Most Affordable Online Community Colleges of 2022

Our higher education experts have gathered information pertaining to the most affordable online community colleges out there. Read on to learn more about what these schools offer and how students can save money on their education.

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by Doug Wintemute

Updated August 4, 2022

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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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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.

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Most Affordable Online Community Colleges of 2022

1. Georgia Northwestern Technical College

Location: Rome, Georgia

Average Cost per Credit: In State: $100; Out of State: $200

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Georgia Northwestern Technical College offers programs on several Georgia campuses. Students can complete associate degrees online in fields such as accounting and healthcare management. Learners can develop IT skills through an AAS program in website design and development.

GNTC's short-term programs prepare enrollees for direct entry to the workforce. Learners can pursue a diploma in health information coding or logistics and supply chain management.

One of the best community colleges of 2022, GNTC delivers certificates that can qualify holders for roles as network specialists. Admission requires high school or GED transcripts.

School Information

  • Graduation Rate: 47%
  • Accreditation: Yes
  • Percent Online Enrollment: 53%


2. Ogeechee Technical College

Location: Statesboro, Georgia

Average Cost per Credit: In State: $100; Out of State: $200

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Located in Georgia, Ogeechee Technical College offers an extensive catalog of online programs. Students can earn a certificate, diploma, or associate degree without visiting the Statesboro campus.

The school's programs explore fields including accounting, business technology, and computer information systems. Students pursuing the AAS in interdisciplinary studies can design their own curriculum.

One of the best community colleges of 2022, Ogeechee Tech offers some general education courses online. Applicants need a high school diploma or GED.

School Information

  • Graduation Rate: 52%
  • Accreditation: Yes
  • Percent Online Enrollment: 58%


3. Carroll Community College

Location: Westminster, Maryland

Average Cost per Credit: In State: $68-112; Out of State: $144

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Carroll Community College offers about 40 career-focused programs. Students can pursue fully online associate degrees in fields such as business administration and management information systems.

Some associate programs require campus visits. Many graduates transfer their associate degree to a four-year program. Online learners can access academic and technical support services. The school offers free use of its virtual reality lab.

One of the most affordable online community colleges of 2022, the school requires a high school diploma or GED for admission.

School Information

  • Graduation Rate: 31%
  • Accreditation: Yes
  • Percent Online Enrollment: 29%


4. Southern Crescent Technical College

Location: Griffin, Georgia

Average Cost per Credit: In State: $100; Out of State: $200, if taking fewer than five credits

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Southern Crescent Technical College is part of the Technical College System of Georgia. Southern Crescent delivers online programs in fields including business management, accounting, and early childhood care.

Associate degree-seekers can study public safety fields including fire science technology and criminal justice technology. The school's unique AS in consumer economics transfers to the University of Georgia.

Online students can pursue a variety of diplomas and technical certificates. One of the most affordable community colleges of 2022, Southern Crescent requires a high school diploma or GED for admission.

School Information

  • Graduation Rate: 43%
  • Accreditation: Yes
  • Percent Online Enrollment: 49%


5. Southern Regional Technical College

Location: Thomasville, Georgia

Average Cost per Credit: In State: $100; Out of State: $200

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Southern Regional Technical College primarily serves students in Southwest Georgia. The school offers online associate degrees in fields including accounting and marketing. Learners can pursue an AAS to become a social work assistant. SRTC's diploma and certificate programs allow enrollees to train for new careers in weeks.

Technical certificates prepare students for positions such as payroll accounting specialist and criminal justice specialist. High school students can attend one of the best online community colleges of 2022 through dual enrollment. Admission requires high school or GED transcripts.

School Information

  • Graduation Rate: 32%
  • Accreditation: Yes
  • Percent Online Enrollment: 52%


6. Wiregrass Georgia Technical College

Location: Valdosta, Georgia

Average Cost per Credit: In State: $100; Out of State: $200

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Wiregrass Georgia Technical College enrolls about 7,000 students in 177 programs. The school offers a limited number of online degrees in fields including accounting and education. Technical certificate programs prepare students for positions such as payroll accounting specialist.

Distance learners can enroll in 600 online programs through a network of 22 Georgia colleges. Admission to Wiregrass, one of the best community colleges of 2022, requires high school or GED transcripts.

School Information

  • Graduation Rate: 45%
  • Accreditation: Yes
  • Percent Online Enrollment: 28%


7. Waubonsee Community College

Location: Sugar Grove, Illinois

Average Cost per Credit: In State: $132-434; Out of State: $471

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Waubonsee Community College delivers programs at four Illinois campuses. Students choose from several fully online associate and certificate programs.

Learners who plan to pursue a four-year program can pursue an associate of arts or an associate of science. Students who plan to enter the workforce after graduating from WCC can pursue an associate of applied science in business administration or HR management.

One of the best community colleges of 2022, WCC offers some certificate programs. Applicants need a high school diploma or GED and take placement tests.

School Information

  • Graduation Rate: 35%
  • Accreditation: Yes
  • Percent Online Enrollment: 29%


8. College of the Mainland

Location: Texas City, Texas

Average Cost per Credit: In State: $270-510; Out of State: $690

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About 4,900 students attend College of the Mainland, one of the best online community colleges of 2022. Associate degree-seekers can supplement their on-campus studies with online courses.

Students can earn an entirely online degree in business administration or criminal justice. COM delivers an AA in general studies that transfers easily to four-year schools.

Distance learners can access one-on-one online tutoring. Admission to COM requires placement testing and a high school diploma or GED.

School Information

    Graduation Rate: 25%
  • Accreditation: Yes
  • Percent Online Enrollment: 33%


9. Roanoke-Chowan Community College

Location: Ahoskie, North Carolina

Average Cost per Credit: In State: $76; Out of State: $268

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Located in North Carolina, Roanoke-Chowan Community College offers a comprehensive catalog of on-campus associate programs. Students can supplement in-person learning with online courses.

R-CCC students can access fully online programs through the North Carolina Community College System. Virtual learning options include associate, diploma, and certificate programs.

One of the top community colleges of 2022, R-CCC offers dual-enrollment courses that allow high school students to earn college credits. Applicants to the college submit placement test scores and high school or college transcripts.

School Information

  • Graduation Rate: 16%
  • Accreditation: Yes
  • Percent Online Enrollment: 63%


10. Lewis and Clark Community College

Location: Godfrey, Illinois

Average Cost per Credit: In State: $125-146; Out of State: $146

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With multiple Illinois campuses, Lewis and Clark Community College delivers nearly 40 career programs. Students benefit from small class sizes. One of the top community colleges of 2022, L&C offers online courses in a variety of fields.

L&C offers associate degrees in areas including information technology and child development. Some of the school's associate programs fulfill requirements for the first two years of bachelor's studies, helping learners save money on tuition.

Applicants submit high school or college transcripts.

School Information

  • Graduation Rate: 42%
  • Accreditation: Yes
  • Percent Online Enrollment: 16%


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

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

Related Pages

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

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