Massachusetts boasts 124 postsecondary institutions, 14 of which are public, four-year colleges, and 82 are nonprofit institutions. Schools in the state include the multi-campus University of Massachusetts and prestigious private schools such as Harvard University and Smith College. The state is also home to 18 two-year institutions.
The following guide includes higher education opportunities across the state. Massachusetts’ online colleges and universities are evolving quickly and promote distance learning through fully online and hybrid programs. Below, we list the best online colleges in Massachusetts and explore the most affordable programs. We also provide an overview of job prospects and identify the fastest-growing employment areas in the state.
Before we look at the top Massachusetts online colleges and universities, let’s discuss the current state of higher education and online education in Massachusetts.
A Brief Overview of Higher Education in Massachusetts
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 505,723 students were enrolled in Massachusetts’ online colleges and universities and on-campus institutions in 2016. As with most states, Massachusetts has seen a gentle decline in enrollment since 2013, which saw 513,964 enrollees. The decline is likely due in no small part to rising tuition rates.
- 14 public
- 82 non-profit
- 11 for-profit
CollegeBoard’s Trends in Higher Education report states that for the 2004-2005 academic year, tuition for a two-year, in-state program costed $3,361. For the 2017-2018 academic year, tuition costs in Massachusetts nearly doubled to $6,076. Likewise, the four-year, in-state tuition that cost an average of $7,034 in 2004-2005 now averages $12,732. The University of Massachusetts at Amherst, the state’s flagship public research university, currently costs state residents $15,596 per year in tuition and fees, and out-of-state students pay $33,662; both rates have increased nearly 60% since the 2007-2008 academic year, according to Trends in Higher Education.
To mitigate the rising costs of college education, the state of Massachusetts sponsors various grant and scholarship programs for state residents. According to the National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs, Massachusetts students received nearly 100,000 grants during the 2015-2016 academic year, including 31,538 Massachusetts Access Grants; 51,553 MASSGrants; and more than 8,000 Gilbert Matching Grants. The state invests in opportunities for students who grew up in foster care, including 271 recipients of foster child grants and 885 recipients of the Foster and Adopted Child Assistance Program. Additionally, various companies and state programs entice promising college students to stay in Massachusetts after graduation.
The State of Online Higher Education in Massachusetts
The Online Learning Survey of Massachusetts states that 17.1% of current in-state students take at least one online course. While this figure is lower than the 30% of U.S. students who participate in online learning, the number of students who take online college courses in Massachusetts increased 23% during the past year. Students increasingly seek flexible course structures that allow them to manage academics, career goals, and personal obligations. Additionally, distance learners can live off campus and save money on housing.
Tuition Breaks for Out-of-State Students
The New England Board of Higher Education works to bring higher educational opportunities to residents of the Northeast. The cost-sharing Tuition Break program unites public schools across the region to reduce program redundancies and provide education at a discounted rate. Currently, the program saves families an average of $7,900 annually.
To qualify for the Tuition Break program, students must be permanent residents of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, or Vermont and must apply to a qualifying public school in one of those six states. Upon acceptance, the participating school informs the student whether they have received the Tuition Break as part of their financial package. Through the program, out-of-state students can attend the University of Massachusetts at Amherst for $26,540 per term, saving more than $7,000 in tuition and fees. Students whose applications are unsuccessful may reapply as current undergraduates. The Tuition Break provides a pathway for underrepresented and financially disadvantaged students to pursue higher education.
Best Online Colleges in Massachusetts
Below, we have ranked the best online four-year programs in Massachusetts. The profiles cover each school’s approach to online education and available services for distance students. After reviewing the best online colleges in Massachusetts, explore our state resources, which include a database of every college and university in Massachusetts and an 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||$$$$$||360 Huntington Ave|
Boston, MA 02115
Located in Boston, MA, Northeastern University has taken a global approach to education for over 100 years. On campus, students participate in over 350 various student organizations, join a fraternity or sorority, and benefit from offerings at The Campus Recreation Program such as personal training sessions, group fitness classes, or intramural sports. But Northeastern's commitment to a global perspective extends to their distinguished online learning program, as well. The university offers over 60 online and graduate professional degree programs ranging from professional communication to health management degrees. Online students share similar experiences as on campus students: they benefit from the same financial assistance, earn the same diploma, and complete almost identical curriculums. However, online learners have the flexibility to earn their degree without the time commitment on campus courses require, which allows them to continue their education at one of the best online colleges in Massachusetts in a way that accommodates their busy schedules.
