An online learning initiative has been launched by Jamestown Community College (JCC) and five partner institutions from the State University of New York (Suny).
These are the community colleges of Erie, Finger Lakes, Corning, Genesee and Monroe, which together form the Online Western New York Learning Alliance (Owl).
All of these organisations have received full accreditation from the Middle State Association of Colleges and Schools and have been authorised by Suny to offer online degrees in certain subject areas.
Every participating academic institution has a trained online specialist known as a 'concierge', who will deal with the concerns and questions of Owl students, as well as assist in academic progress and facilitate the enrolment and matriculation procedures.
Concierge and director of distance learning for JCC Cori Dunagan explained that participants in the e-learning scheme will be enrolled in only one of the above Owl institutions, but will be able to access online learning courses from the entire network.
Students will be "seamlessly transferring and earning credits among the partner colleges", she explained.
Furthermore, people will be able to achieve a degree when they have completed the necessary coursework.
Some of the subjects individuals can learn through the virtual learning environment include criminal justice, customer service, eCommerce, computer information systems, business administration, economic crime investigation, physical education, tourism management and general studies.
JCC vice-president and dean of academic affairs Marilyn Zagora said community colleges are "committed to providing access to higher education".
Enabling people to engage in distance learning online removes the barriers of space and time that can prevent many people from pursuing further education, she pointed out.
Suny chancellor Nancy Zimpheer called the e-learning scheme "fantastic news for western New Yorkers", noting it will enable them to balance their work and home responsibilities with the pursuit of a college degree.
"By making 100 per cent of the required coursework available online, the Owl alliance makes a Suny degree more accessible and attainable for many students," she remarked.