Massachusetts Online Colleges & Universities – Top Schools for 2015

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Massachusetts educational institutions enjoy fame for cutting-edge nanotechnology research and more than 300 years of history. In 2013, 201 colleges, universities and career schools in the Commonwealth offered programs ranging from post-secondary certificates to graduate studies, serving more than 660,000 individuals. Massachusetts has a higher-than-average rate of college students per capita, ranking 10th nationwide for the number of colleges, and 13th for student enrollment. Educational opportunities in Massachusetts include online colleges, community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, and technical and career colleges:

College Type Number in Massachusetts
Private not-for-profit (no religious affiliation) 65
Public 31
Private not-for-profit (religious affiliation) 21
Private for-profit 12

Top Cities in Massachusetts for College Education

Massachusetts, heavily populated compared to other U.S. states, shows a high density of colleges for a state of this size. Numerous schools cluster around the greater Boston metropolitan area, while others show up in small towns and in the western part of the state. Here's an overview of where to find colleges in Massachusetts:

Most Popular Cities for College Students (Total)

  • Boston (123,900)
  • Worcester (33,200)
  • Amherst (28,300)
  • Cambridge (24,500)
  • Springfield (20,000)

Massachusetts Urban Centers with the Most Colleges (Total)

  • Boston (35)
  • Worcester (11)
  • Cambridge (8)
  • Springfield (8)
  • Brockton (6)

Innovation and Heritage: Colleges and Universities in Boston

The Boston metropolitan area houses 60 colleges and more than 250,000 post-secondary students. Institutional options include five junior colleges, 18 colleges and universities offering bachelor’s and master’s degree programs, and nine research universities. More than 25 additional schools and colleges are dedicated to faith-based studies, private technological and vocational programs, and other special focuses.

Boston University, the city’s largest college, has a top-research institutional rating by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. Its programs in biomedical engineering, graduate public health, social work, law school and medical research draw students from around the globe. BU was ranked 41st in U.S. News and World Report’s 2014 list of Best National Universities. The Department of English has attracted two U.S. Poet Laureates, three Nobel Prize in literature recipients, and 30 winners of the Pulitzer Prize.

At the two-year level, Bunker Hill Community College offers associate degrees and certificate programs, including participation in Mass Transfer, a program that facilitates credit transfers to four-year schools. Other key learning institutions in Boston include The University of Massachusetts-Boston, Northeastern University, Berklee College of Music, Boston Conservatory, Emerson College, Massachusetts College of Art and Design, and Saint John's Seminary. For those considering school just outside the Boston city limits, top Cambridge-area schools include Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Boston Online Schools and Colleges

Boston area students who decide to earn degrees and professional certificates online have an excellent range of distance learning options from associate degrees through doctoral programs. A good example is The Massachusetts Colleges Online (MCO) consortium comprised of 15 community colleges and nine state colleges that have pooled academic resources to offer 176 undergraduate and graduate degrees and certificates wholly online. Boston University has gained prominence for its online graduate programs in business and technology. BU’s online graduate computer technology programs are ranked second in the nation by U.S. News. How flexible are the programs? The college claims that more than 95 percent of graduate technology students are employed at the time they enroll in the technology program. Other online Boston certificate and degree programs are offered by Northeastern University, University of Massachusetts and Harvard University Extension.

Online Colleges in Massachusetts

Online education is showing robust growth across the country, and in addition to private for-profit schools focused on web-based learning, traditional brick-and-mortar institutions in Massachusetts also offer an array of online options. In 2013, 33 four-year colleges in the Commonwealth provided some type of distance learning. The list below explores these 33 colleges with special concentration on their online education courses and programs. What makes their distance offerings valuable to students? How do they work? See answers to these questions, as well as detailed information on enrollment and tuition.

Tuition, Fees and Cost of Living

Prospective students need to educate themselves about the miscellaneous expenses associated with college, which vary from school to school. Students doing research on tuition should keep in mind that variable rates may apply for residents and non-residents. In Massachusetts, applicants with resident status saw an average annual tuition of $21,020 in 2012, and the state ranked 3rd in the country in terms of highest in-state tuition costs.