|2||University of Massachusetts - Lowell||Lowell||$$$$$||1 University Ave|
Lowell, MA 01854-5104
At the University of Massachusetts in Lowell, MA, over 17,000 students receive an affordable, hands-on education. UMass Lowell operates as a public research university where students develop as innovators in their field. The university also strives to be as accessible as possible. The Online Learning program is designed to accommodate students unable to take on-campus courses. UMass's online program offers students over 50 degree and certificate programs from which to choose, one of the largest selections from online colleges in Massachusetts. Although online students are not required to visit campus, they have access to any of UMass's facilities such as the Technologies and Innovation Center, the Innovation Hub, or the Student Engagement Center. Each offers secluded study spaces with state of the art technology.
|3||University of Massachusetts - Amherst||Amherst||$$$$$||374 Whitmore Building 181 Presidents Drive|
Amherst, MA 01003
The Continuing and Professional Education department at University of Massachusetts in Amherst, MA understands that not all degree-seekers are the same, and many do not have the ability or flexibility to attend traditional on-campus courses. UMass Amherst created several online programs to meet the needs of these nontraditional learners. Nursing, business, and arts administration programs allow students to earn their bachelor of arts or science degree, and provides distance learners the opportunity to learn from the same faculty teaching on-campus. Students have the flexibility to complete their coursework at a time and pace that best fits their personal schedule. All distance learners are assigned an advisor to assist with decisions on their major, their schedule, or to direct them to various resources to ensure their success. Distance learners are encouraged to take advantage of the campus recreation services such as intramurals, the aquatic center, hiking, or group fitness classes.
|4||Endicott College||Beverly||$$$$$||376 Hale Street|
Beverly, MA 01915
Students at Endicott College complete three internships during their undergraduate degrees, providing them with real-world work experience and an opportunity to apply theory to practice. Endicott's commitment to lifelong learning extends to the Van Loan School of Graduate and Professional Studies, which offers flexible programs to accommodate students at all stages of life. The Van Loan School delivers every undergraduate program 100 percent online, making Endicott one of the most sought after online schools in the state. Programs are offered in business management, hospitality, criminal justice and many others. Students can complete coursework either on campus in Beverly, MA or anywhere in the world. Distance learners benefit from the same resources as their on-campus counterparts, such as personal advising through the Advising Services Center, online tutoring, and access to Halle Library librarians by phone.
|5||Westfield State University||Westfield||$$$$$||577 Western Ave|
Westfield, MA 01086-1630
Founded in 1839, Westfield State University in Westfield, MA was one of the first universities in the country to accept students regardless of economics, race, or faith. WSU continues this inclusivity today, and distance learners can further their education at one of the top online colleges in Massachusetts. Online programs are conducted through PLATO (People Learning and Teaching Online), which gives students access to their classes and assignments at any time of the day. The school also offers free online tutoring and a 24/7 helpdesk. Degree-seekers who finished the Mass Transfer Compact or graduated from a community college in Massachusetts are eligible to complete their bachelor's degree fully online at Westfield State.
|6||Fitchburg State University||Fitchburg||$$$$$||160 Pearl St|
Fitchburg, MA 01420-2697
Fitchburg State University, located in Fitchburg, MA, boasts a career-oriented education, small class sizes to facilitate faculty mentorship, and a strong internship program. The university offers various online degree and certificate programs for distance learners, and two Bachelor degree programs can be completed fully online: a bachelor's of science in nursing and a bachelor's of science in business administration. Prospective students can demo an online course before committing to a program. Once enrolled, online learners have access to a variety of resources, such as a 24/7 call center for technical assistance, career services, the library, and technology guides. These resources -- coupled with their high rates of post-graduate career placement -- rank Fitchburg State as one of the top online schools in Massachusetts.
|7||Framingham State University||Framingham||$$$$$||100 State Street|
Framingham, MA 01701-9101
Housed on a 78-acre campus only 20 miles from Boston, Framingham State University is known as one of the best online colleges in Massachusetts. Framingham State provides an affordable education to a wide variety of learners. Courses are offered in the evening and online to maximize flexibility, and students can earn a bachelor's of arts in liberal studies completely online. Those who have completed high school or the GED and went on to military service, educational travel, or other employment may be qualified to receive Prior Learning Assessment credits ,which allows students to complete the program more quickly. Student resources at Framingham State are available to online and on-campus learners, and include access to an off-campus library and personal assistance through the Offices of Graduate Studies and Continuing Education.
