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Massachusetts Online Colleges & Universities: Top Schools for 2018

Updated on: 01/04/2018
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Massachusetts’ educational institutions are known for both their historical excellence and their innovative instruction. The state is home to some of the oldest and most well-known universities in the country, like Harvard, Dartmouth, Boston University, and MIT. What makes the educational landscape special in Massachusetts is that these aged places of learning often to lead the charge in creating new ways of teaching to suit the modern student. Online education continues to grow and develop each year at an estimated four percent rate; get answers to your frequently asked questions about accredited online colleges and universities in Massachusetts below.

Best of 2018: Massachusetts’ Most Affordable Online Colleges

There are many top-quality options for online degree programs in Massachusetts. Take the guesswork out of searching by referencing the list of Massachusetts Best Accredited Online Colleges below. Ranked for affordability, program offerings, degree types, class size and more, the ranking below can help prospective students see which online programs in Massachusetts stand out.

  • Accredited public or private not-for-profit institution

  • At least 3 online associate degrees or certificate programs (2-year schools)

  • At least 3 online bachelor’s or master’s degrees (4-year schools)

  • Annual in-state tuition below $5,000 (2-year schools)

  • Annual in-state tuition below $25,000 (4-year schools)

Colleges receive a total score based on performance in the following categories:

  • Average in-state net price for first-time/full-time undergraduates

  • Count and breadth of online programs available

  • Student-teacher ratio

  • 6-year graduation rate (4-year schools only)

  • % of beginning, full-time undergrads receiving scholarship/grant aid from the college

  • Average $ of financial aid students receive directly from the college

  • Availability of academic/career counseling services

  • Availability of job placement services for students and graduates

  • 3-year loan default rate

  • AC Online Peer-Based Value (PBV)*

*PBV is a proprietary metric that compares the cost of a program to the cost of other programs with the same (or a similar) qualitative score. It also compares the qualitative score of the program to the score of other programs with the same (or similar) cost. In short, the PBV calculation denotes the overall value – or ‘bang for your buck’ – of an online degree.

Our college rankings are backed by data collected and analyzed from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, a program managed by the National Center for Education Statistics. Surveying over 7,500 colleges annually, it is among the most longstanding and trusted providers of U.S. postsecondary information.

  • Most recent “Final Release” data available as of October 2017

Rank University Location Score Annual Tuition # of Online Programs Financial Aid % Student-Teacher RatioGrad RateCredit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Information
1 University of Massachusetts-Amherst Amherst, MA 100.00 $1,714 14 63% 18:173%yes yes yes
2 Lesley University Cambridge, MA 99.26 $24,000 8 97% 10:146%yes yes yes
3 Fitchburg State University Fitchburg, MA 96.36 $970 3 42% 14:150%yes yes yes
4 Westfield State University Westfield, MA 95.83 $970 4 32% 17:159%yes yes yes
5 Northeastern University Global Network Boston, MA 94.36 $14,138 38 N/A 9:1N/Ayes yes yes
6 Hebrew College Newton Centre, MA 87.12 $20,160 4 N/A 1:1N/Ano no yes
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2-Year Best College Rankings

Rank University Location Score Annual Tuition # of Online Programs Financial Aid % Student-Teacher RatioGrad RateCredit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Information
1 Mount Wachusett Community College Gardner, MA 100.00 $600 9 34% 13:1N/Ayes yes yes
2 Bunker Hill Community College Boston, MA 99.15 $576 8 2% 20:1N/Ayes yes yes
3 Bristol Community College Fall River, MA 98.11 $576 9 1% 18:1N/Ayes yes yes
4 Middlesex Community College Bedford, MA 97.87 $576 9 20% 23:1N/Ayes yes yes
5 Holyoke Community College Holyoke, MA 97.77 $3,648 9 21% 17:1N/Ano yes yes
6 Quinsigamond Community College Worcester, MA 97.72 $576 6 15% 17:1N/Ayes yes yes
7 Massachusetts Bay Community College Wellesley Hills, MA 97.19 $576 9 2% 17:1N/Ayes yes yes
8 Northern Essex Community College Haverhill, MA 96.13 $600 6 2% 20:1N/Ayes yes yes

