The Most Affordable Online Community Colleges

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July 30, 2021

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For many students, particularly those who struggle to meet the financial and academic demands of four-year colleges and universities, online community colleges provide an affordable alternative. Community colleges typically offer more accessible programs, often with accommodating admission requirements, smaller class sizes, and supportive student services.

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Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Programs at online community colleges often feature practical training that helps students enter the workforce after graduation. Moreover, the transferability of credits received at these schools creates opportunities for further training. Due to lower community college costs, transferring can also be a useful strategy for reducing student debt.

Accredited online community colleges cost less than traditional schools and programs in many areas. Online students can save on travel and room and board, and many programs feature standard online rates for learners across the country.

In this guide, we examine the cheapest online community colleges and provide insight into choosing the best program and saving money along the way.

What Are the Most Affordable Online Community Colleges? Here Are Our Top 10:

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#1 Coastal Pines Technical College Waycross, GA
#2 Vance-Granville Community College Henderson, NC
#3 Wiregrass Georgia Technical College Valdosta, GA
#4 Ogeechee Technical College Statesboro, GA
#5 Wytheville Community College Wytheville, VA
#6 Southern Regional Technical College Thomasville, GA
#7 Western Piedmont Community College Morganton, NC
#8 Southwestern Community College Sylva, NC
#9 College of the Albemarle Elizabeth City, NC
#10 Central Wyoming College Riverton, WY
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Affordable Online Community Colleges

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Coastal Pines Technical College View School Profile Waycross, GA

Located in Waycross, Georgia, and established in 2014, CPTC formed when Altamaha Technical College merged with Okefenokee Technical College. CPTC educates more than 4,000 students annually.

CPTC offers seven online associate degree programs, including business technology, marketing management, criminal justice, and early childhood care and education. Online students must adhere to CPTC's distance education attendance policies. Proctored exams require on-campus attendance or approval of an off-campus proctor. Services offered to online students include an online library catalog, online tutoring, Blackboard technical support, and all other CPTC student services. First-year applicants must submit high school transcripts.

Coastal Pines Technical College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

School Snapshot

School Status: Public
Number of Online Programs: 7 associate programs
Online Instruction Style: Asynchronous and synchronous

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Vance-Granville Community College View School Profile Henderson, NC

Located in Henderson, North Carolina, VGCC is one of 58 community colleges in the state. Students can choose from more than 40 programs at VGCC, several of which can be completed entirely online.

VGCC offers 10 online associate degree programs in areas like business administration, accounting, and supply chain management. Distance learners can complete proctored exams online or on campus. Tuition costs $76 per credit for in-state students and $268 per credit for out-of-state students. First-year applicants must fill out an application.

Vance-Granville Community College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

School Snapshot

School Status: Public
Number of Online Programs: 10 associate programs
Online Instruction Style: Asynchronous

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Wiregrass Georgia Technical College View School Profile Valdosta, GA

Located in Valdosta, Georgia, Wiregrass formed in 2010 when Valdosta Technical College merged with East Central Technical College. Wiregrass offers 20 online degree, diploma, and certificate programs. Distance learners can pursue studies in areas like accounting, criminal justice technology, and business management.

Online tuition costs $100 per credit for in-state learners and $200 per credit for out-of-state students. First-year applicants must submit high school transcripts and take the ACCUPLACER test.

Wiregrass Georgia Technical College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

School Snapshot

School Status: Public
Number of Online Programs: 10 technical certificate, 5 diploma, and 5 associate programs
Online Instruction Style: Asynchronous

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Ogeechee Technical College View School Profile Statesboro, GA

Located in Statesboro, Georgia, Ogeechee Tech officially opened its doors in 1990 but taught its first classes to a group of 25 nursing students at a local hospital about four years earlier.

Ogeechee Tech offers nine fully online programs, including associate tracks in accounting, business management, and business technology. Online students complete an in-person proctored exam for each class, which students can complete either on campus or off campus with a pre-approved proctor. In-state tuition costs $100 per credit, and out-of-state learners pay double.

