Institutions of higher education in Massachusetts continue to work towards improved and affordable online education. The forward-thinking New England Board of Higher Education has done much to support regional cooperation of higher education institutions across six states, most notably with the creation of the cost-saving Regional Student Program “Tuition Break” that enables students at public colleges to take advantage of shared educational opportunities and tuition breaks in traditional and online course formats. In 2013-14, some 9,533 New England residents participated in the program, saving an estimated total of $56 million on tuition.
Before we look at the top online colleges in Massachusetts, let’s start with the state of higher education and online education in particular in MA today.
A Brief Overview of Higher Education in Massachusetts
In 2013, the National Center for Education Statistics reported that Massachusetts had 125 degree-granting institutions, broken down as follows: 30 public schools, 84 nonprofits and 11 for-profits. The total number of bachelor’s degrees awarded in the ’12-’13 school year at these schools was: 18,935 at public schools, 37,630 at private nonprofits and 526 at private for-profits.
- 30 public
- 84 non-profit
- 11 for-profit
Tuition-wise, the College Board found that, in the ’15-’16 school year, the average in-state tuition and fees for four-year public schools was $11,590, while the out-of-state average was $25,480.
As for the state’s financial aid efforts, the National Association of State Student Grant & Aid Programs (NASSGAP) reported that Massachusetts awarded $87.043 million in need-based grants and $4.062 million in nonneed grants for the ’13-’14 school year. Grants make up 6.8% of the state’s total fiscal support for higher education.
Of the need-based grants, 61% were awarded to public in-state institutions, showing Massachusetts has a strong commitment to public higher education. Despite in-state tuition costs remaining above the national average and steadily increasing over the last few years, enrollment has risen 22% from ‘02-’12, perhaps reflecting benefits of the state’s increased spending per in-state student and increased tuition benefits for a wider range of eligible students.
Massachusetts is clearly supportive of its higher education system and continues to work towards affordable tuition for its students.
The State of Online Higher Education in Massachusetts
The NCES estimates that at least 5.9% of students enrolled in Massachusetts’ Title IV institutions are in fully online programs. Of those, 47.4% were reported to be undergraduates and 56.9% were found to be living in Massachusetts, meaning the state has had considerable success attracting out-of-state distance students.
In terms of support services for new distance students, Massachusetts Colleges Online is a great starting place for students to find participating institutions, search degree program offerings, find courses and to ask questions. The organization offers students a way of enjoying an expanded network of learning through its consortium of 15 community colleges and 9 state colleges.
Massachusetts is also home to a host of intriguing free online courses offered through some of the best institutions of higher learning in the region. MITx offers a multitude of courses through its Massive Open Online Courses website. This popular open course format is offered through edX and its network of schools and partners, and students have a seemingly unlimited choice of topics and courses to choose from across the board. The importance of free online certificate programs should not be overlooked, as more students are completing a non-traditional education fully online.
However, with expanded online education often crossing regional boundaries, issues of quality control and accreditation standards have arisen. The New England Board of Higher Education has risen to the task of tracking these new challenges. The board is working to find effective ways to control and increase the quality of online colleges in MA and also offers numerous resources via their website, including an online college textbook platform, job links, and updated policies and procedures related to state authorizations and accreditation standards. This is an excellent resource for anyone interested in the current state of affairs in online higher education in Massachusetts.
Best Online Colleges in Massachusetts
Below, you will find our rankings of the best online four-year programs in Massachusetts. Our profiles look at how schools approach online education and then list out their services for distance students and their popular, fully online degrees. After reviewing the best online schools in MA, explore our state resources, like a database of every college and university in Massachusetts or our index of popular in-state scholarships.
|Rank||School Name||School Logo||City||Cost||Address & Contact Info||School Links||Acclaim for Online Programs||School Description|
|1||Northeastern University - Global Network||Boston||$$$$$||360 Huntington Ave|
Boston, MA 02115
Located in Boston, MA, Northeastern University has taken a global approach to education for over 100 years. On campus, students participate in over 350 various student organizations, join a fraternity or sorority, and benefit from offerings at The Campus Recreation Program such as personal training sessions, group fitness classes, or intramural sports. But Northeastern's commitment to a global perspective extends to their distinguished online learning program, as well. The university offers over 60 online and graduate professional degree programs ranging from professional communication to health management degrees. Online students share similar experiences as on campus students: they benefit from the same financial assistance, earn the same diploma, and complete almost identical curriculums. However, online learners have the flexibility to earn their degree without the time commitment on campus courses require, which allows them to continue their education at one of the best online colleges in Massachusetts in a way that accommodates their busy schedules.
