degrees in business. The school also has eleven different programs leading toward an Associate of Arts degree, including Criminal Justice, Accounting, Behavioral Science, Business Administration, and more.

    Online Environment

    Online courses at NECC are delivered using the Sakai Online Learning Management system. NECC has several online support services to help online students succeed. With academic advising and counseling as well as career services available, students can map out their education and beyond. And with an online writer’s clinic and tutoring services, they can also excel in their coursework. Online students have access to many online library resources and electronic books. NECC’s dedication to its students and the region it serves is evident in the quality of education and services available even in the virtual world.

  3. Walla Walla Community College
    Location

    Walla Walla, WA

    Overview

    Walla Wall Community College (WWCC) in Walla Walla, WA was established in 1967 with 850 students. Today WWCC’s 130 campus has become a center for innovation, education, training, and learning opportunities throughout the region it serves (Walla Walla, Columbia, Asotin, Garfield counties, and bordering counties in Idaho and Oregon). Its extended facilities help provide more accessible service to the area, and now also its online course delivery allows WWCC to reach a student population well beyond the southeast section of the state. WWCC offers a comprehensive curriculum of academic and workforce training programs.

    Features

    Students looking to complete an associates degree online at WWCC have four options. The Associate in Arts and the Associate in Business are transfer degrees. They allow students to receive a degree and enter the workforce if so desired, but they are primarily structured to meet the lower division requirements for transfer to a baccalaureate program at a four-year institution. The Associate in Applied Arts and Sciences

    in Turf Management is a technical degree that prepares students with the practical knowledge and experience necessary for joining the turf maintenance industry. The Associate in Applied Sciences in Human and Social Services is a dual-purpose degree intended to prepare students for employment in human and social services and for transfer to specific baccalaureate degree programs.

    Online Environment

    WWCC uses Canvas as its course delivery system. It also provides several student services for its online students. The Academic and Counseling Center is a one stop shop for online student success. Completion Coaches are ready to assist students in accessing a variety of resources to enable students to make it to their graduation day. The Disability Support Services office is committed to provide access and promote an atmosphere conducive to academic success.

  4. Flint Hills Technical College
    Location

    Emporia, KS

    Overview

    Located in Emporia, KS, and founded in 1963, Flint Hills Technical College (FHTC) provides academic and applied instruction in technical programs of study leading to Associates of Applied Science degree, Technical Certificates, Certificates, or other credentials. FHTC has nineteen programs of study that respond to today’s technical industry needs. FHTC is coordinated by the Kansas Board of Regents and accredited through the Higher Learning Commission.

    Features

    Online education is one of the many ways FHTC has integrated flexible training options into its programs of study. Along with several courses of general education, FHTC offers four online programs that lead to an associates degree: Business Administration Technology Associate of Applied Science, Associate of Applied Science, Associate of Applied Science in Healthcare Administration/Management, and Associate of Applied Science in Interactive Multimedia Design.

    Online Environment

    Online classes are delivered through Moodle, a learning management system that is easy to navigate on both desktop and mobile devices. Instructors are available by phone, e-mail, and online discussion boards throughout the duration of each class. Students can also connect to their instructors through Adobe Connect sessions. The online classroom experience is enhanced by maintaining a strong line of communication with instructors and classmates through discussion threads and chat features.

  5. Broward College
    Location

    Fort Lauderdale, FL

    Overview

    Broward College in Fort Lauderdale, FL was named one of the top three community colleges in the nation by the Aspen Institute’s 2017 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. The rise to prominence among community colleges has been fast for Broward. Its first academic year began in the fall of 1960 with just over 700 students. Today Broward annually serves over 68,000 students and is consistently rated as one of the top institutions for associates degrees. Broward College ranks fifth nationally for conferring associate degrees and third for conferring degrees to minority students.

    Features

    Broward College’s distinguished faculty have carefully developed each and every online class to reflect what students need most out of thir education. That translates to an exceptional education with educators and courses that have been recognized at the national level for their high quality. In addition to numerous individual courses and several certificate programs, Broward offers one Associate of Arts degree and eight Associate in Science degrees, as well as four Bachelor of Applied Science degrees. Online courses have the same start and end dates as traditional campus courses. However, there are multiple sessions in each term, ranging from six weeks to sixteen weeks depending on the term and session.

    Online Environment

    Broward helpfully offers several webinars to help students succeed in their pursuit of an online degree. General webinars such as “Success in Online Class” and “Time Management Strategies,” coupled with more practical ones like “Introduction to MS Excel” and “Library Magic” demonstrate the commitment Broward has to its students success. Broward utilizes the Desire2Learn course delivery system. It offers a plethora of students services online. Everything from a Career Center to Online Tutoring to Advising and Counseling can be accessed at home.

  6. Illinois Eastern Community Colleges
    Location

    Olney, IL

    Overview

    The network of Illinois Eastern Community Colleges (IECC) is comprised of four local community colleges, each individually serving a particular region of Eastern Illinois. Frontier Community College, Lincoln Trail Community College, Olney Central Community College, and Wabash Valley Community College are outstanding and often award-winning institutions in their own right. Their forces come together to make one of the top online community college experiences in the country.