Online learners can access assessment services, career services, tutoring, disability services, and library services. First-year applicants must submit high school transcripts and verify their state of residency.

Ogeechee Technical College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

School Snapshot

School Status: Public
Number of Online Programs: 3 certificate and 6 associate programs
Online Instruction Style: Asynchronous

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Wytheville Community College View School Profile Wytheville, VA

Located in Wytheville, Virginia, WCC opened in 1963 and currently teaches more than 3,000 students annually.

WCC offers 20 online degree and certificate programs, including business administration, general studies, and science. WCC allows off-campus proctoring for exams, but students must pre-approve a proctor before each exam. Tuition costs $154 per credit for Virginia residents and $236 per credit for out-of-state students enrolled in fully online programs. The college offers tutoring services, and first-year applicants must fill out an application.

Wytheville Community College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

School Snapshot

School Status: Public
Number of Online Programs: 13 certificate and 7 associate programs
Online Instruction Style: Asynchronous

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Southern Regional Technical College View School Profile Thomasville, GA

Located in Thomasville, Georgia, SRTC opened in 1947. The college offers almost 30 online degree, diploma, and certificate programs. Students can earn credentials in areas like social work, business, and marketing management. Tuition costs $100 per credit for Georgia residents and $200 per credit for out-of-state learners.

Student services for online learners include career services, counseling, disability services, library access, and a student success center. First-year applicants must submit high school transcripts.

Southern Regional Technical College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

School Snapshot

School Status: Public
Number of Online Programs: 19 certificate, 5 diploma, and 5 associate programs
Online Instruction Style: Asynchronous

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Western Piedmont Community College View School Profile Morganton, NC

Located in Morganton, North Carolina, WPCC teaches more than 7,000 students each year. Many of its technical programs boast above-average passing rates on certificate and licensure exams.

WPCC offers 12 fully online degree, diploma, and certification programs in areas like business administration, information technology, and paralegal technology. An additional nine programs offer at least 75% of their coursework online. Tuition costs $76 per credit for North Carolina residents and $268 per credit for out-of-state students.

Distance learners can access the library and student services at any time. First-year applicants must submit high school transcripts. Western Piedmont Community College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

School Snapshot

School Status: Public
Number of Online Programs: 7 certificate, 2 diploma, and 3 associate programs
Online Instruction Style: Asynchronous

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Southwestern Community College View School Profile Sylva, NC

Located in Sylva, North Carolina, SCC opened in 1964 and originally taught just 60 students. Now, SCC teaches over 2,000 students annually and maintains a student-to-faculty ratio of 13-to-1.

SCC offers 28 online degree, diploma, and certificate programs, including options in business administration, infant and childcare, and medical office administration. Some SCC courses use online proctoring, whereas others may require in-person attendance at SCC or an SCC-approved testing center. Tuition costs $86 per credit for North Carolina residents and $278 per credit for out-of-state students.

Student services for online learners include library access, disability services, and career services. First-year applicants must submit high school transcripts and take a placement test.

Southwestern Community College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

School Snapshot

School Status: Public
Number of Online Programs: 16 certificate, 3 diploma, and 9 associate programs
Online Instruction Style: Asynchronous

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College of the Albemarle View School Profile Elizabeth City, NC

Located in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, COA was founded as the state's first community college. Now, COA teaches more than 3,000 students annually. Women make up about two-thirds of COA's total enrollment.

The college offers 13 fully online degree and certificate programs, including options like general occupational technology, global business management, and early childhood education. Tuition costs $76 per credit for North Carolina residents and $268 per credit for out-of-state students.

Students can access the library and tutoring services online, and they can also download a free version of Microsoft Office. Online learners can also take advantage of on-campus resources like the math and writing center, if desired. First-year applicants must submit high school transcripts.

College of The Albemarle is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

School Snapshot

School Status: Public
Number of Online Programs: 6 certificate and 7 associate programs
Online Instruction Style: Asynchronous

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Central Wyoming College View School Profile Riverton, WY

Located in Riverton, Wyoming, CWC currently teaches over 400 part-time students and more than 2,000 full-time students.