|2||University of Massachusetts - Lowell||Lowell||$$$$$||1 University Ave|
Lowell, MA 01854-5104
At the University of Massachusetts in Lowell, MA, over 17,000 students receive an affordable, hands-on education. UMass Lowell operates as a public research university where students develop as innovators in their field. The university also strives to be as accessible as possible. The Online Learning program is designed to accommodate students unable to take on-campus courses. UMass's online program offers students over 50 degree and certificate programs from which to choose, one of the largest selections from online colleges in Massachusetts. Although online students are not required to visit campus, they have access to any of UMass's facilities such as the Technologies and Innovation Center, the Innovation Hub, or the Student Engagement Center. Each offers secluded study spaces with state of the art technology.
|3||University of Massachusetts - Amherst||Amherst||$$$$$||374 Whitmore Building 181 Presidents Drive|
Amherst, MA 01003
The Continuing and Professional Education department at University of Massachusetts in Amherst, MA understands that not all degree-seekers are the same, and many do not have the ability or flexibility to attend traditional on-campus courses. UMass Amherst created several online programs to meet the needs of these nontraditional learners. Nursing, business, and arts administration programs allow students to earn their bachelor of arts or science degree, and provides distance learners the opportunity to learn from the same faculty teaching on-campus. Students have the flexibility to complete their coursework at a time and pace that best fits their personal schedule. All distance learners are assigned an advisor to assist with decisions on their major, their schedule, or to direct them to various resources to ensure their success. Distance learners are encouraged to take advantage of the campus recreation services such as intramurals, the aquatic center, hiking, or group fitness classes.
|4||Endicott College||Beverly||$$$$$||376 Hale Street|
Beverly, MA 01915
Students at Endicott College complete three internships during their undergraduate degrees, providing them with real-world work experience and an opportunity to apply theory to practice. Endicott's commitment to lifelong learning extends to the Van Loan School of Graduate and Professional Studies, which offers flexible programs to accommodate students at all stages of life. The Van Loan School delivers every undergraduate program 100 percent online, making Endicott one of the most sought after online schools in the state. Programs are offered in business management, hospitality, criminal justice and many others. Students can complete coursework either on campus in Beverly, MA or anywhere in the world. Distance learners benefit from the same resources as their on-campus counterparts, such as personal advising through the Advising Services Center, online tutoring, and access to Halle Library librarians by phone.
|5||Westfield State University||Westfield||$$$$$||577 Western Ave|
Westfield, MA 01086-1630
Founded in 1839, Westfield State University in Westfield, MA was one of the first universities in the country to accept students regardless of economics, race, or faith. WSU continues this inclusivity today, and distance learners can further their education at one of the top online colleges in Massachusetts. Online programs are conducted through PLATO (People Learning and Teaching Online), which gives students access to their classes and assignments at any time of the day. The school also offers free online tutoring and a 24/7 helpdesk. Degree-seekers who finished the Mass Transfer Compact or graduated from a community college in Massachusetts are eligible to complete their bachelor's degree fully online at Westfield State.
|6||Fitchburg State University||Fitchburg||$$$$$||160 Pearl St|
Fitchburg, MA 01420-2697
Fitchburg State University, located in Fitchburg, MA, boasts a career-oriented education, small class sizes to facilitate faculty mentorship, and a strong internship program. The university offers various online degree and certificate programs for distance learners, and two Bachelor degree programs can be completed fully online: a bachelor's of science in nursing and a bachelor's of science in business administration. Prospective students can demo an online course before committing to a program. Once enrolled, online learners have access to a variety of resources, such as a 24/7 call center for technical assistance, career services, the library, and technology guides. These resources -- coupled with their high rates of post-graduate career placement -- rank Fitchburg State as one of the top online schools in Massachusetts.
|7||Framingham State University||Framingham||$$$$$||100 State Street|
Framingham, MA 01701-9101
Housed on a 78-acre campus only 20 miles from Boston, Framingham State University is known as one of the best online colleges in Massachusetts. Framingham State provides an affordable education to a wide variety of learners. Courses are offered in the evening and online to maximize flexibility, and students can earn a bachelor's of arts in liberal studies completely online. Those who have completed high school or the GED and went on to military service, educational travel, or other employment may be qualified to receive Prior Learning Assessment credits ,which allows students to complete the program more quickly. Student resources at Framingham State are available to online and on-campus learners, and include access to an off-campus library and personal assistance through the Offices of Graduate Studies and Continuing Education.
