Online Community College

Campus is the new alternative to traditional community college. We're on a mission to maximize access to a world-class education, starting with our groundbreaking online associate degree in business program. Our program features live, face-to-face classes led by professors who also teach at top-ranked universities including Princeton, UC Berkeley, UT Austin, and Howard.

Traditionally, community colleges have offered associate degrees and workforce certifications, served local populations, and created connections between education and employment in a specific geographic area.

However, with the rise of online education, community colleges have expanded their reach and are creating new opportunities for like-minded students across the country.

In fact, remote learning has rapidly grown in popularity within the last decade, and the global pandemic in 2020 solidified both the need for and legitimacy of online education.

In 2022, more than 50% of students took at least one class toward their degree online, and that number is expected to increase. As students' desire to learn online grows, institutions like Campus are working to meet that demand by offering flexible, accredited online degree and certificate programs that help students meet their education and career goals.

Flexibility isn't the only feature of online education that makes it appealing for some students.

Online community college programs can also be more affordable than traditional, on-campus programs, because tuition tends to be lower, and students can save on other costs like housing and commuting.

Overall accessibility is a major reason students choose online programs. An online education format allows students to access classes, course materials, and academic support anywhere, at almost any time.

In short, online community colleges are instrumental in driving some of the most disruptive, positive changes in higher education today.

Why choose an online community college?

Below are some reasons why students may choose an online community college vs. attending college in person.

Flexibility for busy lifestyles

Online community colleges offer students the opportunity to get a valuable, rigorous education without neglecting their other priorities.

An online community college can be an ideal fit for students who work part- or full-time, or for students who have family commitments. Online community colleges tend to offer courses during the evening or even on weekends, so students can generally stay employed or perform caregiving activities as they earn their degrees.


Costs can vary widely, even among community colleges, but a fully online program can help students save significantly on costs associated with tuition and commuting. The convenience of online learning can lead to savings in terms of time, allowing students to work more while they study (versus having to attend classes in person), making it a smart choice for many individuals seeking affordable education options.

There are also factors that students may not think about upfront, such as the cost of textbooks, which online community college programs may offer virtually and a lower cost. At Campus, for example, online business students have access to all textbooks and course materials at no additional cost.

Accelerated programs and shorter terms

Term schedules are another reason students might choose an online community college. Traditional, on-campus programs tend to offer courses on a semester schedule. These schools usually offer two semesters a year, and each semester is about 15 to 16 weeks long. Within this kind of format, there's not much students can do to accelerate the pace of their degree.

It's important to note that not all classes are offered every semester, either, so students sometimes have to wait two or even three semesters before they can enroll in a class they need to graduate.

In contrast, online community college programs are more likely to offer accelerated program timelines. Terms might be 8 or 10 weeks, or an online school might offer three terms a year rather than two. So, if you're hoping to earn your degree fairly quickly, you may want to consider online community college programs.

A student participating in an online community college class

How to choose the right online community college

If you're considering enrolling in an online community college, here are a few key things you should consider.

1. Is the school accredited?

Essentially, accreditation serves as a quality check: during the accreditation process, a third party reviews a school's administration, academic programs, faculty, support, and student outcomes. Accreditation exists to protect students from predatory or financially unstable institutions, and it also ensures that schools are offering thoughtful, well-designed programs that provide value to students.

It's also an important part of transfer agreements because most accredited institutions will not accept transfer credits from unaccredited ones.

So, how do you know if a school is accredited?

Institutions usually make their accreditation visible on their website, but you can also verify a school's accreditation through the U.S. Department of Education's Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs.

While there are several accreditation types, if you're attending a degree-focused program, you'll want to look for a school with regional (preferred) or national accreditation. Campus, for example, is regionally accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC).

Logo for the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, the regional accreditor that provides accreditation to, an online community college

2. How does the school structure its online programs?

Many colleges offer online learning experiences, but there are a few key differences in how programs are built and delivered. Specifically, you'll want to research the following things:

  • Degrees and certificates: Certificate programs are more specific to a particular field of expertise, while a degree may give you a more well-rounded education. Not every online community college offers the same degree and certificate programs, so research schools that align well with your academic and professional goals.

  • Synchronous vs. asynchronous learning options: Synchronous online classes allow you to complete your coursework online and in real time. Synchronous classes are an ideal option for students who want the chance to interact live with peers and professors, but they may not be the best choice for students with unpredictable work schedules or caregiving duties. The Campus online associate degree in business program consists of synchronous online classes so that students can meet live and directly engage with professors and teaching assistants. Classes are generally scheduled in the evenings so that many students who are working full-time or part-time can continue to do so while earning their degrees.

    Asynchronous classes don't require you to meet online on a specific day and time. You'll still need to meet assignment due dates, but your interactions with peers and professors will usually be through discussion boards or similar tools. Your professor may ask you to schedule a virtual meeting once or twice during the term, but you'll likely have flexibility in determining a meeting time.