The college offers five fully online degree and certificate programs. Students can pursue an associate in criminal justice, business management, social science, or entrepreneurship. CWC also offers an online electrical apprenticeship certificate Tuition costs $105 per credit for in-state students and $315 per credit for out-of-state students. Online student services include library access. First-year applicants must submit high school transcripts and ACT or SAT scores.

Central Wyoming College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

School Snapshot

School Status: Public
Number of Online Programs: 1 certificate and 4 associate programs
Online Instruction Style: Asynchronous

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Clovis Community College View School Profile Clovis, NM

Located in Clovis, New Mexico, CCC opened in 1969 as a branch campus of Eastern New Mexico University.

CCC offers seven fully online associate degree programs, including options like behavioral science, criminal justice, and computer information systems. Tuition costs $44 per credit for New Mexico residents who also live in the CCC tax district, making it one of the most affordable online community colleges in the U.S. Tuition costs $54 per credit for New Mexico residents who live outside the CCC tax district and $111 per credit for students who live out of state.

Student resources include a tutoring center, academic coaching, a writing center, and a library. First-year applicants must fill out an application.

Clovis Community College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

School Snapshot

School Status: Public
Number of Online Programs: 7 associate programs
Online Instruction Style: Asynchronous

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Copiah-Lincoln Community College View School Profile Wesson, MS

Located in Wesson, Mississippi, Co-Lin opened in 1915 as an agricultural high school and currently teaches over 3,000 students a year.

Co-Lin offers 33 fully online associate degree programs, including Spanish, kinesiology, psychology, and elementary education. Students may complete virtual proctoring through HonorLock. Tuition costs $140 per credit for in-state students studying on a part-time basis. Full-time, in-state students pay $1,400 per semester. Out-of-state tuition costs $200 per credit for part-time students or $2,400 per semester for full-time learners.

Online learners can access a library, writing center, disability services, and veterans services. First-year applicants must submit high school transcripts and SAT or ACT scores (or take a placement test).

Copiah-Lincoln Community College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

School Snapshot

School Status: Public
Number of Online Programs: 33 associate programs
Online Instruction Style: Asynchronous

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Lanier Technical College View School Profile Gainesville, GA

Located in Gainesville, Georgia, and founded in 1964, LTC teaches over 5,000 students annually. The college offers 29 online degree, diploma, and certificate programs in areas like health information management, criminal justice technology, and accounting.

Students must complete one proctored exam per course but can do so locally with an instructor-approved proctor. Tuition costs $100 per credit for in-state students, $200 per credit for out-of-state students, and $400 per credit for international students.

Students can access the library and tutoring online. All LTC students also receive Microsoft Office 365 as a free download. First-year applicants must submit high school transcripts and SAT, ACT, or ACCUPLACER test scores.

Lanier Technical College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

School Snapshot

School Status: Public
Number of Online Programs: 14 certificate, 7 diploma, and 8 associate programs
Online Instruction Style: Asynchronous

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Piedmont Community College View School Profile Roxboro, NC

Located in Roxboro, North Carolina, PCC first started offering online courses in 1997. Today, the college offers 10 online associate degree programs, including simulation and game development, construction management technology, and office administration.

Tuition costs $76 per credit for North Carolina residents and $268 for out-of-state students. PCC offers career services, disability services, and veterans services. First-year applicants must submit high school transcripts

Piedmont Community College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

School Snapshot

School Status: Public
Number of Online Programs: 10 associate programs
Online Instruction Style: Asynchronous

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Palo Alto College View School Profile San Antonio, TX

Located in San Antonio, Texas, PAC is one of the five institutions that make up the Alamo Colleges District. PAC offers more than 20 fully online degree and certificate programs in areas like business management and operations, cyberdefense and operations, and logistics and supply chain management.

Online courses last for eight or 16 weeks. Tuition costs $99 per credit for Texas residents living in PAC's tax district, $215 per credit for Texas residents living outside PAC's tax district, and $466 for out-of-state and international students.

