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Online Community Colleges: Their Benefits and Drawbacks

May 9, 2011 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 3 Comments

Community colleges in the US usually provide two-year associate’s degrees as well as professional certificates and diplomas. Community colleges often serve nontraditional students, and are very likely to have online classes available to accommodate the schedules of students who work full-time. Here’s an overview of reasons to consider attending an online community college rather than a four-year school.

Community colleges are highly affordable

In general, community colleges are the most affordable option of any. According to The College Board’s Trends in College Pricing 2010 and Trends in Student Aid 2010, public two-year colleges charge approximately $2,713 per year in tuition. Compare that to approximately $7,605 per year at public four-year colleges for in-state students, $11,990 for out-of-state students, and a whopping $27,293 for private four-year colleges. With these numbers, it’s no wonder so many choose community colleges.

You can transfer to a four-year college after you earn your Associate’s

Students Studying Online

Community colleges offer a distinct list of benefits—chief among them a great deal on tuition.

In most industries, an Associate’s degree is not as competitive as a Bachelor’s. However, there are still a few industries where an Associate’s is all you need to get a foot in the door. And if you do want to earn a Bachelor’s, you can transfer your Associate’s degree credits toward a four-year degree program at a different school—and only pay higher tuition for two years instead of four. Many students choose to do this in order to reduce their student loan debt, and many community colleges have partnerships with four-year colleges to help make the transition easier.

You can decide what you want to major in—without spending lots of money

Students are expected to know what they want to major in. But it’s not unusual for some to be unsure—and to want to try out many different areas of study before settling on one. At an expensive private school, experimentation is expensive. But at a community college, you can pay less for credits while you’re exploring—and then transfer to a four-year degree program once you’re sure.

You can boost your GPA

If you didn’t have a high enough GPA to get into your first-choice school, consider going to community college. Many students who don’t have strong college applications immediately after high school graduation attend community college, get good grades, and re-apply. You could into your top-choice four-year college after attending a community college for a year or two—and you’ll save on tuition.

You can save money by living at home

Community colleges serve a large population of nontraditional students, and many have begun offering online classes and degree programs to serve the needs of their working students. If you take classes online, you can save significant money on room and board—even if you’re attending a community college nowhere near where you live. This makes it easier to find a community college to attend, as well—you don’t have to limit yourself to schools within your geographic area, and you don’t have to move if you get accepted to a school that’s too far away to commute to.

You can fit school around work and family obligations

Online degree programs have significant advantages—and one of them is flexibility. If you’re a working student or have children to care for, going to school can be extremely difficult. But with online classes, you can study anytime and anywhere—when the kids are at school, during your lunch break, early in the morning, or late at night. Community college online degree programs make it easier for you to fit your college around your other obligations—and can save you significant money in commuting and childcare costs.

Community colleges offer a distinct list of benefits—chief among them a great deal on tuition. With rising tuition costs, many students are finding community colleges a more attractive option. As a community college student, you can still earn a Bachelor’s degree by transferring to a four-year school after earning your Associate’s. And with online degree programs at community colleges, you can save money on room and board as well as commuting costs—and you don’t have to cut back your work hours to make room for school. Online community colleges are an excellent way to save money on tuition—while earning the degree you need.


TheExpert12 Over a year ago

I found your website perfect for my needs. It contains lots of helpful ideas about Online community colleges. I would love to read more about the pros and cons of online colleges. I have read most of them. you are doing the great work. Thanks.

Clarkmurdock Over a year ago

This was helpful to me, as Im considering onlline cc currently.

Joshua W. Scott Over a year ago

As a proponent of community colleges and online learning, I would love to see some research on distance learning specifically at community colleges. This article provides great information about each, though.

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