Beyond tuition, colleges may have fees pertaining to registration and parking, as well as the use of computer labs or recreational facilities. Would-be students should investigate fees at different colleges, for example, a potential charge for dropping a class past the deadline.

A well-planned college budget takes into account living expenses as well as general expenditures such as books and supplies. Expenses differ depending on whether one chooses a dormitory, an off-campus apartment or the comforts of the family home. Calculations for college cover not merely food, but transportation for on-campus classes and a reliable Internet connection for online studies. While Massachusetts living costs are an estimated 20 percent higher than the U.S. average, the budget could vary from a small college town to a big urban center. The following table provides the cost of living (COL) for several Massachusetts metropolitan areas, based on a scale where 100% represents the national average:

Urban Area Composite Index Housing Groceries Utilities Transportation Health Care Misc.
Fitchburg-Leominster 3.3% -2.9% -0.7% 40.6% -0.1% 12.3% -1.4%
Pittsfield 10.6% -3.8% 15.0% 61.9% -1.1% 5.0% 10.0%
Boston 32.5% 52.7% 16.7% 38.6% 4.5% 23.5% 28.6%
Framingham-Natick 34.5% 77.2% 9.4% 31.9% 5.0% 16.1% 18.8%

Students in Massachusetts should consider a college’s estimated return on investment before applying. For example, although tuition and fees make a financial difference during school, ROI shines light on financial benefit afterward. The following post-secondary institutions offer the highest lifetime ROIs in the state:

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
  • Harvard University
  • Massachusetts Maritime Academy
  • Worcester Polytechnic Institute
  • Williams College

Financial Aid and Scholarships

For help financing their education, Massachusetts students can turn to the national or state government or a variety of schools and organizations. In 2012, Massachusetts ranked as 32nd in the country for federal aid programs, which provided support for 65 percent of undergraduate students in the state. Applicants seeking funding through nationwide programs fill out FAFSA forms so that the government can determine financial need.

Educational funding in the Commonwealth ranges from the John and Abigail Adams Scholarships for high school seniors to the Part-Time Grant Program for adult students. In addition to state and local government aid, Massachusetts students can explore scholarships and grants from individual colleges.

Assistance may also be available from companies or organizations such as community groups. Grants may target specific types of students -- Massport offers one award for STEM students with an ethnically diverse background and another for female candidates from East Boston. Students from Cape Cod who are interested in certain helping professions can apply for the Lorraine O'Neill Memorial Scholarship. Other awards may focus on a specific subject, from medicine to horticulture to music.

Potential sources for scholarships in Massachusetts include the following:

  • Agnes M. Lindsay Trust
  • Association of Blind Citizens
  • Boston Mensa
  • City of Boston Scholarship Fund
  • Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts
  • Francis Ouimet Scholarship Fund
  • Fuller, Stone and Moloney Research Fellowships
  • General Federation of Women's Clubs (GFWC) of Massachusetts
  • Massachusetts Convention Center Authority (MCCA)
  • Massachusetts Foster Child Grant Program
  • Massachusetts Gilbert Matching Student Grant Program
  • Massachusetts National Guard
  • Massport's Office of Diversity
  • Moody's Mega Math Challenge
  • New England Direct Marketing Association (NEDMA) Foundation
  • New England Employee Benefits Council
  • Paul Tsongas Scholarship Program
  • Project Management Institute (PMI) Mass Bay Chapter


Prospective college students in Massachusetts investigate not only educational financing options but also whether the schools they are considering have accredited status. Financial aid programs typically require institutional accreditation, which can demonstrate that a program meets standardized quality criteria. Massachusetts colleges seek accreditation from organizations such as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges ( As further evidence of the rich history of colleges in Massachusetts, NEASC prides itself on being the country's oldest regional accrediting association.


Massachusetts college students have many factors to consider, whether they are currently enrolled or getting ready to apply. Students can choose from on-campus or online studies, or a combination of both. Other key decisions relate to financing options and a school's location. This page features some basic resources for college students in Massachusetts, and the profiles below provide more details about specific colleges, particularly their online programs and courses.