    If you're hoping to build a strong sense of online community through real-time chats with classmates and faculty, asynchronous learning may not be the best choice. However, if you can't commit to meeting on specific days and times, an asynchronous option could be a good fit.

A professor at Campus leading a live, online community college class

3. What kind of support is available?

To learn more about academic support offerings outside the classroom, review the school's website carefully or contact an enrollment specialist or advisor at your prospective school. Be sure to ask about advising processes, individual or group tutoring programs, and career transition services. At Campus, business students have access to support services such as on-demand writing and math tutoring, 24/7 mental and emotional wellness counseling, and a success coach.

Don't forget about the support you get in the virtual classroom, too. Take some time to also review faculty bios – those can help you better understand who you might be learning from. It's typical for faculty members in an academic program to have at least a Master's degree in the subject they're teaching, but you might want to check to see if they have any publications, awards, or unique professional experiences. Who you learn from can heavily impact your student experience – that's why Campus professors in our online business program are experts in their fields who also teach at colleges like Princeton, UCLA, UT Austin, and Howard.

4. What are the student outcomes like?

Finally, don't forget to ask your prospective schools for information about student outcomes. For example, you'll want to know what percentage of enrolled students graduate and how long it takes them to do so.

Schools should also be able to give you information about their transfer rates, including the average number of credits students transfer with.

It's also good practice to ask schools for information about their job placement rates and the average income their graduates earn. Sometimes it's more difficult to get this information, but schools that are successful in helping students find lucrative employment opportunities are generally eager to share those statistics.

Have more questions? We've got answers.

Our admissions advisors are here to answer your questions and help with the admissions process.

Learn more

Top community college programs 2024

There's no shortage of great community colleges across the U.S., but there are a few whose programs stand out for their quality, innovation, and commitment to student success.

  • Campus offers a fully online associate degree program taught by professors who also teach at some of the top universities in the country. The Campus online associate degree in business program prepares students for careers or further study in entrepreneurship, marketing, communication, business administration, and other in-demand fields. Because the program tuition cost falls below the maximum Pell Grant, many students are able to attend with no out-of-pocket tuition costs. The Campus experience also includes access to required course materials at no additional cost, free math and writing tutoring, and a student success coach from day one through graduation.

  • SUNY ASAP is an innovative program that helps economically disadvantaged students earn an associate degree at little-to-no cost within three years. Students enrolled in the SUNY ASAP program receive support throughout their college journey, including a dedicated academic advisor, early registration, and even food and gas cards to help offset the costs that can come with attending classes.

  • Though Miami-Dade College offers bachelor's programs, their associate degree and certificate programs deserve special recognition for their breadth, depth, and transferability. Miami-Dade is the largest degree-granting institution in the nation with one of the most diverse populations, so the administration and faculty work hard to create opportunities for connection and collaboration among students.

  • Dallas College, which comprises seven community college campuses in the Dallas area, takes a holistic approach to student success. Generous financial aid policies and scholarship opportunities keep classes affordable, and enrolled students have access to academic, health, wellness, and employment support services, including Dallas College's no-cost WorkReadyU program, which prepares students for college and career success.

What do all of these programs have in common beyond their commitment to providing every student with a first-class educational experience? Members of the Campus Board of Trustees have led these trailblazing institutions and now use their passion and experience to help make Campus one of the most accessible, affordable, and inventive community college programs in the country.

A prospective student researching online community college options

Admission process and requirements

Enrolling at most online community colleges is often very simple and straightforward. Unless you're participating in a dual enrollment program, you'll need to have earned either a high school diploma or a GED. If your grades in high school weren't the strongest, don't worry – most community colleges don't require you to have a specific GPA. If you have earned an exceptional GPA, however, don't hesitate to share it, as there may be scholarships and other programming that the college may share with you if they have this information.

You'll also likely need to submit proof of high school/GED completion, and you may be asked to fill out a short application with some basic personal and demographic information as well.

Once your application has been reviewed, some schools will ask you to join them for a short interview or consultation to ensure that they're a good fit for you. At Campus, our online admissions application can be completed in under 15 minutes and does not require any SAT or ACT test scores. We also require prospective students to schedule a short interview with an admissions counselor after submitting the application.

As part of your enrollment process, you may need to submit financial aid information. For federal financial aid opportunities, you'll need to fill out the FAFSA form and assemble any required supporting documents.

If you're applying for any institutional or private scholarship opportunities, you'll need to fill out any associated forms and complete any supplemental requirements, like essays or interviews.

Once you've been accepted to an online community college, you may also need to take placement tests for subjects like English and math so that your advisor can recommend the course that's best for you. It can be a good idea to brush up on any placement test topic areas before you begin your assessment, but remember that placement tests are designed to help you choose the class that's the best fit for your current knowledge and skill level.