|8||Assumption College||Worcester||$$$$$||500 Salisbury St|
Worcester, MA 01609
The Continuing and Career Education programs at Assumption College have earned their reputation as one of the only programs in Massachusetts to emphasize ethical decision-making. Assumption's online programs provide working and nontraditional students an opportunity to further their education at a private liberal arts Catholic school. Students can earn their bachelor's degree 100 percent online in a variety of fields including social sciences, human services and rehabilitation studies, and business. Assumption supports its online learners by offering online tutoring in many fields, and academic counseling to assist with degree and course selection. Online students are also encouraged to participate in campus life by attending one of the 23 sports teams' competitions or using the Plourde Recreation Center's fitness equipment.
|9||University of Massachusetts - Boston||Boston||$$$$$||100 Morrissey Boulevard|
Boston, MA 02125-3393
The University of Massachusetts in Boston, MA is a small public university, though its inclusion in the UMass system grants it the resources of a much larger institution. A location in the heart of Boston also allows students to make connections with some of leading competitive and innovative employers in the country. UMass Boston is designed for traditional and nontraditional students alike, offering a variety of online courses for students to complete their degrees with maximum flexibility. Current military personnel or working adults desiring more education will find UMass Boston a convenient alternative to a traditional on-campus degree track. The school uses Wimba Classroom to provide space for online students, their peers, and their teachers to meet in real time.
|10||University of Massachusetts - Dartmouth||North Dartmouth||$$$$$||285 Old Westport Rd|
North Dartmouth, MA 02747-2300
The University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth provides students with an opportunity to join a hard-working community and earn a top of the line education at an affordable rate. A majority of on-campus students are involved in SAIL (Student Activities, Involvement, and Leadership), which incorporates over 180 clubs and organizations to mold students into great leaders by growing, maintaining, and instilling the strong sense of community. UMass Dartmouth also offers online and continuing education programs for students who wish to further their education, but cannot make it to campus. Online learners are given personal attention and advising support to customize their schedule, while online tutoring services and writing center ensure the success of each student. Affordable bachelor's degrees are offered in subjects like political science and women's and gender studies. Students complete their degrees on their own time, making UMass Dartmouth one of the most appealing online colleges in Massachusetts.
|11||Fisher College||Boston||$$$$$||118 Beacon Street|
Boston, MA 02116
Fisher College is an independent, non-profit institution founded in 1903 and located in Boston, MA. Fisher has been providing online courses since 1997 to reach nontraditional students who need the flexibility and convenience of a distance education. Courses are offered via Blackboard and delivered in six eight-week terms. There are no regularly scheduled class meetings, and students can complete their work when it is most convenient. Instructors and classmates are available via email or telephone whenever a student desires assistance with coursework. Fisher regularly accommodates the needs of active military and veterans (and their families) to help them achieve a degree. Fisher's commitment to providing an education for all people makes them one of the top online colleges in Massachusetts.
|12||Lesley University||Cambridge||$$$$$||29 Everett St|
Cambridge, MA 02138
With a reputation for producing strong educators, Lesley University emphasizes experiential learning and translating classroom experiences to real-world scenarios. The majority of Lesley's graduates complete over 300 hours of internships or field placements, making them attractive job candidates immediately after graduation. Lesley caters to all types of students, and designed their online program to provide working and nontraditional students a flexible option to complete their degree. Lesley offers six areas of study, including two which can be earned completely online: business management and design for user experience. An emphasis on experiential learning, robust degree options, and a high employment rate of its graduates make Lesley University one of the top online colleges in Massachusetts.
|13||Salem State University||Salem||$$$$$||352 Lafayette St|
Salem, MA 01970
Located just 15 miles outside Boston, MA, Salem State University offers online bachelor's degrees in fire science administration and liberal arts. Curriculums are delivered via Canvas, and students are presented a thorough orientation to online learning and access to an advising center for assistance. Salem State's proximity to Boston gives students all the benefits of a big city without having to live in the middle of it. Distance learners are invited to use the campus Fitness and Recreation Center, study in the Library and Learning Commons, or watch the award winning theatre program perform in the Center for Creative and Performing Arts.
|14||Anna Maria College||Paxton||$$$$$||50 Sunset Lane|
Paxton, MA 01612-1198
With a student-body of roughly 1,500 students, Anna Maria College offers a liberal arts education with small class sizes, low student-to-teacher ratios, and an intimate campus. Students at AMC receive a career-oriented education, developing skills required for their intended careers and making them more marketable candidates in the process. Students can earn a bachelor's degree in emergency medical services administration or fire science fully online, and the flexibility of AMC's online degrees make it a more suitable option for many nontraditional students. Distance learners receive personalized attention and continuous support throughout the program -- the same as their on-campus counterparts. These qualities make Anna Maria College one of the most popular online colleges in Massachusetts.
|15||College of Our Lady of the Elms||Chicopee||$$$$$||291 Springfield St|
Chicopee, MA 01013
Elms College, located in Chicopee, MA, provides students with an earned associate degree a path to complete a bachelor's degree. Most Elms online programs are offered asynchronously, giving students a chance to complete their coursework when it is most convenient for them. Online learners have access to the same resources as on campus students. The Academic Resource Center provides advising, online tutoring, and various online resources to help students with test taking and writing. Although online students are not required to visit campus, they are encouraged to attend mass at the on-campus chapel or spend a day hiking in the nearby Berkshires. Students at Elms have a Catholic-oriented education provided by one of the top online schools in Massachusetts.