Student support services include tutoring, career services, counseling, disability support services, and library services. First-year applicants must submit high school transcripts.

Palo Alto College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

School Snapshot

School Status: Public
Number of Online Programs: 16 certificate and 9 associate programs
Online Instruction Style: Asynchronous

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How Much Is Online Community College?

A student's choice of school and delivery method make a big impact on the price they pay. Many of the best accredited online colleges feature lower tuition rates than on-campus programs because of the limited space required to host students in classrooms.

In general, credits at community colleges usually cost less than at most four-year schools. In the sections below, we explore these price differences in greater detail, highlighting what kind of savings students can expect and what they may need to consider when comparing schools.

Two-Year vs. Four-Year Colleges

Compared to four-year colleges, tuition at two-year community colleges costs less in most cases. Community colleges can offer lower prices by featuring fewer extracurricular opportunities and facilities. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average annual cost at four-year schools exceeded two-year college costs in 2019-2020 by more than $17,000.

Online community colleges also offer flexible scheduling options to accommodate a diverse student body, many of whom work while studying. Through asynchronous, evening, and weekend courses, these schools help learners maintain their current jobs while preparing them for new careers after graduation.

Tuition Costs Public Two-Year In-District Public Four-Year In-State
2019-2020 $3,700 $10,440
2020-2021 3,770 $10,560

Online vs. On-Campus Community Colleges

Students need to consider multiple factors when choosing between online and on-campus programs, though they can typically find reduced prices at accredited online colleges. Online training uses virtual classrooms with much lower overhead costs, which usually results in lower tuition prices. Students can find savings in other areas as well.

Online students can save on travel and transportation costs, such as vehicle wear and tear and parking. They can reduce room and board costs without attending classes on campus, and some online classes offer less expensive digital textbooks. As an example of how online community colleges compare to the alternatives, the following table examines tuition prices at Shoreline Community College.

2020-2021 Estimated Tuition and Fees WA Resident Online (Nonresident) On Campus (Nonresident)
1 credit $152 $167 $243
5 credits $632 $706 $1,090
12 credits (full time) $1,359 $1,510 $2,284

Hidden Fees for Online Students

Students can save money attending online community college, but they should be aware of costs outside of tuition that may not be as visible. While online learning considerably reduces travel costs, learners may still need to commute to complete practica or internships. They should also prepare for textbook and registration costs, along with these additional fees.

true Distance Learning Fees

Many online schools include a distance learning fee or technology fee on top of tuition to cover costs associated with managing virtual classrooms, including maintaining online learning software and platforms and providing technical support.

Assessment Fees

Assessment fees can cover an assortment of school costs, including transcript and transfer credit evaluation, online testing software, and exam proctoring services. Some schools also lump assessment and registration fees together.

Graduation Fees

Graduation fees typically cover the cost of creating diploma packages and running the commencement ceremony. Distance learners may have the option of attending the ceremony online, which could reduce the cost.

Residency Fees

Some programs feature residencies for online students, which can add to their overall cost. Learners may need to pay for room and board, food, and travel if they attend these events.

Accredited Online Community Colleges

Students should only consider accredited online colleges when choosing schools. Regionally accredited online colleges go through the same process as traditional institutions. An accrediting organization recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) must review the school's programs and practices and ensure it meets or exceeds the educational standards for that area.

Students attending regionally accredited online colleges gain access to federal financial aid, transfer credits, and employment opportunities after graduation. They also get the assurance that their school compares favorably to others in that region. When in doubt, degree-seekers can search the list of regionally accredited online colleges from the Department of Education.

National vs. Regional Accreditation

Online community colleges may hold regional or national accreditation. Typically, the best accredited online colleges hold regional accreditation, which is the most widely accepted and prestigious accreditation available. Regionally accredited online colleges may feature more rigid admission requirements, but credits earned at these institutions transfer almost everywhere.

Nationally accredited online colleges, conversely, are usually for-profit career and technical schools. These institutions often have a similar focus across all programs, such as business or nursing. Furthermore, admission tends to be more accessible, and credits may not transfer to regionally accredited online colleges.