Financial aid and scholarships

If you have concerns about your ability to finance your education, it's worth learning more about your funding options. One of the major benefits of learning online is that many of the costs associated with learning on-campus – such as housing, commuting, purchasing textbooks, and more – are reduced or eliminated.

The best way to educate yourself about how to pay for college is by initiating a conversation with your school's financial aid office.

One thing any financial aid officer will likely tell you is that financial aid comes in many forms, including:

  • Loans
  • Grants
  • Scholarships
  • Work-study programs

These resources may be available at the federal, state, institutional, or local level, so be sure to explore multiple avenues as you research your aid options.

The first step to finding out what Federal aid you're eligible for as an online community college student is to fill out and submit the FAFSA form. Once you submit your FAFSA form, a financial aid officer will review your application and give you information about any aid packages the school can offer.

Be sure to do your research as far as specific opportunities your state may offer as well. Many states offer free community college programs, so review programs in your state to see if you're eligible. Tuition for the online associate in business program at Campus is below the Federal Pell Grant maximum, so students who qualify for the full Pell can attend without any out-of-pocket tuition costs. In fact, not a single student enrolled in our online AA in business program has had to take out any student loans to pay for program tuition.

Scholarships can also help you reduce your out-of-pocket costs. To receive a scholarship, you may need to meet certain criteria or submit application materials, like essays or samples of your work. Check out our guide to community college scholarships to learn more about how scholarships can help you pay for your education.

Success strategies for online students

Choosing an online community college can set you up for success, but enrolling in a virtual program is just the beginning. Follow these tips to make the most of your online experience.

1. Manage your time.

Earning your degree as an online student does mean you have more flexibility than students taking classes on-campus, but you'll need strong time management skills to succeed. Before each term, be sure to review your other commitments and estimate how many hours a week you can allocate to studying.

Talk with your advisor or instructors about how many hours a week you should expect to prepare for class or complete assignments, and be sure that you don't sign up for more classes than you can allocate study time to. Campus student success coaches help students review their personal and academic schedules to ensure they can manage their time more effectively.

Once you've determined the right number of classes, make schoolwork part of your regular schedule. You don't necessarily need to study at the same time every day, but dedicate regular timeblocks during the week to school.

Finally, be sure to use the syllabus for each class to look ahead. Add your assignments for each class to the same calendar so that you can be aware of any particularly difficult weeks well in advance.

2. Focus on the where and how.

It's important to carve out time for yourself, but it also helps to think about where and how you study best. Do you prefer a calm, quiet space, or do you feel more energized in a busy coffee shop with music and conversation in the background? Does natural light help you stay awake, or does looking at a screen in a darkened room make you more comfortable?

Regardless of when or where you study, be sure to have the right materials. While you can probably complete some work on your phone, it helps to have access to a laptop or desktop computer, too. That's why students in the Campus online business program can receive a laptop for classes as needed; we do not want not having the right technology to get in the way of students being able to complete their degrees.

3. Stay engaged.

Some students can find it a bit harder to stay engaged in a virtual class than a class that meets face-to-face. The key to succeeding in your online class is to bring the same energy to an online class as you would to an in-person one.

A lot of the time, when we're looking at screens, we're receiving information passively. When you're taking an online class, whether you're reading a text, viewing a video, or participating in a live online session, it's important to understand that you are a critical part of that interaction.

Your teachers want you to ask questions and challenge assumptions. They want to know when you're excited about an idea, or if you get a chance to apply a theoretical concept in your daily life. Don't be afraid to connect with your peers, too. The stronger your online learning community is, the more likely you are to enjoy your classes and finish your program.

4. Accept help.

Part of being an engaged online student is learning how to accept the support that's available to you. Online community colleges know that learning remotely can be challenging, and some institutions offer easily accessible tutoring through some type of academic support center or learning commons. Once you're a student at an institution, you'll be able to register online for a virtual appointment with a tutor at a time that's convenient for you, such as the free math and writing tutoring services offered in the Campus online business program.

Remember, too, that tutoring isn't the only type of support schools usually offer. Check with your school to see about online library, career, and health and wellness resources available to you as a student.

FAQs about online community college

What is an online community college?
How do online classes work at community colleges?
Are online community college credits transferable?
What programs and degrees can I pursue at an online community college?
How do I apply to an online community college?
What are the tuition and fees for online community college courses?
Is financial aid available for online community college students?
How do I know if an online community college is accredited?
What support services are available for online students?
Can I work while completing my online community college program?
What are the technical requirements for taking online classes?
How do online exams and assessments work?
What do Campus students have to say about their experiences?


If you're looking to take the next step in your education or career, an online community college program can help you move towards your goals.

Come see what Campus is all about by taking a virtual tour or chatting with one of our admissions counselors. We're happy to answer any questions you might have about enrollment, programs, classes, support services, and more. You can call us at 888-675-2460 or email us at Let's start your application today.

Have more questions? We've got answers.

Our admissions advisors are here to answer your questions and help with the admissions process.

Learn more