Affordability - perhaps the most important factor to consider while selecting an online program - is only part of the equation. In order to better understand the finer points of online learning in Massachusetts, we asked four of the state's best colleges and universities how their offerings differ from the rest. Read the interviews below:

Online Departments in Massachusetts
  • Anna Maria College +

    How would you describe your institution's approach to online learning?

    We stay true to our mission regarding the addition of new academic programs and our attention to students. Class sizes remain small so that students can receive the support they need to be successful. In addition, faculty are prepared to work in on online setting so that the students' experiences are positive and they benefit from the virtual learning environment.

    What makes your online programs so valuable to students?

    Our programs are designed to help students advance in or change their careers. The courses include current trends in the respective disciplines, as well as content that will be valuable to students in their careers. Faculty are also experts in their fields of study bringing real world experiences to the virtual classroom.

    Where do you see your online programs in the next five years? Beyond?

    Anna Maria will remain on the cutting edge of online education by continuing to pursue opportunities to provide quality academic programs that meet the needs of current and prospective students. Emerging technologies and educational practices within the field of virtual education will continually be explored and new programs that will prepare students to meet the challenges of the future marketplace will be added as needed.

  • Fisher College +

    How would you describe your institution's approach to online learning?

    Fisher College approaches online learning as a student-centered environment that makes it convenient to obtain a degree. The College strives to provide distance education students with the same individualized attention and superior support services as their counterparts on campus.

    What makes your online programs so valuable to students?

    Students at Fisher College are able to complete degree programs and reach their professional goals without compromising a quality education, and while simultaneously fitting coursework into their busy lives. Our courses are taught by highly educated faculty members who are experts in their given field, have a true desire to help students succeed, and are dedicated to the ongoing success of online learning.

    Where do you see your online programs in the next five years? Beyond?

    Our online programs will continue to provide students with relevant, quality degree options in both the undergraduate and graduate level. We will continue to see technology aid in the development of student learning, and the College will adapt with the changes in technology to ensure our students are well prepared upon graduation.

  • Simmons College +

    How would you describe your institution's approach to online learning?

    • Online is the same rigor as on-the-ground - as it is the same curriculum and taught by the same faculty
    • We lead with pedagogy and use technology to enable the desired student outcomes
    • We have tremendous student and faculty support and require all to have taken training before teaching online
    • Our Nursing Faculty have been teaching and innovating online for years

    What makes your online programs so valuable to students?

    • Our Nursing Faculty have been teaching and innovating online for years
    • Student to faculty ratios are 1 to 14 on average
    • We design with both synchronous and asynchronous sessions - enabling both faculty to student interaction and peer to peer interaction

    Where do you see your online programs in the next five years? Beyond?

    • Growing
    • Having impact and reach nationally and internationally
    • Changing the dynamics of the shortage of nurses
    • Bringing change and opportunity through education to people and communities that might otherwise not have had access
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst +

    How would you describe your institution's approach to online learning?

    Through Continuing & Professional Education, the University envisions online degree programs as another effective avenue to better meet students’ needs and expectations.

    What makes your online programs so valuable to students?

    The courses in these online degree programs mirror the ones presented to the campus’ residential students with many of the same faculty. Quality is high.

    Where do you see your online programs in the next five years? Beyond?

    Online degree programs are expected to grow in order to meet a broader range of students and their educational needs – both at the undergraduate and graduate levels. More online certificate programs (five courses of complementing topics) will be more prevalent and focused to address specific career needs.

Massachusetts is home to the oldest institution of higher learning in the nation, but it’s also home to some of the newest formats of education. For instance, Massachusetts has a plethora of fully online four-year degree programs to serve all students. These online schools in Massachusetts are accredited and boast esteemed faculty, exceptional curriculum, and even tuition assistance. Even more impressive is that many of these online colleges in Massachusetts also grant degrees and certifications that are indistinguishable from those earned from on-campus programs. We’ve done the research for you and compiled a list of the very best online degree programs in Massachusetts, organized based on tuition costs. Starting with the lowest tuition price, we think this will benefit anyone looking for an outstanding Massachusetts online college.