Programmatic Accreditation

In addition to accredited online colleges, students should be mindful of programmatic accreditation. Like regional and national accreditation, programmatic accreditation involves an organization reviewing a school's programs to ensure it properly prepares students and meets the standards of that industry. Unlike regional accreditation, however, programmatic accreditation may not be mandatory.

Nevertheless, some fields do require programmatic accreditation, such as heavily regulated disciplines, such as healthcare, education, and human services. In fields like business and management, programmatic accreditation may be preferred or recommended. CHEA provides a list of reputable programmatic accrediting organizations for further review.

What Are the Job and Salary Outlooks for Online Community College Graduates?

An associate degree from an accredited online college can make a big difference in employment outcomes. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median wage for associate degree-holders exceeds that of high school graduates by more than $150 per week.

In terms of finding work, associate degree-holders perform much better than those with only a high school diploma. The 7.1% unemployment rate for associate degree-holders equals the national average, whereas 9% of high school diploma-holders experience unemployment.

The examples below show some of the highest-paying professions available to associate degree-holders, along with the salaries from different experience levels.

Highest Paying Two-Year Degrees
Major Early-Career Pay Mid-Career Pay
Physician Assistant $53,800 $99,400
Radiation Therapy $62,300 $92,600
Advertising and Marketing Communications $36,400 $90,000
Software Engineering $50,600 $89,600
Computer Science and Mathematics $41,300 $85,900
Instrumentation and Control Engineering $54,000 $85,400
Project Management $49,200 $84,700
Applied Computer Science $41,800 $84,500
Instrumentation Technology $47,800 $82,400
Biomedical Engineering $44,900 $81,800

How Do I Pay for Online Community College?

Despite lower community college costs, students may still find paying for an education to be a challenge. To reduce financial stress, degree-seekers can take advantage of several financial aid programs. The section below examines some of the more popular support options available.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

When applying for financial aid, completing the FAFSA form should be the first step. All the best accredited online colleges use this form to determine a student's eligibility for federal aid. According to the Office of Federal Student Aid, learners across the country can gain access to more than $120 billion dollars in funding.

Completing a FAFSA form can lead to more than federal loans, including Pell Grants, scholarships, and work-study opportunities. Students need their Social Security number and financial information to apply. For some types of aid, online students may need to enroll full time.

Loans

College loans may include federal aid and private bank loans. These often feature reduced interest charges while the student remains in school, but they do require repayment plus interest after graduation. Graduates struggling to manage their debt might want to pursue student loan refinancing and consolidation.

Grants

College grants are among the more attractive forms of financial aid because they do not require repayment. Grants typically provide funding to students who demonstrate financial need. Many grant programs require applicants to fill out the FAFSA for consideration.

Work-Study

Students can always pursue employment to help fund their education, but balancing work and study schedules can be difficult. With federal work-study jobs, however, degree-seekers can find part-time work on campus or nearby that accommodates their class schedules. Eligible candidates must complete the FAFSA and demonstrate financial need.

Scholarships

Scholarships provide funding to students who demonstrate academic excellence, community involvement, and financial need. This funding does not require repayment and may target specialized groups, such as scholarships for online learners, underrepresented demographics, and adult learners. Degree-seekers can find scholarships through their school's financial aid resources, government websites, financial aid databases, and local organizations.

Scholarships and Grants for Online Students

American Indian College Fund Scholarships

Who is eligible?: Full-time Native American students with a minimum 2.0 GPA can apply for this scholarship.

Award amount: Varies

Deadline: May

View Scholarship

Cancer for College Scholarships

Who is eligible?: Full-time students who have been diagnosed with cancer can apply. Applicants may need to demonstrate some financial need to qualify.

Award amount: $5,000

Deadline: January

View Scholarship

Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise Scholarship

Who is eligible?: Phi Theta Kappa students with between 12-36 completed credits and a minimum 3.5 GPA can apply for this scholarship.

