To be included in our ranking of the best colleges for online degree programs, all colleges had to meet the following five criteria:
- Be an accredited U.S. institution
- Offer either 2- or 4-year degree programs
- Have at least 1 percent of students taking at least some of their classes via distance education
- Be active in the 2015-16 school year
- Report data for all 15 specific ranking variables included in our methodology
We then ranked the remaining 2,169 colleges and universities and scored each on a 100-point scale on these specific. Our data points include:
- The in-state tuition and fees for full-time undergraduates, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Percent of undergraduate students awarded federal, state, local, institutional or other sources of grant aid, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- The average amount of federal, state, local, institutional or other sources of grant aid awarded to undergraduate students, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Full-time Retention rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Percent of students participating fully or partially in distance education to total enrollment, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Graduation rate within six years, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- No. of degree programs offered via distance education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Percent of students working and not enrolled 6 years after entry, College Scorecard, 2013-14
- Open admissions policy for all or most entering first-time undergraduate-level students, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Flexibility and student services, based on whether the school offers the following services, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Dual credit
- Credit for life experience
- Advanced Placement credit
- Academic and career counseling
- Job placement services for graduates
- Offers credit for military training
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Employment Projections: Unemployment rates and earnings by educational attainment, 2017," March 27, 2018, https://www.bls.gov/emp/chart-unemployment-earnings-education.htm
- Census: Maine's Population Still the Oldest in the Nation, September 2018, Maine Public, https://www.mainepublic.org/post/census-maines-population-still-oldest-nation
- Educate Maine, Education Indicators for Maine: 2018, accessed February 25, 2019, http://www.educatemaine.org/docs/EducateMaine_2018_IndicatorReportWEB01.pdf
- "Investing in higher ed is one way Maine can attract more young workers," Bangor Daily News, April 24, 2018, https://bangordailynews.com/2018/04/24/opinion/contributors/investing-in-higher-ed-is-one-way-maine-can-attract-more-young-workers/
- YourPace, University of Maine at Presque Isle, accessed Feb. 26, 2019, https://www.umpi.edu/yourpace/
- State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA), Maine Department of Education, accessed Feb. 26, 2019, https://www.maine.gov/doe/learning/highered/sara
- Lori Valigra, "Maine projected to have more old than young people by 2020," Bangor Daily News, March 14, 2018, https://bangordailynews.com/2018/03/14/news/state/maine-projected-to-have-more-old-than-young-people-by-2020/
- Lori Valigra, "What to expect from Maine's economy in 2019," Bangor Daily News, Jan. 7, 2019, https://bangordailynews.com/2019/01/07/business/what-to-expect-from-maines-economy-in-2019/
- Lowell Ruck, "Opinion: Preparing for Maine's future without paper mills," Bowdoin Orient, Feb. 22, 2019, https://bowdoinorient.com/2019/02/22/opinion/
- College Navigator: Maine, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, accessed Feb. 26, 2019, https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?s=ME&lc=4
- "Center for Technology Enhanced Learning," University of Southern Maine, accessed Feb. 26, 2019, https://usm.maine.edu/ctel/quality-matters-workshop-applying-qm-rubric
- "Online Master's in Professional Science," Unity College Distance Education, accessed Feb. 26, 2019, https://online.unity.edu/masters-in-professional-science/
- Paying for College, Finance Authority of Maine, accessed Feb. 26, 2019, https://www.famemaine.com/education/topics/paying-for-college/
- Pine Tree State Pledge, University of Maine at Augusta, accessed Feb. 26, 2019, https://www.uma.edu/financial/scholarships/pine-tree-state-pledge/
- "Questions You Should Ask When Choosing an Online Program," NC-SARA, accessed Feb. 26, 2019, https://www.nc-sara.org/studentquestions
Maine, the Pine Tree State, at the northeasternmost corner of the continental U.S., may feel like a world all its own. Surrounded on three sides by Canada and the Atlantic Ocean, its thickly wooded areas, beaches and other wild natural features make it a popular tourist draw. But they also help to make Maine the most rural state in the country — one with a rapidly aging workforce.
The state's economy is thriving, with a budget surplus, low unemployment and high minimum wage. Though many of its paper mills have closed, the state's economy has shifted toward jobs of the 21st century, meaning a heavy dependence on a suitably educated workforce to fill these positions. Online education in Maine is set to play a critical role in addressing this need.
This guide can provide valuable information about the benefits of online degree programs in Maine and how to identify the programs that suit your goals.
Why Earn an Online Degree in Maine?
Maine's economy faces significant workforce challenges that could inhibit its growth. First, its population is the nation's oldest, with a median age of 44.7, according to the 2018 American Community Survey. By 2020, its number of residents ages 65+ is headed to outnumber its young. Additionally, Educate Maine reports that 66 percent of its highest-paying, most in-demand jobs through 2024 will likely require some postsecondary education, but only 44 percent of Mainers hold postsecondary credentials. With a shrinking workforce limited by lack of credentials, the state desperately needs to grow its pool of college-educated workers.
But its rural geography is a challenge. More than 60 percent of Mainers live outside metropolitan areas. Though the state has 40 postsecondary institutions, only 14 are found in rural areas, so rural students may not have access to desired programs.
Maine colleges that offer online degree programs may be the ideal solution. Without the need to attend classes in brick-and-mortar facilities, students have more choices available. Transportation and scheduling issues are minimized because many online classes allow students to log on at times that fit their unique schedules.
Plus, it pays to earn this credential. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2017 that even some college increases median weekly earnings when compared to just a high school diploma. An associate degree increased those earnings by more than $120 per week, and a bachelor's degree increased weekly earnings by roughly 65 percent.
Top 10 Online Colleges in Maine
We've considered such factors as number of online programs, tuition rates, availability of student support and more to develop the following list of top 10 Maine colleges that offer online degree programs.
Top Online Degree Programs in Maine
We've used information provided by the National Center for Education Statistics to develop the following list of top online degree programs in Maine.
Quality of Online Education in Maine
Meeting the demands of employers means workers must obtain high-quality online degrees to ensure what students learn is relevant and useful on the job. Fortunately, aspiring learners can take comfort in knowing that many Maine colleges that offer online degree programs are working to ensure quality. In general, according to Bangor Daily News, the University of Maine and Maine Community College Systems are leading the state's workforce efforts by working with K-12 educators, the state's government and Maine businesses to ensure that Maine's degree programs offer needed, relevant education to meet the economy's needs.
With regard to online education in Maine specifically, students benefit from the fact that Maine is a member state of the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA), an agreement among member states that establishes comparable national standards for distance-education courses and programs across state lines, which guarantees a certain level of quality from member institutions.
At the institution level, many schools, such as University of Southern Maine and Unity College follow Quality Matters standards, meaning that those schools have voluntarily undergone a rigorous peer review process intended to ensure high quality of online and hybrid courses.
What to Look for in Online Degree Programs in Maine
From high school seniors ready to attend college for the first time to adults looking to refresh their skills with graduate degrees or finish a long-ago-started degree, every learner has unique needs in an online program. One way to find a quality online education in Maine is to use the free questionnaire provided by the SARA National Council (NC-SARA), the Online Learning Consortium, Quality Matters and the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies. Its questions help students discover what they most need and want from online degree programs in Maine in order to make informed choices. They include such topics as:
Academic and professional expectations: What do you expect from the program and what does it expect from you?
Learning experiences: What are the courses and instructors like, and what might it be like to be a student there?
Money matters: What are the costs associated with the program, and how much financial aid is being offered to you for this program?
Technological issues: What are the technological requirements for the program, and are you able to meet these requirements? How much technical support and equipment are available?
It's also essential that any program you consider is accredited, to ensure not only that you're eligible for financial aid but also so that you are assured a baseline level of quality to meet the needs of employers in your field.
Top Occupations in Maine
To help you align your education with the needs of the state's employers, we have developed this list of the top occupations in Maine, using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Number of Workers
|Office and Administrative Support Occupations||92,250||$36,420|
|Sales and Related Occupations||57,760||$36,500|
|Food Preparation and Serving Related Occupations||56,960||$26,970|
|Education, Training, and Library Occupations||41,760||$48,560|
|Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations||41,280||$83,920|
|Transportation and Material Moving Occupations||36,360||$35,400|
|Personal Care and Service Occupations||26,850||$27,840|
|Construction and Extraction Occupations||26,140||$43,490|
|Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Occupations||25,560||$45,420|
|Business and Financial Operations Occupations||24,390||$66,920|
|Building and Grounds Cleaning and Maintenance Occupations||22,190||$30,280|
|Healthcare Support Occupations||21,010||$32,100|
Scholarships and Financial Aid in Maine
Maine prides itself on keeping tuitions low. The Maine Community College System has frozen its tuitions and the university system has only increased tuitions once in seven years. These efforts are aimed at increasing the college-completion rate in the state. Nonetheless, students are likely to need financial aid resources in order to afford their online degrees in Maine.
The university system also has established its Promise Initiative, which targets first-year, in-state Maine students currently enrolled at four of its campuses who demonstrate the greatest financial need. Though most campuses only offer it to on-campus students, at University of Maine at Augusta, the program is termed Pine Tree State Pledge and it is available to part-time and transfer students who access their programs either on campus or online.
Additionally, Maine students may take advantage of other grant funding, including these:
State of Maine Grant Program: need-based grants of up to $1,500 for undergraduate Maine students
Educators for Maine Program: merit-based, forgivable loan for Maine students pursuing careers in education or child care in state
Alfond Leaders Program: student loan repayment assistance program for people living and working in Maine-based STEM occupations
Prospective students should consult with the Finance Authority of Maine and their intended schools to learn more about potential sources of grant and scholarship funding.
Scholarship directory data is copyrighted material which is reproduced on this website by permission of Wintergreen Orchard House, a division of Carnegie Communications. Copyright © 2017-19 by Wintergreen Orchard House. All rights reserved.
Tests You May Need To Take
Every school has different requirements for admission, so students should consult with individual schools' admissions representatives to learn about how to apply. While there's no single entrance exam required for every Maine online college, it's typical for schools to ask for scores from the SAT or ACT.