|8||Assumption College||Worcester||$$$$$||500 Salisbury St|
Worcester, MA 01609
The Continuing and Career Education programs at Assumption College have earned their reputation as one of the only programs in Massachusetts to emphasize ethical decision-making. Assumption's online programs provide working and nontraditional students an opportunity to further their education at a private liberal arts Catholic school. Students can earn their bachelor's degree 100 percent online in a variety of fields including social sciences, human services and rehabilitation studies, and business. Assumption supports its online learners by offering online tutoring in many fields, and academic counseling to assist with degree and course selection. Online students are also encouraged to participate in campus life by attending one of the 23 sports teams' competitions or using the Plourde Recreation Center's fitness equipment.
|9||University of Massachusetts - Boston||Boston||$$$$$||100 Morrissey Boulevard|
Boston, MA 02125-3393
The University of Massachusetts in Boston, MA is a small public university, though its inclusion in the UMass system grants it the resources of a much larger institution. A location in the heart of Boston also allows students to make connections with some of leading competitive and innovative employers in the country. UMass Boston is designed for traditional and nontraditional students alike, offering a variety of online courses for students to complete their degrees with maximum flexibility. Current military personnel or working adults desiring more education will find UMass Boston a convenient alternative to a traditional on-campus degree track. The school uses Wimba Classroom to provide space for online students, their peers, and their teachers to meet in real time.
|10||University of Massachusetts - Dartmouth||North Dartmouth||$$$$$||285 Old Westport Rd|
North Dartmouth, MA 02747-2300
The University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth provides students with an opportunity to join a hard-working community and earn a top of the line education at an affordable rate. A majority of on-campus students are involved in SAIL (Student Activities, Involvement, and Leadership), which incorporates over 180 clubs and organizations to mold students into great leaders by growing, maintaining, and instilling the strong sense of community. UMass Dartmouth also offers online and continuing education programs for students who wish to further their education, but cannot make it to campus. Online learners are given personal attention and advising support to customize their schedule, while online tutoring services and writing center ensure the success of each student. Affordable bachelor's degrees are offered in subjects like political science and women's and gender studies. Students complete their degrees on their own time, making UMass Dartmouth one of the most appealing online colleges in Massachusetts.
|11||Fisher College||Boston||$$$$$||118 Beacon Street|
Boston, MA 02116
Fisher College is an independent, non-profit institution founded in 1903 and located in Boston, MA. Fisher has been providing online courses since 1997 to reach nontraditional students who need the flexibility and convenience of a distance education. Courses are offered via Blackboard and delivered in six eight-week terms. There are no regularly scheduled class meetings, and students can complete their work when it is most convenient. Instructors and classmates are available via email or telephone whenever a student desires assistance with coursework. Fisher regularly accommodates the needs of active military and veterans (and their families) to help them achieve a degree. Fisher's commitment to providing an education for all people makes them one of the top online colleges in Massachusetts.
|12||Lesley University||Cambridge||$$$$$||29 Everett St|
Cambridge, MA 02138
With a reputation for producing strong educators, Lesley University emphasizes experiential learning and translating classroom experiences to real-world scenarios. The majority of Lesley's graduates complete over 300 hours of internships or field placements, making them attractive job candidates immediately after graduation. Lesley caters to all types of students, and designed their online program to provide working and nontraditional students a flexible option to complete their degree. Lesley offers six areas of study, including two which can be earned completely online: business management and design for user experience. An emphasis on experiential learning, robust degree options, and a high employment rate of its graduates make Lesley University one of the top online colleges in Massachusetts.
|13||Salem State University||Salem||$$$$$||352 Lafayette St|
Salem, MA 01970
Located just 15 miles outside Boston, MA, Salem State University offers online bachelor's degrees in fire science administration and liberal arts. Curriculums are delivered via Canvas, and students are presented a thorough orientation to online learning and access to an advising center for assistance. Salem State's proximity to Boston gives students all the benefits of a big city without having to live in the middle of it. Distance learners are invited to use the campus Fitness and Recreation Center, study in the Library and Learning Commons, or watch the award winning theatre program perform in the Center for Creative and Performing Arts.
|14||Anna Maria College||Paxton||$$$$$||50 Sunset Lane|
Paxton, MA 01612-1198
With a student-body of roughly 1,500 students, Anna Maria College offers a liberal arts education with small class sizes, low student-to-teacher ratios, and an intimate campus. Students at AMC receive a career-oriented education, developing skills required for their intended careers and making them more marketable candidates in the process. Students can earn a bachelor's degree in emergency medical services administration or fire science fully online, and the flexibility of AMC's online degrees make it a more suitable option for many nontraditional students. Distance learners receive personalized attention and continuous support throughout the program -- the same as their on-campus counterparts. These qualities make Anna Maria College one of the most popular online colleges in Massachusetts.
