Why This Matters


    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average person with an associate degree makes $938 per week, compared to only $781 per week for the average person with a high school diploma.


    While the average unemployment rate in 2020 for those with only a high school diploma was 9%, those with an associate degree had an unemployment rate of 7.1%.


    In the 2018-2019 school year, 76.9% of students attending public two-year institutions in the United States received some type of financial aid.

Our Research

As we sorted through online community colleges to find the most affordable options, we considered several factors. This included the estimated cost per credit and how many credits the average student needs to graduate.

We also made sure that all of the schools on our list were accredited at either the national or regional level. This ensures that the quality of education is high and increases the chances that any credits earned will transfer to other institutions. Some of the more popular accreditations for programs on our list include the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE), and the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

  • 69 hours to write this article
  • 150 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 203 education programs we compared

The Top 50 Affordable Online Community Colleges

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What You Should Know About This Degree

While choosing which concentration you want to go into is the first decision to make, you’ll also need to carefully consider your budget and the expected cost. To get an idea of how much online community college can cost, check the tuition per credit hour, expected credits to graduate, and any fees charged by the institution you’re considering. Adding all this up can help you better understand the overall cost.

While community colleges are usually less expensive per credit hour than traditional four-year institutions, many people still need help paying for their education. To find out more about the available financial aid options you can check your eligibility and apply for federal financial aid through FAFSA.

Online community college programs are very popular because of the flexibility in obtaining your degree or certificate. You don’t have to physically get to and from school or be in classes at certain times. This makes it easier for those who have children or work obligations to attend. However, online learning also requires that you be comfortable with technology and have strong time management and organizational skills to be successful. Many of these classes are largely self-paced, so you need to be able to keep yourself on track without a professor checking in.

What’s Next?

Here are some questions to ask when researching online community colleges:

  • Am I eligible for this community college? In general, community colleges only require a high school diploma or GED, but you may need to meet residency requirements or have a certain GPA if you are looking at a competitive program.
  • Are courses offered synchronously or asynchronously? Most online community colleges offer asynchronous classes, which means you work at your own pace and just submit assignments by the deadlines. However, some programs may require practicums or clinical hours to develop hands-on experience.
  • How long does it take to complete an associate degree? Most associate programs are completed in around two years. Programs that require fewer credits or colleges that offer accelerated options can be completed faster. You also have the option of going part-time, which could push it out to three years or so.
  • What tests are required for an online community college degree? SAT and ACT scores generally aren’t required for community colleges. You may have to take a placement test, such as the COMPASS test, to be able to register for the correct math, computer, and English courses.