Click here to see our methodology.
Salem State University
Tuition and fees: $8,050 Enrollment: 9,431 Accredited: YES Website: Salem State University

Salem State University provides those students who are working toward a degree the option to take both undergraduate and graduate level courses as part of their online college opportunities. The university boasts offering and conduct their online college courses on a schedule that runs simultaneously with in-classroom courses for continuity and convenience.

Bridgewater State University
Tuition and fees: $8,053 Enrollment: 10,751 Accredited: YES Website: Bridgewater State University

Bridgewater State University’s online course selection gives students added flexibility to earn course credit while taking classes from a distance. An online college in Massachusetts, Bridgewater State University continually adds course listings to its online selection to help students working toward an online degree. The cost for online courses runs the same as it would for a student taking an on-campus course.

Framingham State University
Tuition and fees: $8,080 Enrollment: 5,234 Accredited: YES Website: Framingham State University

Online course offerings at Framingham State University consist of scheduled classes in over 18 degree concentrations. All online college degrees achieved through Framingham State University are accredited and follow the same fee schedule as those courses offer in a classroom setting. Bachelor’s, master’s and graduate certificates comprise the structure of online degrees offered.

Worcester State University
Tuition and fees: $8,157 Enrollment: 6,629 Accredited: YES Website: Worcester State University

Students can use the Worcester State University online course program for working through their undergraduate coursework. Credit earned via the online program does count towards a bachelor’s degree. Course types vary in discipline from history to communications to sciences to business and are offered at various times of the day for convenience.

Westfield State University
Tuition and fees: $8,297 Enrollment: 6,267 Accredited: YES Website: Westfield State University

Referred to as simply PLATO, Westfield State University’s online learning system offers a deeply diverse array of courses for students to take as part of their undergraduate degree work. The bachelor’s degree options available through this online college option in Massachusetts range from business and criminal justice to sociology and liberal arts. A number of online minor options are also offered.

Fitchburg State University
Tuition and fees: $8,710 Enrollment: 4,846 Accredited: YES Website: Fitchburg State University

An option for online colleges in Massachusetts, Fitchburg State University conducts online courses that lead to select bachelor’s or master’s degrees, in addition to a number of certifications. An online student resource center is available to those taking courses which allows for access to Blackboard for coursework and even to academic advisors via instant messaging.

University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth
Tuition and fees: $11,681 Enrollment: 8,449 Accredited: YES Website: University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth

The University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth is part of the UMass network of colleges that offer online coursework opportunities. The university offers individuals direct access to a myriad of online college degree programs that are available through UMassOnline, creating a path toward one of their offered bachelor’s or master’s online degrees.

University of Massachusetts-Lowell
Tuition and fees: $11,847 Enrollment: 14,396 Accredited: YES Website: University of Massachusetts-Lowell

The University of Massachusetts – Lowell connects students to over 100 degree and certificate programs that are available via the UMassOnline distance learning program. Students can use this flexible college learning option to enroll in and take courses toward an accredited online bachelor’s or master’s degree that is offered by the university.

University of Massachusetts-Boston
Tuition and fees: $11,966 Enrollment: 15,596 Accredited: YES Website: University of Massachusetts-Boston

The College of Advancing and Professional Studies (CAPS) at University of Massachusetts Boston uses the Blackboard Learn platform for distance learning, offering students access to more than 600 online courses per year. Credits earned may go toward certificates and degree programs offered through various disciplines at UMass Boston. Instructional technologies such as online message boards and podcasts are used in the digital classrooms.

University of Massachusetts Amherst
Tuition and fees: $13,415 Enrollment: 24,820 Accredited: YES Website: University of Massachusetts Amherst

The University of Massachusetts Amherst offers online courses through the UMassOnline platform. Students who are interested in pursuing a degree online can choose from both undergraduate and graduate level degree programs, such as the master’s in business administration or bachelor’s in political science. All online degree programs are accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

Boston Architectural College
Tuition and fees: $17,330 Enrollment: 661 Accredited: YES Website: Boston Architectural College

Boston Architectural College offers those students interested in seeking out and attaining a degree in the areas of architectural and design studies with the option of taking coursework in the specialized field online. The school boasts over 100 available courses and the use of VoiceThread technology to connect students and instructors.

