Although it’s one of the country’s smallest states, Massachusetts is a big name when it comes to higher education.
In addition to attractions like Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Fenway Park, the state is home to some of the most prestigious schools in the US.
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It also offers top-notch online learning opportunities and generous financial aid programs.
Overview of Higher Education in Massachusetts
In Massachusetts there are 111 degree-granting institutions, according to a 2018-2019 report by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Of those, 30 are public schools, 77 are non-profit private schools and 4 are for-profit private schools.
The state is particularly well-known for top-ranking private universities, including US News and World Reports’ #2 school, the Ivy League powerhouse Harvard University, as well as Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tufts University, Boston College, and Brandeis University. The largest and most well-known public university in the state, University of Massachusetts, is also high-ranking, particularly its flagship campus in Amhurst.
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The average cost to attend one of the state’s 4-year public institutions is about $13,286 for residents, and $30,966 for non-residents, according to the NCES. Both are thousands of dollars above the national average. Fortunately, residents of nearby New England states can apply to Massachusetts’ public schools at reduced rates (and vice versa), thanks to the state’s partnership with New England Board of Higher Education (NEBHE).
The Tuition Break agreement pertains to schools in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. Altogether, NEBHE has more than 800 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to choose from, many in high-demand fields.
About Online Colleges in Massachusetts
A 2018 report by the NCES reported that 9.4% of postsecondary students in Massachusetts were enrolled in courses at online colleges exclusively, and another 11.4% of students were participating in a hybrid of online and on-campus courses. Those numbers have continued to rise. Today, nearly all postsecondary schools in Massachusetts offer some sort of online learning option.
Many online programs are available through Massachusetts Colleges Online (MCO), a conglomerate of the state’s 15 community colleges and 9 state universities. MCO offers more than 5000 undergraduate and graduate programs, both fully online and hybrid, and 225 online degree options.
Alternatively, the University of Massachusetts’ UMass Online offers 200 degree and certificate programs and more than 4000 online courses in the fields the school is most known for – liberal arts, education, business and management, nursing, public health and information technology – as well as many other areas.
Scholarships and Financial Aid in Massachusetts
If you are interested in pursuing a degree in Massachusetts, you will need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA will provide you access to federal, state and private financial aid. Because many funds are awarded on a first come, first served basis, you should complete your application as soon as possible. It becomes available on October 1st of each year.
The FAFSA application itself is quite simple. You will need to include financial information for yourself as well as your parents (unless you’re considered “independent”). This information will help determine how much and what type of financial aid you receive. The ideal types of financial aid are grants and scholarships, since they do not have to be paid back.
In Massachusetts, the Department of Higher Education administers an impressive array of assistance programs, including grants, scholarships, tuition waivers, tuition reimbursement and even a no-interest loan program.
Here are a few of the grant programs available to Massachusetts residents:
- MASSGrant & MASSGrant Plus – Need based; Amount varies based on Estimated Family Contribution (EFC)
- Gilbert Matching Student Grant – Need based; Can be used at accredited, non-profit private schools; $200-2500 per year
- Cash Grant – Need based; Assistance to cover mandatory fees and non-state-supported tuition; Amount varies based on need
- Part-Time Grant – Need based; Complementary to the Need-Based Tuition Waiver Program; For students enrolled for at least 6 but fewer than 12 credits per term; $200 and up, as determined by institution
- Public Service Grant – Full tuition waiver for child(ren) or spouse of public police officer, fire fighter or corrections officer who was killed in the line of duty
- Paraprofessional Teacher Preparation Grant – Assistance for current paraprofessionals in Massachusetts public schools who wish to become certified full time teachers; Designed to help address teacher shortage; Not need based; Amount varies depending on the institution type
- Foster Child Grant – Assistance for foster children at any college or university in the US; Up to $6000 per year
Scholarships, on the other hand, are typically awarded based on some criteria other than financial need, such as academic success, athletic aptitude, field of study, unique hobbies, etc.
