The state of Massachusetts has 114 colleges and universities. In 2016, there were over 180,000 students enrolled in Massachusetts colleges. As a college-bound student researching schools in Massachusetts, it is important to choose the right school and know how to tell who provides a high-quality education that will help further your career goals. Keep reading to learn about Massachusetts colleges and the growing flexibility they are offering through online learning. We answer frequently asked questions regarding tuition, how transfer credits work in Massachusetts and how earning a college degree can be an important stepping stone for building a career.
Many colleges and universities in Massachusetts prioritize online learning. The Masachusetts Institute for Technology (MIT), for example, offers a wide variety of courses online through its distance learning program, known as MITx. MIT takes advantage of edX, a network of schools and partners that give students wide access to topics, courses, and certification programs. They can also use this website to find specific courses and ask questions.
But before a prospective student looks into all the specifics, it is important to ensure that your top college choices align with basic quality and student success standards for online education providers in Massachusetts—we’ve identified these schools and their qualifications below:
Prospective students in Massachusetts can use the MassHome website to find a complete list of colleges in Massachusetts, as well as the degrees each college offers online. They can then check their prospective schools' websites to make sure their degree of choice is available, such as the University of Massachusetts’ online program, UMassOnline, which details online program options and offers hybrid course offerings (which combine online learning with in-person work).
Another great starting point for prospective online students is Massachusetts Colleges Online, where students can search through a network of 15 community colleges and nine state colleges for degrees and programs.
The New England Board of Higher Education offers for additional resources, including an online college textbook platform, job information and detailed, current information on accreditation standards.
Students interested in translating prior work and life experience into credits may qualify to do so by completing a prior learning assessment. Prior learning assessments evaluate whether prior experience can adequately replace coursework, allowing universities to decide whether to award credits.
Students who already have credits from prior coursework can find out if those credits are eligible for transfer by visiting MassTransfer, an online course equivalency database in the state of Massachusetts. For example, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst allows up to 75 transfer credits from other universities, plus professional and military training certifications and exams.
The Massachusetts Community Colleges network also offers a program called My Experience Counts, which helps students transfer prior work or life experience into course credits. UMass Amherst offers course equivalency to students who have completed professional or military certifications or training, credit evaluations or exams, basic training, or qualifying portfolios of work. Cambridge College also considers previous work and life experience for credit.
Higher levels of education usually translate into higher earning potential in Massachusetts, according to the state's Budget and Policy Center. The center reported in 2015 that median earnings for full-time, year-round employees with bachelor's degrees were 84 percent higher than those with only a high school diploma. Additionally, the hourly wages for Massachusetts employees with four-year college degrees were almost double those of employees who did not attend college. Take a look at the average earnings for jobs that require a minimum of each degree level below:
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017
Prospective college students in Massachusetts should note that the state's economic growth is ahead of other New England states as of 2017, according to Bureau of Economic Analysis. The professional, scientific and technical services sectors led much of this growth.
The fastest-growing careers in Massachusetts are in the sectors of home health aide, statisticians, translators and nurse practitioners. These career paths are expected to grow at a rate of over 29 percent each year through 2026, and often times will require a college degree.
Other fast-career fields in Massachusetts that may require college education include health care and social assistance, growing at 15 percent per year, scientific and technical services, growing at 7 percent per year and educational services, growing at 6 percent each year. Most of the industries with the biggest growth require earning at least a bachelor’s degree.
For students worried about the quality of their online education, the National Survey of Student Engagement recently conducted a poll of 250,000 students from 523 universities, finding that those engaged in education online claimed to experience greater academic challenges than their on-campus counterparts. They also reported greater satisfaction with their overall educational experience and reported more significant developmental gains. However, there is one common trait of schools who offer top-quality online learning programs: accreditation.
Students should choose online colleges that are accredited by either a regional or national organization. Accrediting bodies evaluate schools based on a set of third-party standards, and their stamps of approval indicate that a school provides quality educational experiences. Regional and national accrediting organizations in Massachusetts include: the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education, or the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges among others.
In addition to school-wide accreditation, some leading online colleges in Massachusetts also may have subject-specific accreditation for some programs. For example, Boston College’s management degree program is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.
Paying for college is a major concern for most students. However, Massachusetts’ fast-growing, high-paying industries require college degrees. How to pay for school is a valid concern for prospective students. In the table below, find information on the average tuition fees for college students in Massachusetts.