Award amount: $1,000

Deadline: December

View Scholarship

Get Educated Online College Scholarship

Who is eligible?: Online students with a minimum 3.0 GPA can apply for this scholarship. Applicants must demonstrate financial need and submit a 500-word essay.

Award amount: $1,000

Deadline: October or March

View Scholarship

Hispanic Scholarship Fund

Who is eligible?: Full-time community college students of Hispanic heritage planning to transfer into a four-year program may apply. College applicants also need a minimum 2.5 GPA and financial need to qualify.

Award amount: $500-$5,000

Deadline: February

View Scholarship

Horatio Alger Association's Career & Technical Scholarship Program

Who is eligible?: Community, career, and technical college students under the age of 30 who overcame adversity and critical financial need may apply.

Award amount: Up to $2,500

Deadline: Varies

View Scholarship

Jeannette Rankin Women's Scholarship Fund

Who is eligible?: Women over the age of 35 pursuing a two-year or four-year degree may apply. Applicants must also demonstrate financial need.

Award amount: $2,000

Deadline: February

View Scholarship

Niche Community College Scholarship

Who is eligible?: Currently enrolled community college students or those planning to enroll may qualify for this scholarship.

Award amount: $500

Deadline: December

View Scholarship

Optimal Community College Scholarship

Who is eligible?: Students enrolled in an accredited community college may apply for this scholarship. Applicants also need to be U.S. citizens and demonstrate financial need.

Award amount: $2,000

Deadline: June

View Scholarship

Point Community College Scholarship Program

Who is eligible?: Students enrolled in a community college program with 1-2 years of study remaining may apply. Applicants also need to be members of the LGBTQ+ community and demonstrate financial need.

Award amount: Varies

Deadline: May

View Scholarship

How Do I Cut Online Community College Costs?

Even at the cheapest community college, paying for tuition can be difficult. Financial aid helps immensely but rarely covers everything. Online community college students can reduce their financial burdens further by using the following strategies.

true Develop Healthy Spending Habits

When paying for school, students need to be more careful with their spending. Downloading an app like Spending Tracker or recording purchases manually can help learners manage their buying behavior and avoid overspending. It can also help to develop a budget that works out how much money they have available after all their expenses.

Find Discounts

Community college costs a lot, but learners can find savings if they look hard enough. Many local organizations offer student discounts, and learners can either rent textbooks or look for used textbooks and school equipment. Joining student and professional organizations may also lead to discounts on materials, events, and resources.

Fast-track Your Studies

Some schools offer accelerated study options, which can help reduce costs. Fast-tracking a degree can result in less tuition and a shorter pathway to the workforce. Students might save on tuition at schools that charge by semester or overall time in the program.

Apply Transfer Credits

Transfer credits save students both time and money by reducing their course load and degree requirements. Experienced learners may also apply for prior learning assessments, which provide transfer credit for previous professional experience, training, and military or community service.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Most Affordable Online Community Colleges

Is online college more affordable?

Online college often costs less than on-campus schools and programs. Many accredited online colleges offer reduced tuition prices if learners study entirely online, even after accounting for distance learning fees and other potential hidden costs. Out-of-state online learners can often access in-state tuition rates.

Are online degrees worth it?

A degree from regionally accredited online colleges provides the same value as a traditional degree. These programs offer more flexible training schedules and reduced costs in some cases. Completing an online degree can bypass any travel or work restrictions that may otherwise limit a student's educational pursuits.

Does community college look bad on a resume?

An online community college can provide very comparable training to a degree from a four-year school. Some employers may value an education from one school over another, but most treat degrees from community colleges and four-year schools equally.

Is online community college easier?

Students should not expect online community college to be easier than an on-campus program. Online learning demands commitment and dedication and may even require students to spend more time on their independent studies than normal. While many community colleges offer open admission requirements, coursework can be just as intensive as that of four-year schools.

How can online students avoid out-of-state tuition costs?

Typically, out-of-state students pay significantly higher tuition prices than in-state learners. Some online community colleges, however, offer standard online or in-state tuition rates to out-of-state students.

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