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Best Online Community Colleges Methodology

Annual tuition numbers for these schools were manually researched and represent in-state tuition at the associate degree level. Unless otherwise stated, associate programs were assumed to require two years to complete.

Fully Online Status

Schools with programs that require some on-campus coursework were still considered for our rankings if all in-person work could be completed in two weeks or less. This allows students to retain their current employment or attend to other personal responsibilities.

Data Sources

Program data including available degrees, tuition rates, and details about program coursework were collected from schools' official websites, reflecting data for the 2019-2020 school year. Programmatic accreditations and profit statuses of schools were collected from official websites of the accreditation agencies or from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). The NCES is the primary governmental entity for gathering and presenting data related to education. The NCES data is updated annually as soon as data becomes available. The NCES does not release data into downloadable formats until the federal entity has approved it, so currently available data will not be for the most recent academic year. Each school's graduation rate, retention rate, and online enrollment percentages were also collected from the NCES.

Ranking Formula

All community colleges offering at least one online associate degree were considered eligible for rankings, and rankings were compiled for states with three or more eligible schools.

Eligible schools were ranked according to their scores, and scores were calculated according to an internal formula that incorporates retention rate, online enrollment percentage, and the number of online associate degrees offered. Some schools do not report retention rate, so for those schools, graduation rate was used instead. Graduation rate or retention rate was weighted most highly in order to ensure that the rankings highlight the schools whose students are most likely to earn a degree.