    Features

    Currently IECC offers over 200 online classes with 52 programs available with 50% or more of classes offered online. IECC enrolls approximately 2000 students in online classes each semester. The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools has extended their accreditation to include the distance delivery of six associate degrees at IECC. The approval for distance delivery allows the network to offer online courses which lead to the award of a two-year degree and certificates. IECC is accredited to offer the Associate in Science and Arts Transfer Degree, the Associate in Science Transfer Degree, the Associate in General Studies Degree, the Associate of Applied Science Degrees (Accounting and Computing), and the Associate in Applied Science Degrees (Medical Office Assistant). The online classes follow the same timeline of traditional class semester offerings and typically run over a sixteen week period. During the summer semester online classes follow the eight week schedule.

    Online Environment

    The network uses the learning management software Desire2Learn (D2L) for course delivery. D2L has a 24/7 helpline for students who may encounter technical difficulties. IECC also has online registration, bookstores, financial aid, advising, library services, and technical assistance available to all students who enroll in online classes. All students new to online and hybrid learning are required to take “Intro to Online Learning” to help prepare for online course work and to determine if online learning is right for them.

  7. Herkimer County Community College
    Location

    Herkimer, NY

    Overview

    Over fifty years ago the trustees of the State University of New York established Herkimer County Community College. Since then Herkimer has distinguished itself in providing educational excellence and opportunity to the local and regional community. More than 20,000 graduates now call Herkimer College their alma mater. Herkimer was one of the 150 finalists for the 2017 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.

    Features

    Through Herkimer College’s Internet Academy, the college currently offers seventeen different associate degrees in Business, Criminal Justice and Law, Healthcare and Service, and Liberal Arts and Science. Of these seventeen degrees, twelve are Associate of Applied Science degrees, three are Associate of Arts degrees, and two are Associate of Science degrees. In addition to the degree programs, Herkimer has three certificate programs and over 150 online courses. Herkimer College’s Internet Academy enjoys full accreditation through the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Higher Education. In addition, the New York State Education Department has named Herkimer College an approved provider of Distance Learning Programs.

    Online Environment

    Online students have access to all of the great in-person support services on-campus students are offered, like advisement, tutoring, disabilities services, library services, and technical support. Students take online courses through the ANGEL learning management system.

  8. South Texas College
    Location

    McAllen, TX

    Overview

    Boasting over 34,000 students each year, South Texas College (STC) has the largest enrollment in the state of Texas south of San Antonio. With a main campus in McAllen, four other extension campuses, and two teaching centers, STC has been serving the region of southern Texas since 1993. Its service reach is enhanced by its virtual campus. STC is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

    Features

    STC offers more than 119 degrees and certificate program options, including associate degrees in a variety of art, science, technology, and allied health fields of study. The college also offers eighteen online associate degrees and four baccalaureate degrees through South Texas College Online.

    Online Environment

    STC delivers online courses through the Blackboard course management system. The school offers many student services online. With sites for registration, admissions, records, financial aid, advising, career services, tutoring, bookstore, and more, students can successfully obtain a degree without ever having to step foot on campus. The school has a help desk for online issues, and the Blackboard management system can help resolve technical issues when encountered.

  9. Santa Barbara City College
    Location

    Santa Barbara, CA

    Overview

    Founded in 1909, Santa Barbara City College (SBCC) is the oldest of California’s 113 community colleges. It is located in the Santa Barbara Mesa and serves all of Santa Barbara County as well as many others who are attracted to the beautiful setting of the California coast. SBCC is a fully accredited community college that offers over eighty degrees and over fifty career technical programs, training in a wide range of career technical fields, and transfer programs that provide the first two years of study toward the baccalaureate degree. Over 30,000 students attend SBCC in some capacity.

    Features

    SBCC offers four online Associate of Science degrees: Cancer Information Management, Computer Information Systems (CIS), COS with an emphasis in Systems Administration, and Health Information Technology. In addition the school has seven online Associate of Arts degrees: International Business, three Liberal Arts emphases, Marketing, Natural History, and Applied Photography.

    Online Environment

    SBCC employs Moodle as its learning management system. The school offers technical support for its distance education students, as well as many of the same services provided to on-campus students. Admission and registration support is provided online. Academic support includes tutoring, library services, and counseling.

  10. Florida State College at Jacksonville
    Location

    Jacksonville, FL

    Overview

    Florida State College at Jacksonville (FSCJ) was established in 1965 as Florida Junior College. It has four major physical campuses and several additional centers located around the First Coast region. It currently enrolls 52,000 students and offers over 150 degree programs in a dozen areas of study. Nearly sixty percent of all awards granted are associate degrees. Its academic offerings include 13 bachelor degrees, 45 associate degrees, two advanced technical certificates and more than 100 technical and workforce certificates. FSCJ has multiple campuses and centers throughout Duval and Nassau counties, including online classes globally accessed through Open Campus.

    Features

    FSCJ offers 16 online degrees, half of which are associates. All eight two-year degrees are Associate in Science degrees. They include Accounting Technology, Business Administration, Computer Information Technology, Criminal Justice Technology, Early Childhood Management, Industrial Management Technology, Office Administration, and Supply Chain Management. FSCJ Online faculty are well-respected leaders in their fields and are experts in the subjects they teach.

    Online Environment

    At FSCJ, online credit courses are offered through Blackboard, a web-based learning management system that contains tools for distance learning, such as course content and notes, a bulletin board system and chat for collaboration and communication, assignment drop boxes, interactive quizzes and exams, and more. All online courses are instructor-led and use the same schedule as on-campus courses. That means students may have midterms and final exams, papers, and discussion assignments to complete with deadlines. FSCJ students may also benefit from the new academic support organization for all online students throughout the state of Florida known as Florida Virtual Campus.

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