|15||College of Our Lady of the Elms||Chicopee||$$$$$||291 Springfield St|
Chicopee, MA 01013
Elms College, located in Chicopee, MA, provides students with an earned associate degree a path to complete a bachelor's degree. Most Elms online programs are offered asynchronously, giving students a chance to complete their coursework when it is most convenient for them. Online learners have access to the same resources as on campus students. The Academic Resource Center provides advising, online tutoring, and various online resources to help students with test taking and writing. Although online students are not required to visit campus, they are encouraged to attend mass at the on-campus chapel or spend a day hiking in the nearby Berkshires. Students at Elms have a Catholic-oriented education provided by one of the top online schools in Massachusetts.
Most Affordable Online Colleges in Massachusetts
Below you’ll find the very best online colleges in Massachusetts, sorted by affordability.
|Rank||School Name||School Logo||City||School Link||Cost|
|1||Salem State University||Salem||School profile||$$$$$|
|2||Westfield State University||Westfield||School profile||$$$$$|
|3||Fitchburg State University||Fitchburg||School profile||$$$$$|
|4||University of Massachusetts - Dartmouth||North Dartmouth||School profile||$$$$$|
|5||University of Massachusetts - Boston||Boston||School profile||$$$$$|
|6||University of Massachusetts - Lowell||Lowell||School profile||$$$$$|
|7||National Graduate School of Quality Management||Falmouth||School profile||$$$$$|
|8||University of Massachusetts - Amherst||Amherst||School profile||$$$$$|
|9||Northeastern University - Global Network||Boston||School profile||$$$$$|
|10||Fisher College||Boston||School profile||$$$$$|
|11||Endicott College||Beverly||School profile||$$$$$|
|12||Bay Path University||Longmeadow||School profile||$$$$$|
|13||Becker College||Worcester||School profile||$$$$$|
|14||Nichols College||Dudley||School profile||$$$$$|
|15||Anna Maria College||Paxton||School profile||$$$$$|
|17||Western New England University||Springfield||School profile||$$$$$|
|18||MCPHS University||Boston||School profile||$$$$$|
|19||Assumption College||Worcester||School profile||$$$$$|
|20||Northeastern University||Boston||School profile||$$$$$|
|21||New England College of Business and Finance||Boston||School profile||$$$$$|
Scholarships and Financial Aid in Massachusetts
Big Y Scholarship for Academic Excellence
Big Y Foods, Inc., provides annual scholarships of $2,000 to students in Western, Central, or Norfolk County, Massachusetts. Award categories are: High School Senior; Community College; Undergraduate; Graduate; and Nontraditional Student. Selection is based on academic and personal achievements, and community service.
Diana and Leon Feffer Scholarship
Administered by the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, the Diana and Leon Feffer Scholarship is available to graduating high school seniors in western Massachusetts. Selection is based on high school GPA, class rank, and SAT/ACT scores. Award is up to $8,000.
First National Bank of Amherst Centennial Education Scholarship
This scholarship is available to graduating seniors at Amherst Regional High School, Hopkins Academy, Northampton High School, Amherst College, Hampshire College, and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Selection is competitive and is based on academic record, including GPA and class rank.
George I. Alden Trust
The George I. Alden Trust is available to community college students transferring to Babson College. Selection and amount of the award are based on the financial need of applicants.
James L. Shriver Scholarship
The James L. Shriver scholarship is available to students from western Massachusetts who are enrolled in a technical career program. Selection is based on academic performance. Funds are provided by the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts.
Margaret J. Hyland Scholarship
The Margaret J. Hyland Scholarship is available to University of Massachusetts students who have been residents of Holyoke for ten or more years. Preference is given to students of Roman Catholic faith. Selection is competitive and is based on academic record.
National Scholars Award
Available to National Merit or Achievement finalists who are entering Boston University as freshmen. Selection is competitive. Amount of the award is $20,000 per year for up to 4 years.
Boston University distributes the Presidential Scholarship to the most academically talented incoming freshmen each year. Alongside academic achievement, applicants must demonstrate a record of outstanding leadership in their schools and communities. Award is $20,000 per year for up to 4 years.
The Urban Scholarship is for freshmen at Lesley University. Applicants must have participated in and be recommended by an approved Urban Scholars partner organization, and must have financial need. Award is a 50% tuition discount and free textbooks for 4 years.
William A. and Vinnie E. Dexter Scholarship
This scholarship is available to graduating high school seniors/college freshmen in western Massachusetts. Competitive selection is based on academic record, including high school GPA, class rank, and SAT/ACT scores. Funds are administered by the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts.
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