In-State Tuition, Public Colleges & Universities: $11.670
Change from 2015 $770
In-State Tuition, Private Colleges & Universities: $40,761
Change from 2015 $1463
Source: National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
These figures do not include room and board or cost differences for out-of-state students. Tuition fees can vary by location, but some colleges offer the same rate no matter where a student is located. Here are some examples in Massachusetts:
Flat Online Cost Per Credit: Cambridge College of Boston offers a set credit rate for all undergraduate courses.
Online Cost, In-State vs. Out-of-State: At Westfield State University, in-state students are offered one flat rate per credit hour, while out-of-state students are offered another, higher rate.
Specific Online Program Tuition Rates: Some programs within the University of Massachusetts online offer varying tuition rates based on a degree plan or specific course.
The New England Regional Student Program also offers a cost-saving program called Tuition Break, which allows students to enroll in out-of-state programs at select universities in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. Program participants receive discounted tuition.
Online students can also explore the National Student Exchange, a database of 170 accredited organizations that operate a tuition-reciprocity system.
For more information and advice on paying for college, see some frequently asked questions about tuition in Massachusetts below:
To qualify for in-state tuition, whether studying online or on campus, students must be U.S. citizens and prove state residency. They may demonstrate residency on their own, or if they are claimed as dependents, their parents may demonstrate residency. To establish Massachusetts residency, students may show that they resided in the state for 12 months before enrolling in college. Community college students generally only need to prove six months of prior residency.
Some exceptions may apply to specific universities. For example, University of Massachusetts, Amherst makes exceptions for:
Online colleges are sometimes cheaper than brick-and-mortar institutions. Online students save money on expenses like parking, activity fees, club memberships and on-campus housing. However, costs are college-specific, and students must investigate their prospective schools to find out whether online programs are cheaper.
Here’s a look at how some Massachusetts schools stack up against their neighbors in terms of undergraduate costs per credit for 2018-2019:
All students should begin their financial aid search by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). They may then head over to the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority (MEFA), which provides financial planning tools, links to loans and financial aid programs, and other resources for students. Some programs, like UMass Online, also link to financial aid resources on their websites.
Several grants and scholarships are available to Massachusetts students, as well:
Big Y Scholarship for Academic Excellence Big Y Foods, Inc., provides annual scholarships of $2,000 to students in certain regions in Massachusetts. Award categories include: high school senior, community college, undergraduate, graduate, and nontraditional student. Selection is based on academic and personal achievements, plus community service.
Diana and Leon Feffer Scholarship Administered by the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, the Diana and Leon Feffer Scholarship is available to graduating high school seniors in Western Massachusetts. Selection is based on high school GPA, class rank, and standardized test scores. The award is up to $8,000.
James L. Shriver Scholarship The James L. Shriver scholarship is available to students from Western Massachusetts who are enrolled in a technical career program. Selection is based on academic performance. Funds come from the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts.
John and Abigail Adams Scholarship The John and Abigail Adams Scholarship provides a tuition waiver for up to eight semesters of undergraduate education at a Massachusetts state college or university. The scholarship covers tuition only; fees and room and board are not included. The scholarship must be used within six years of a student's high school graduation.
National Scholars Award This award is available to National Merit or Achievement finalists who are entering Boston University as freshmen. Selection is competitive. Winners may receive up to $20,000 annually for up to four years.
William A. and Vinnie e. Dexter Scholarship This scholarship is available to graduating high school seniors and college freshmen in Western Massachusetts. Selection is competitive and based on academic record, including high school GPA, class rank, and standardized test scores. Funds come from the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts.
For non-traditional students in Massachusetts who have put their college career on hold for life, work and family obligations, adult education programs can come in handy as you prepare to enroll in school. Adult education fills in skills gaps and helps aspiring college take the first steps towards earning an online college degree.
More than 35 percent of all students participating in adult education classes in Massachusetts saw an increase in their measurable skills. U.S. Department of Education, 2017
Some helpful adult education programs for Massachusetts students preparing to earn a college degree:
Basic Education Programs For students who could use a refresh on basic math, writing and reading skills before entering or re-entering a college classroom.
English for Speakers of Other Languages Skill-based English language classes are available for non-native speakers to prepare to take college lessons in English.
Age 55+ Classroom Skills Seniors looking to go back and earn their college degree may consider brushing up on college experience with age 55 and over enrichment classes.
College and Career Planning Services From skill assessment testing to college advising and career matching, many adult education branches offer this service.
The Massachusetts Department of Education provides a directory of ESOL and Basic Education programs for students looking for local class providers.