Fisher College
Tuition and fees: $26,775 Enrollment: 3,194 Accredited: YES Website: Fisher College

Fisher College conducts distance learning through its online learning program. Fast-paced in nature, the college offers coursework within six 8-week terms, allowing convenience and expediency in achieving an online degree. Work done within the online degree programs does involve learning and interaction via the Blackboard program.

Wentworth Institute of Technology
Tuition and fees: $27,108 Enrollment: 4,053 Accredited: YES Website: Wentworth Institute of Technology

Wentworth Institute of Technology offers students the option of pursing a college degree online in the following areas: project management at the bachelor’s level and construction management at the master’s level. Coursework includes both theory based topic matter as well as applied knowledge within its curriculum.

Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
Tuition and fees: $27,440 Enrollment: 3,461 Accredited: YES Website: Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences

This online college in Massachusetts offers potential distance learners access to coursework related to a degree and career in the healthcare industry. Referred to as MCPHS Online, the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences features available online courses in programs like dental hygiene, nursing, healthcare administration and healthcare policy.

Endicott College
Tuition and fees: $28,166 Enrollment: 2,897 Accredited: YES Website: Endicott College

Online coursework through Endicott College is offered and conducted throughout the course of the school year through the Endicott College’s Van Loan School of Graduate and Professional Studies. Working through the GullNet platform, students enrolled in one of the school’s online college courses may work to interact and connect with fellow classmates and instructors alike.

Bay Path College
Tuition and fees: $28,532 Enrollment: 1,767 Accredited: YES Website: Bay Path College

Bay Path College offers an online degree path for women interested in seeking out their higher education in a distance learning arrangement. Students utilize the Canvas program to assist them with their coursework during their studies within the online program. Unique to the college is their Online Degree Completion Program, the first specifically tailored to and geared towards women.

Lasell College
Tuition and fees: $29,000 Enrollment: 1,575 Accredited: YES Website: Lasell College

Online students seeking their degree can find a broad spectrum of course and program offerings via the Lasell College online education option. The online coursework offered features highly specialized classes in topic and program areas such as sport leadership, non-profit management and integrated marketing communication. Online degree plans include master of science in communication, management or sport management.

American International College
Tuition and fees: $29,158 Enrollment: 1,712 Accredited: YES Website: American International College

Students taking courses through the American International College’s online program will have the experience of conducting class through the Blackboard program and platform. The college offers different courses online to students studying from a distance, including those related to their Master of Science degree in nursing.

Anna Maria College
Tuition and fees: $30,676 Enrollment: 1,120 Accredited: YES Website: Anna Maria College

Anna Maria College offers individuals an online college choice in Massachusetts that provides access to a bevy of both undergraduate and graduate degree options. Online programs feature unique degree choices such as their bachelor’s of fire science and of EMS administration that proceed alongside more classical degrees such as the college’s master’s of public administration.

Laboure College
Tuition and fees: $30,680 Enrollment: 873 Accredited: YES Website: Laboure College

Laboure College, an online college in Massachusetts, offers those interested in pursuing a degree in the nursing field with an almost entirely online option to help them further their studies. Coursework that is done under the bachelor of science in nursing program is done 80% online and is accredited by The Commission on Collegiate Nursing.

Suffolk University
Tuition and fees: $30,792 Enrollment: 6,393 Accredited: YES Website: Suffolk University

Suffolk University provides both those seeking out undergraduate and graduate course listings online with access to classes that can be taken throughout the year, including both summer and winter break time frames. Classes offered focus on liberal arts and business courses. The university’s master’s in business administration is also offered as a degree option via online class work.

Wheelock College
Tuition and fees: $30,955 Enrollment: 1,011 Accredited: YES Website: Wheelock College

Wheelock College offers students who are looking for an online course study arrangement resources to meet that goal. Those online distance learners are able to use study resources like those of their on-campus contemporaries, such as access to the Wheelock College library network and reference materials for completing related coursework.

Lesley University
Tuition and fees: $31,575 Enrollment: 2,477 Accredited: YES Website: Lesley University

Lesley University offers online bachelor’s degree options in business management and psychology, as well as an extensive array of master’s degree choices for graduate coursework. Lesley University’s online information system allows prospective online learners to navigate through available course offerings which are set on an eight-week course schedule as opposed to a full spring/fall semester based schedule.

Western New England University
Tuition and fees: $31,912 Enrollment: 2,833 Accredited: YES Website: Western New England University

Western New England University gives potential students access to online college courses. Courses work towards a bachelor’s degree in business administration and can be completed by those individuals already maintaining an associate’s degree or coursework towards a bachelor’s degree that totals up to 60 hours. Students in the university’s online program also gain access to the school’s D’Amour Library as an added resource.

Regis College
Tuition and fees: $33,060 Enrollment: 1,431 Accredited: YES Website: Regis College

Regis College offers two major online programs for students seeking an online degree. Programs cover the following disciplines: professional studies and health professions. This online college in Massachusetts offers a large variety of degree options on both a bachelor’s and master’s level of study ranging from liberal arts to business to various health sciences.

Emmanuel College
Tuition and fees: $33,650 Enrollment: 2,546 Accredited: YES Website: Emmanuel College

Emmanuel College on-campus and online degree programs at the graduate level. Programs such as Master of Arts in Teaching, Master of Science in Nursing, and Master of Science in Human Resource Management, among others, rounds out the highly rated Education, Management and Nursing programs online from Emmanuel College.

Simmons College
Tuition and fees: $34,350 Enrollment: 1,797 Accredited: YES Website: Simmons College

The Simmons School of Nursing and Health Sciences gives distance learners access to higher education programs that focus on graduate and post-graduate coursework. Online course offerings are coupled with online support services and access to the college’s advisory staff and bookstore - all combining to help students seeking online degrees in these health- and medical-related topic areas.

Berklee College of Music
Tuition and fees: $36,490 Enrollment: 5,161 Accredited: YES Website: Berklee College of Music

Berklee College of Music offers an online branch of its formal program, called Berklee Online, which works to extend the reach of music degree programs beyond its in-classroom offerings. The college offers bachelor’s degrees in two areas of study: music production and music business. Students proceed through online courses that include constant interaction with their respective instructors.

Harvard University
Tuition and fees: $39,966 Enrollment: 14,495 Accredited: YES Website: Harvard University

Through the Harvard Extension School, Harvard University offers students access to college courses and program concentrations via an online platform. Students may take up to three online courses in their degree program of choice before submitting their formal commitment and application to that school of study. Certifications are also available through the Harvard University online program and do not require a formal application.

Northeastern University
Tuition and fees: $40,086 Enrollment: 21,904 Accredited: YES Website: Northeastern University

With over 60 programs available to students, Northeastern University is an online college in Massachusetts that offers a large array of degree and course options to distance learners. The university not only offers degree work on the associate and bachelor’s levels, but also provides options for completing master’s and doctorate program courses.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Tuition and fees: $41,380 Enrollment: 3,922 Accredited: YES Website: Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Technical in name and in the online course options and resources offered, the Worcester Polytechnic Institute provides students who seek to complete coursework online in technical areas with class offerings on topics such as robotics engineering, mechanical engineering and system dynamics. The institute also exposes students to advanced technologies within its online classroom experience.

Boston University
Tuition and fees: $42,994 Enrollment: 23,609 Accredited: YES Website: Boston University

Online learning at Boston University takes traditional in-classroom learning and translates it into an interactive distance learning experience. Program facets include online dialogue with classmates and instructors, access to class materials 24/7 and personal discussion space during each course. Programs are available on both the undergraduate and graduate levels of study and for certification in specific course areas.

College of the Holy Cross
Tuition and fees: $43,400 Enrollment: 2,907 Accredited: YES Website: College of the Holy Cross

Providing potential students with an online college option in Massachusetts, Our Lady of Holy Cross College offers distance learning opportunities for students who are seeking to achieve their degree online. Coursework done within the school’s online learning platform is conducted and completed using the Blackboard program.