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Some scholarships may also require recipients to demonstrate financial need. Here are a few of the scholarship programs offered by the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education:
|Scholarship Name||Scholarship amount|
|Agnes M. Lindsay Scholarship||Amount varies|
|Christian A. Herter Memorial Scholarship||Up to 50% of calculated need|
|High Demand Scholarship Program||Full Time (12+ credits): Up to $6500 per year
Part-Time (6-11 credits): Up to $3250 per year
|LEADA@Liberty Scholarship||(4) $2500 per year|
|Paul Tsongas Scholarship||Covers full tuition and fees|
That’s just a few, but there are several more worth looking into. Additionally, the state offers nearly 20 tuition waiver programs, a Loan Reimbursement Program for Health Professionals, and a 10-year No Interest Loan Program. Be sure to check into each of these options.
Outside of these state-sponsored opportunities, check out scholarship search sites such as Fastweb.com, where you can enter basic information and be matched with dozens of scholarships. Finally, check with the financial aid office at the school(s) of your choice. They may be able to help you afford your dream school.
List of Online Colleges in Massachusetts
Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.
Bay Path University is dedicated to helping women with jobs and families advance in their careers through online learning. There are six start dates offered throughout the year. Students can transfer in qualifying credits and may be able to earn credits for work experience. The school offers bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in fields like child psychology and accounting.
Bay Path University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
Bentley University offers three graduate programs online to help students get their education while meeting their other responsibilities. Many programs at the school also offer evening classes. Students can earn an MBA, a Master’s in Human Factors in Innovative Design, or an MS in Taxation online. Some courses are offered in a 6 week accelerated format.
Bentley University is accredited by the New England Commission on Higher Education.
U.S. News and World Report ranked three of Boston University’s online programs among the best in the nation. Many of the school’s programs are available fully online. Some courses last a full semester, while others are only 6 weeks long. Students can complete bachelor’s degrees online or earn master’s degrees in fields like art education or health informatics.
Boston University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
Brandeis University offers the Graduate Professional Studies (GPS) program, which is a virtual school. The school helps students earn their graduate degrees by offering flexible scheduling options and accelerated formats. Part-time students can potentially finish in just 3 years, while full-time students can potentially finish in just 1 year. Areas of study offered include digital marketing and design and bioinformatics.
Brandeis University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
Fisher College offers several online undergraduate and graduate degree programs. These programs are designed with working students in mind.
Many of these programs have synchronous components. Some courses are offered in an 8 week format, while others are offered in 12 or 16 week formats. The school offers several start dates. Areas of study offered include criminal justice, game development, and counseling psychology.
Fisher College is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
Fitchburg State University offers completely online programs for students who work and have families. Most programs are asynchronous, but a few have synchronous components.
Fitchburg offers free demo courses so students can try out the programs they are interested in. Many of the school’s online courses are just 8 weeks long. The school offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in fields such as criminal justice, human resources management, education, and more.
Fitchburg State University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
U.S. News & World Report named Framingham State University in its listing of the best public regional universities.
The school offers 18 online programs for busy students with other commitments. Most of these programs are fully online, but some are offered in a hybrid format. Students can earn a BA in Liberal Studies online. The school offers online graduate programs in merchandising, educational technology, nursing, and more.
Framingham State University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
Students can earn undergraduate or graduate degrees online through the Extension School at Harvard University. These programs are designed to give students the rigorous academics they’d expect from a school like Harvard while also being flexible with their schedules. The program offers a BA in Liberal Arts and graduate degrees in biology, cybersecurity, and more.
Harvard University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
Lasell University strives to offer students a unique online learning experience where they feel connected to others in their classes.
Students can currently earn graduate degrees or complete their bachelor’s degrees online. Courses for these programs are offered fully online or in hybrid formats, and many of them are asynchronous. Students can choose from over 45 programs in fields such as healthcare management and human resources.