Most Affordable Online Colleges in Massachusetts
Below, are the very best online colleges in Massachusetts sorted by affordability.
|Rank||School Name||School Logo||City||School Link||Cost|
|1||National Graduate School of Quality Management||Falmouth||School profile||$$$$$|
|2||Nichols College||Dudley||School profile||$$$$$|
|3||MCPHS University||Boston||School profile||$$$$$|
|4||Salem State University||Salem||School profile||$$$$$|
|5||Westfield State University||Westfield||School profile||$$$$$|
|6||Fitchburg State University||Fitchburg||School profile||$$$$$|
|7||University of Massachusetts - Dartmouth||North Dartmouth||School profile||$$$$$|
|8||University of Massachusetts - Boston||Boston||School profile||$$$$$|
|9||University of Massachusetts - Lowell||Lowell||School profile||$$$$$|
|10||University of Massachusetts - Amherst||Amherst||School profile||$$$$$|
|11||Northeastern University - Global Network||Boston||School profile||$$$$$|
|12||Fisher College||Boston||School profile||$$$$$|
|13||Bay Path University||Longmeadow||School profile||$$$$$|
|14||Anna Maria College||Paxton||School profile||$$$$$|
|15||Assumption College||Worcester||School profile||$$$$$|
|16||Endicott College||Beverly||School profile||$$$$$|
|17||Becker College||Worcester||School profile||$$$$$|
|19||Western New England University||Springfield||School profile||$$$$$|
|20||Northeastern University||Boston||School profile||$$$$$|
|21||New England College of Business and Finance||Boston||School profile||$$$$$|
Job Outlook for College Graduates in Massachusetts
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the state of Massachusetts maintains a strong employment rate. Even at the height of the financial crisis in 2009-2011, the unemployment rate in Massachusetts remained below the national average. Currently, unemployment hovers between 3.5%-3.6%, which compares favorably against the nationwide 2018 average of 3.7%-4.1%. According to the BLS, the annual mean salary for all occupations in Massachusetts is $62,110. As more initiatives take root to keep well-educated Massachusetts residents in the state, employment is likely to rise.
Massachusetts institutions train students in areas including technology and STEM research, linguistics and the humanities, and agricultural and entrepreneurial business.
Scholarships and Financial Aid in Massachusetts
Agnes M. Lindsay Scholarship
Applicants must be permanent residents of Massachusetts who are enrolled full-time in a public institution to earn a certification, associate, or bachelor’s degree. Students from rural areas with strong academic records receive priority.
Massachusetts Public Service Grant
Applicants must be Massachusetts residents who have been accepted to a certification, associate, or bachelor’s program in an in-state public or private institution. Applicants must be a widow or child of a police officer, firefighter, or corrections officer or related to a U.S. military prisoner of war or U.S. veteran killed in the line of duty.
Paul Tsongas Scholarship
Students of nine participating state colleges and universities in Massachusetts can qualify for this merit-based scholarship. Applicants must have a minimum 3.75 GPA and an SAT score of at least 1200.
NIADA Foundation Regional Scholarship
The National Independent Automobile Dealers Association offers this scholarship to graduating high school seniors with outstanding academic records.
PMI Mass Bay Chapter Milestone Scholarship
This scholarship supports the professional development of undergraduate students in Massachusetts.
Massachusetts Part-Time Grant
Depending on school tuition rates; applicants must be part-time students enrolled in 6-12 credits at an in-state institution and must have a satisfactory academic record.
Massachusetts National Guard Tuition Waiver
Students must be actively engaged in the Massachusetts Army or Air National Guard and must be enrolled full time in an undergraduate or graduate program.
Valley Press Club Scholarship
This award is for high school students interested in pursuing a college degree in print, photo, or broadcast journalism.
Gilbert Matching Student Grant
Applicants must be state residents and high school seniors in good academic standing; must demonstrate financial need; and must have been accepted to an accredited, in-state program.
Massachusetts Cash Grant
Depending on school tuition costs; intended to cover only non-tuition costs, this grant is for state residents enrolled in an in-state postsecondary institution who have a strong academic background.
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