More Online Colleges in Massachusetts than Ever

The online learning landscape in Massachusetts is diverse and plentiful. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there are 187 institutions that offer post-secondary education, and as of Fall 2012, nearly 56,000 students were enrolled distance education courses and close to another 43,600 students were enrolled in a combination of onsite and online courses. These two sub-sections accounted for 25.7 percent of Massachusetts’ undergraduate and graduate students in 2012, and the trends point to a 3.9 percent continual increase in online learning since. Most colleges and universities provide online-course options; for instance, the University of Massachusetts has more than 1,500 online classes and Boston University offers 21 online degree programs among the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate levels. Additionally, Massachusetts College Online (MCO) is a consortium of 15 community colleges and nine state universities that offers 5,000 programs and 225 online degrees.

Tuition Check: Financial Aid for Massachusetts Colleges

Resident students pay lower amounts for courses and fees than out-of-state students do. Generally speaking, the in-state rate is often as much as 30% of the out-of-state rate. Residency in the state of Massachusetts is established by proof of 12 months’ physical presence/domicile with intent to stay. Students interested in community college courses will need to prove domicile for six months prior to the entry date.

In-state tuition: $23,389 – public, four-year institution

$4,559 – public, two-year institution

Out-of-state tuition: $27,736 – public, four-year institution

$9,944 – public, two-year institution

Source: U.S. Department of Education, 2017

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Do online college students in Massachusetts pay in-state tuition, or out-of-state tuition?

Non-residents pay out-of-state tuition in Massachusetts, regardless of how many online courses they take. Fortunately, some Massachusetts schools are more affordable than others on the national scene. These colleges have lower tuition rates for non-residents than universities in their home-state might have for resident students.

Because the state and the region make efforts to continually improve accessibility to education, there are more ways to lessen tuition costs for non-residents. This includes the New England Board of Higher Education’s Tuition Break program which allows students from Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont to pay in-state tuition if they enroll in a program that isn’t offered at a public university in their home state. Plus, online students can look at institution-specific exchange programs, like the National Student Exchange, that has 170 accredited organizations that operate a tuition-reciprocity system.

Quick summary on tuition:
  • 1. If you’re a native of The Bay State, try to find your program there first. Massachusetts has a phenomenal educational reputation and many online degree options, but best way to avoid paying out-of-state tuition is to take classes in-state.

  • 2. If you’re not a Massachusetts resident, don’t panic. Check out the two options above and see if there are even additional options for you to secure in-state tuition fees, even if you’re not a resident.

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What is the best way to apply for financial aid as a Massachusetts student?

Financial aid is available for tenacious students who are willing to look for it. According to the National Association of State Student Grant & Aid Programs, Massachusetts gave more than a combined $91 million in need-based and non-need based grants in 2014. This doesn’t include federal grants or private loans. The first step to earning grants and scholarship monies is to apply for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This application helps determine a student’s eligibility and financial need for federal grants and loans, and it’s also used by the institution to determine eligibility for additional scholarships.

Once a college-bound student decides on which schools to apply for, visiting that institution’s financial aid center is critical to finding all of the available opportunities. Also, MassAid is a state-specific program that offers the MassGrant and additional no-interest loan programs.

Students who apply for state-specific financial aid programs in Massachusetts need to be aware of the standards and requirements of each. These vary, from Selective Service Registration to course load requirements to Expected Family Contribution maximums. Other state-specific programs require U.S. citizenship, Massachusetts residency and grade point average minimums.

  • GPA

    Different programs will have different requirements; the MassGrant application notes a student must be “maintaining satisfactory academic progress in accordance with institutional and federal standards”.

  • Loan eligibility

    The student must be eligible for a Title IV loan and must not be in default of any federal or state loan.

  • Credit load commitments

    Students must carry a full-time load of 12 or more credits.

  • Selective Service Registration

    Men are required to register with Selective Service. The law mandates that men register within 30 days of their 18th birthday. This is a U.S. Government requirement.

  • Previous education

    A student must not have already received a prior bachelor’s degree or its equivalent.

College Scholarships & Grants for Massachusetts Students

The Massachusetts Department of Higher Education (MassDHE) has many programs for students seeking financial aid. These include grants, loans, scholarships, tuition waivers and even tuition reimbursement for health professionals. Some of these programs are field-specific; for example, the Gilbert Matching Student Grant Program is strictly for nursing students. Students of all disciplines can find helpful programs through the state for which to apply to ease the burden of paying for college. Plus, students should always look at the individual degree programs and the universities they attend for additional financial aid resources.

Where can I find out which grants and scholarships I’m eligible for?

The FAFSA will help students determine their eligibility for other loans and grants. Online search engines like CollegeData.com can help as well. The U.S. Department of Education has great information on loan eligibility and guidelines. It’s important for prospective students to understand and distinguish characteristics that set them apart. Individualities like heritage, background, hardships faced, ethnicity, even left-handedness could give applicants the edge in searching for programs.

Students will also find additional help at their institution of learning, for example, the Northeastern University Financial Aid office suggests that all students fill out the general application. On top of general financial aid applications, students can fill out field- or department-specific applications, like the George Alden & Amelia Peabody Award through the Honors Program at Northeastern University.

How do I find scholarships and grants that are only for Massachusetts students?

Visit the Program Page of the Office of Student Financial Assistance through MassDHE. The web site has more than 30 options for Massachusetts students seeking financial aid, including grants, loans and scholarships. The College Grants Database also guides students to find state-specific aid while referencing federal programs. Massachusetts Education and Career Opportunities, Inc. has programs and scholarships available for in-state students, including the Collegiate Success Institute. Residents will also find helpful information on CollegeScholarships.org, which outlines several options for applicants.

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Finding the Right Online College in Massachusetts

From transfer credits to work experience to online versus on-campus options, it can be tough to nail down what colleges will work based on a prospective student’s past experiences. Take a look at some common questions about narrowing down the options to find the best college fit in Massachusetts.

Which colleges in Massachusetts can apply my work or life experience and/or transfer credits?

Some colleges and universities give students academic credits for their work or life experience. This includes military training, prior coursework, or life experience. The best way to find out if a college offers credit for experience is to contact the school’s admissions office. University of Massachusetts Amherst allows for up to 100 credits to come from out-of-classroom experience.

As for transfer credits, the Massachusetts Department of Education’s MassTransfer program offers details on how to get a head start on a bachelor’s degree by attending a community college first, along with much more information for students looking to transfer credits from past coursework. Colleges like Lesley University allow for up to 90 credits toward a bachelor’s degree to come from transferred credits and life experience. Cambridge College encourages students to pursue transfer credits through a portfolio, in which the writer demonstrates his or her life experience and how it relates to the academic process. Challenge exams, competency exams, and portfolio assessment are ways to earn credit for prior learning at Mass Bay Community College. Online colleges like Walden University also allow for credits to be earned through credit transfer and a portfolio.

I want an online degree and live in Massachusetts. Do I need to pick an online college located here?

The short answer is no, a student can choose a program anywhere when studying online. A primary concern is cost of tuition, as Massachusetts students get in-state tuition for online programs in their home state.

A couple of other things to keep in mind beyond tuition costs when considering an out-of-state program are accreditation, credit transfer, graduation and completion rates. A good online degree program should have this information readily available to prospective applicants or through their admissions advising. Finally, research any good-neighbor or reciprocity programs from near-by states that may allow you to secure in-state tuition.

How will I ever choose between all the online college options in Massachusetts?

A great place to start is to look ahead to potential careers that are interesting. Check out the Bureau of Labor Statistics to see which careers are growing the fastest or are highest in demand. From there, check the type of degree needed and start narrowing it down the places that offer those majors. Consider tuition rates and financial aid, and how the school supports students.

Use the search tool below to find and compare information on specific online programs in Massachusetts.