Guide to Online Community Colleges

Online community colleges have become more popular due to the affordability and flexibility these schools offer. Learn what it means to study online at community college, see how it can help you earn a terminal degree or transfer to a four-year school afterward, and explore top-rated schools.

Search hundreds of schools for the degree you want...

I want my
Focusing on
Written By




Higher education is changing. Not only are more students considering two-year schools as their first stop after high school, but the explosion of online learning has made online community college a popular option. And the ubiquity of smartphones, built-in webcams, online learning software, and broadband internet has made the transition easier.

Online community colleges offer enormous benefits. Whether saving money or using self-paced study to balance non-academic obligations, it can help all types of students get the education they need. But how does it work? What if you plan to transfer to a four-year college afterward? And what are some of the top community colleges that offer online degree and certificate programs? These are all great questions, and the following guide has answers, no matter your academic or career plans. See if an online community college has what you need to move your education forward.

Best Online Community Colleges in 2024

Finding a quality program at a price you can afford is key when it comes to selecting a college. Luckily, there are hundreds of community colleges across the nation that check the quality and affordability boxes while offering the convenience of online learning. We’ve rounded up the top 50 schools in our rankings list below to help you start your online community college search. Learn more about our top picks, and see if one offers the program and features you’re looking for.

About the ranking

College Ranking Methodology

Generate List of Eligible Schools and Programs

To be eligible for this ranking, schools were required to meet the following criteria based on government data provided by The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

  • Institutional accreditation from an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • At least one program in the subject area offered partially or fully online.
  • Career placement and academic counseling services.

Assign Weightings

After generating the list of eligible schools, the STEPS data team then assigned weights and ranked schools based on their performance in a variety of key categories. Affordability metrics received the heaviest weightings, followed by online learning and academic quality metrics (equally weighted).


  • Relative cost of attendance compared to peer schools on the list. Based on in-state tuition for undergraduate students per academic year.
  • Percentage of students who receive institutional financial aid (directly from the school).
  • Average amount of institutional financial aid awarded.

Online Learning

  • Number of online programs in subject area self-reported by school to the U.S. Department of Education.
  • Percentage of students at the school taking at least one class online.

Academic Quality

  • Student-to-faculty ratio.
  • Percentage of full-time, first-time students graduating within 6 years.

About Our Data

All STEPS rankings use the latest official data available from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Most recent data pull: August 2023

Accreditation Glossary

ABHE: Association for Biblical Higher Education, Commission on Accreditation

ABHES: Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools

ACCJC: Western Association of Schools and Colleges Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges

ACCSC: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges

DEAC: Distance Education Accrediting Commission

HLC: Higher Learning Commission

MSCHE: Middle States Commission on Higher Education

NECHE: New England Commission of Higher Education

NWCCU: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

SACSCOC: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

TRACS: Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, Accreditation Commission

WSCUC: Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission