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/
- Admissions, UMassOnline, University of Massachusetts, accessed Feb. 26, 2019, http://www.umassonline.net/admissions
- Application Checklist, Brandeis Undergraduate Admissions, accessed Feb. 26, 2019, https://www.brandeis.edu/admissions/apply/checklist.html
- Boston University Distance Education Awards & Rankings, Boston University, accessed Feb. 26, 2019, https://www.bu.edu/online/news/awards-and-rankings/
- College Navigator: Massachusetts, Institute for Education Studies, National Center for Education Statistics, accessed Feb. 26, 2019, https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?s=MA&pg=6
- Commonwealth Corporation, Closing the Skills Gap, accessed Feb. 26, 2019, https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwjckKPA5trgAhXJmq0KHVFEAV0QFjAAegQIChAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Fcommcorp.org%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2016%2F07%2Fresources_2013-04-closing-ma-skills-gap-recommendations-and-action-steps.pdf&usg=AOvVaw0pE7D78J1LVtKky-0sF-0s
- "Criminal Justice and Business: Online Quincy College Announces Two 100% Online Degree Programs," Quincy College, Aug. 14, 2018, https://quincycollege.edu/news/criminal-justice-and-business-online-quincy-college-announces-two-100-online-degree-programs/
- First-Year Applicants, Wheaton College Massachusetts, accessed Feb. 26, 2019, https://wheatoncollege.edu/admission/apply/firstyear/
- Graduate Online Application, Massachusetts Maritime Academy, accessed Feb. 26, 2019, https://www.maritime.edu/forms/graduate-online-application
- Institute for Research on Higher Education. (2016). College Affordability Diagnosis: Massachusetts. Philadelphia, PA: Institute for Research on Higher Education, Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania, accessed Feb. 26, 2019, http://www2.gse.upenn.edu/irhe/affordability-diagnosis
- Kirk Carapezza, "Why Massachusetts Leads Nation in College Attainment," On Campus Radio, WGBH News, Aug. 9, 2017, http://blogs.wgbh.org/on-campus/2017/8/9/why-massachusetts-leads-nation-college-attainment/
- MA Advantage: Industry Clusters & Leaders, MassEcon, accessed Feb. 26, 2019, https://massecon.com/ma_advantage/industry_clusters_and_leaders/
- Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, The Degree Gap, June 2016, https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=9&ved=2ahUKEwjFmLn1tdrgAhVOC6wKHeayABAQFjAIegQIAxAC&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.mass.edu%2Fvisionproject%2F_documents%2F2016%2520The%2520Degree%2520Gap%2520-%2520Vision%2520Project%2520Annual%2520Report.pdf&usg=AOvVaw3KsojDcfUbWs-19J-Y6dLV
- New England State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement, New England Board of Higher Education, accessed Feb. 26, 2019, https://nebhe.org/sara/
- Office of Student Financial Assistance, Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, accessed Feb. 26, 2019, http://www.mass.edu/osfa/programs/programs.asp
- OSCQR, eLearning and Instructional Support, University of Massachusetts Boston, accessed Feb. 26, 2019, https://www.umb.edu/elearning/oscqr
- Paying for College in Massachusetts, Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority, accessed Feb. 26, 2019, https://www.mefa.org/paying-college-massachusetts/
- Quality Matters, Framingham State University, accessed Feb. 26, 2019, https://www.framingham.edu/academics/continuing-education/online-learning/quality-matters
- "Questions You Should Ask When Choosing an Online Program," NC-SARA, accessed Feb. 26, 2019, https://www.nc-sara.org/studentquestions
- 2017 State of Working Massachusetts, Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, accessed Feb. 26, 2019, http://massbudget.org/reports/swma/work-education.php
Massachusetts is in the unique position of having one foot in our nation's past and another in its future. As home to many of our nation's most important historical events and attractions, it is also leading the United States into the future in industries such as renewable energy, defense technology, digital health, information technology and more. And it benefits from having the most highly educated population in the country.
But these facts don't tell the complete story. The Bay State faces challenges including an aging population and a skills gap that is still not being addressed by the current rates of college attainment.
Online degree programs in Massachusetts may be an important part of the solution. These programs can provide affordability, flexibility and convenience, which is ideal for older, returning adults or those who face challenges with scheduling for, or proximity to, their desired programs. Keep reading to learn more about the benefits of online degrees in Massachusetts.
Why Earn an Online Degree in Massachusetts?
Despite its small size, the state is home to 177 postsecondary institutions, which may help to explain its high rate of college attainment. Still, this rate has leveled off in recent years as the population has aged and slowly begun dropping out of the workforce. The state's continued economic growth deeply relies on a pipeline of educated workers. By 2020, 72 percent of jobs in Massachusetts may require postsecondary credentials. The Massachusetts Department of Higher Education (MDHE) expects that by 2025, the state's public colleges and universities may fall short of producing their share of new college degrees by up to 65,000.
Simply put, if the state cannot produce enough skilled labor, employers in its fastest-growing industries may go elsewhere and the economy may suffer.
Earning an online degree in Massachusetts also benefits graduates financially. The MDHE finds a strong correlation between higher levels of education and higher incomes, and the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center shows faster wage growth among college-educated residents. Workers with no education beyond high school are also disproportionately unemployed.
Online degree programs in Massachusetts enable students to earn these necessary credentials, often at a faster pace than traditional on-ground programs, preparing students to fill these in-demand positions more quickly, perhaps even more affordably. Plus, these programs' flexibility means that studies can be fit into any personal or work schedule.
Top 10 Online Colleges in Massachusetts
Depending on your circumstances in life, you'll need to consider certain criteria in your online degree search. To help you, we've put together this list of the top 10 Massachusetts colleges that offer online degree programs, focusing on a range of criteria including tuition, number of online degree programs, student support resources and more.
Top Online Degree Programs in Massachusetts
Using data from the National Center for Education Statistics, we've created this list of the top online degree programs in Maine, which may help to indicate fast-growing or in-demand occupations.
Quality of Online Education in Massachusetts
Home to schools such as Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Massachusetts is a state renowned for its educational quality. Aspiring online learners may appreciate knowing that high quality extends to many of the online degree programs in Massachusetts as well.
The state is part of the New England Board of Higher Education compact and a member of the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA). What does this mean to students? SARA members agree to follow processes to ensure consistent quality in their distance education offerings across state lines, while giving students access to a greater number of offerings and keeping their tuition costs down.
Individual colleges are taking steps to maintain high quality online degree programs, too. For example, Boston University has won numerous awards for its distance-education quality, including an Excellence in Institution-Wide Online Education award from the Online Learning Consortium. And many schools in Massachusetts voluntarily partake in quality assurance programs. Framingham State University and Quincy College follow standards for Quality Matters to promote student engagement and continuous quality improvement among distance education courses, and the University of Massachusetts Boston has adopted the Open SUNY Course Quality Review (OSCQR) Rubric and Process to support continuous quality improvement as well.
What to Look for in Online Degree Programs in Massachusetts
NC-SARA along with the Online Learning Consortium, Quality Matters and the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies suggest that students ask the following questions in order to make an educated decision about which online degree program to enroll in.
What do you expect of the program? What are your academic and professional needs as a student? What does the program expect of you in terms of time to completion and face-to-face activities?
What learning experiences are used? What is the typical class size? Is the learning self-paced or on a deadline schedule? What is it like being a student here?
What student support services are offered? Would you have the support you need from faculty and staff? Consider issues such as academic advisement, tutoring, counseling, orientations, tutorials and other factors, and whether these are sufficient for your needs.
What are the costs, and can you afford them? Be sure that you understand costs associated with the program and what financial aid options are available to you.
What are the technology requirements? Also, how much technical support and equipment are available, and is that sufficient?
How does the school support positive outcomes? Consider things such as career services offerings, its alumni networks, partnerships with area employers and ability to obtain licensing upon completion.
Top Occupations in Massachusetts
The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the following occupations are seeing the greatest job growth in the state.
Number of Workers
|Office and Administrative Support Occupations||496,690||$45,040|
|Sales and Related Occupations||317,270||$48,930|
|Food Preparation and Serving Related Occupations||307,710||$30,960|
|Education, Training, and Library Occupations||244,590||$69,360|
|Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations||242,690||$97,600|
|Business and Financial Operations Occupations||205,570||$85,980|
|Transportation and Material Moving Occupations||190,150||$40,510|
|Personal Care and Service Occupations||161,500||$33,950|
|Computer and Mathematical Occupations||141,450||$98,630|
|Construction and Extraction Occupations||128,570||$63,700|
|Healthcare Support Occupations||106,220||$37,070|
|Building and Grounds Cleaning and Maintenance Occupations||105,470||$36,900|
|Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Occupations||103,230||$55,880|
Scholarships and Financial Aid in Massachusetts
Though Massachusetts boasts many highly respected colleges and universities and a large number of college-educated residents, it unfortunately ranks near the bottom of college affordability rankings, according to the Institute for Research on Higher Education. In order to fill its education gap, the state is taking big steps to assist students in affording college.
Among these, there is the MassTransfer A2B + Commonwealth Commitment. In this program, students planning to start their educations at community colleges in Massachusetts and transfer to four-year public institutions may receive guaranteed admission upon completing their associate degrees, along with a freeze on tuition and fees and a 10 percent rebate off those tuition and fee payments at the end of each semester.
The MDHE also offers a number of grants and scholarships. The following is a small sampling:
MASSGrant & MASSGrant Plus: These grants offer need-based funding to undergraduate students who reside in Massachusetts. The two programs differ in terms of type of school and whether students are enrolled full or part time.
Gilbert Matching Student Grant Program: This grant can provide funds for students who participate in Massachusetts colleges and universities and schools of nursing.
Part-Time Grant Program: This program is designed to address the growing number of students attending part-time college by providing tuition assistance to encourage more state residents to complete their educations.
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
Any school in Massachusetts you may consider might have its own testing requirements for prospective students. Some schools, such as UMass Online, Wheaton College and Massachusetts Maritime Academy don't require scores from college entrance exams, while others, such as Brandeis University, require SAT or ACT scores. Check with your desired program to ensure you meet its admission requirements.