Lasell University is accredited by the New England Commission on Higher Education.
Nichols College is a nationally-ranked school for business. The school offers undergraduate and graduate classes. Programs are either fully online or offered in a hybrid format. The school offers 6 start dates a year, and courses are 7 weeks long. Areas of study offered include accounting, business administration, and human resources management.
Nichols College is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
Northeastern University offers innovative and flexible online programs designed for nontraditional students. Online students can finish their bachelor’s degrees or earn master’s or doctoral degrees. Many of these programs are fully online, but some do have in-class components. Many of the school’s faculty members are leaders in their industries. Areas of study offered include data science and energy systems.
Northeastern University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
Simmons University got its start in 1899 as a women’s college. It still aims for diversity and inclusivity in its online programs. The school’s bachelor’s programs are open to women, and its graduate programs are open to students of all genders. The classes for these programs are fully online, but many of them have synchronous components. The school offers areas of study like psychology, nutrition, nursing, and more.
Simmons University is accredited by the New England Commission on Higher Education.
Suffolk University aims to make sure its online students get the same high-quality, rigorous education as their on-campus counterparts. Suffolk currently offers online degree programs for graduate students.
These programs feature courses that are 7 weeks long. Most are asynchronous with optional synchronous components. There are three start dates offered each year. The school offers eight programs in fields such as accounting, business administration, healthcare administration, and business analytics.
Suffolk University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
The University of Massachusetts—Amherst has several options for nontraditional students who need flexible schedules. Students can choose from online and hybrid options through the school’s Flex program. These programs offer both asynchronous and synchronous components. The school offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in areas such as film studies, nutrition, and sociology.
The University of Massachusetts Amherst is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
The University of Massachusetts—Boston is dedicated to providing access to affordable, high-quality education for everyone, including non-traditional students. The school has an innovatively designed online learning program. The school offers undergraduate and graduate degrees that can be earned fully online in fields such as gerontology, global affairs, vision studies, and critical and creative thinking.
The University of Massachusetts Boston is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
The University of Massachusetts—Dartmouth provides affordable and flexible online programs designed for working students. Students can earn undergraduate or graduate degrees online.
Many programs are offered entirely online, while others have hybrid options. There are four start dates offered throughout the year. Areas of study offered include English literature and criticism, medical laboratory science, art education, and nursing.
The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
U.S. News & World Report ranked the University of Massachusetts—Lowell among the best online schools for bachelor’s and graduate degrees. The school offers many online options, including entirely online, hybrid, and flex. There are several start dates throughout the year. There are synchronous and asynchronous courses offered. Areas of study offered include English, mathematics, chemistry, and civil engineering.
The University of Massachusetts Lowell is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
Western New England University offers fully online graduate degree programs designed for busy students. There are four start dates offered throughout the year, and students can take classes full-time or part-time.
WNE offers 20 graduate programs, most of which are taught by full-time faculty members. Areas of study offered include electrical engineering, organizational leadership, elder law and estate planning, and mathematics for teachers.
Western New England University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
U.S. News & World Report named Westfield State University in the Top 100 Best Online Bachelor’s Programs. Westfield State offers online bachelor’s completion programs for students who’ve completed core courses. Courses follow the regular semester schedule and are also offered in a 2 week winter session and two 6 week summer sessions. Areas of study offered include finance and marketing.
Westfield State University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
Worcester Polytechnic Institute offers online graduate programs designed for students who need a flexible schedule. Programs are offered fully online and are based around science, engineering, and the humanities. Courses are 7, 10, or 14 weeks long. There are up to five start dates offered throughout the year. Graduate programs are offered in bioscience management, environmental engineering, chemistry, and more.
WPI is accredited by the New England Commission on Higher Education.
Massachusetts is a small state with a big resumé! The state is full of impressive schools – public and private, traditional and online – and offers very generous financial aid programs. If you plan to earn your degree in Massachusetts, you’re making a wise choice.