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Online Colleges in Massachusetts

Most Affordable Online Colleges
School Interviews
Lisa Panagopoulos
- Assistant Director of Faculty Development for Online Learning at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, Division of Online and Continuing Education
"UMass Lowell's online program has received multiple international honors for quality, course development and teaching and annually attracts more than 20,000 enrollments in fully online and blended (combining web and classroom instruction) courses, certificate programs and degrees."
See entire interview

Introduction

In 2012, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University teamed up to create edX, making educational courses from some of the most prestigious universities in the world available to the public for free through the use of massive open online courses (MOOCs). The first MOOC from edX was MIT's 6.002x, the free version of its introduction to circuits and electronics course. Over 155,000 people registered for the course, interacting with the online program over 230 million times. Now, researchers from MIT and Harvard are teaming up to better understand these online students. Using data from user clickstreams and forum comments, as well as lab, homework and exam results, researchers hope to learn what motivates these students to follow through with their online studies, in addition to what hinders them from completion.

Experts predict that more jobs in Massachusetts will require candidates to have a college education in the future, as much as 68 percent by 2018. In fact, many positions at the state's biggest employers already require a college degree for entry-level jobs or advancement. This includes positions at healthcare giants Massachusetts General Hospital, Steward Health Care System, Brigham and Women's Hospital and UMass Memorial Health Care; higher education institutions Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and retail group Stop & Shop Supermarket, LLC.

More than 6.5 million people live in Massachusetts, and about 4.5 million of them are 25 years old or older. Of that age group, nearly 17 percent have a graduate or professional degree - an enviable level for many other states. Also 22 percent of the residents of Massachusetts in this age group have earned a Bachelor's degree and 23 percent have at least some college or an Associate's degree.

For a small New England state, Massachusetts has a lot of workers - approximately 3.2 million. These workers earn an average of $27.12 an hour, for an average annual wage of $56,410. Those workers who are looking to complete their college degree or go to college for the first time in pursuit of a Bachelor's degree can choose from 89 different public and private institutions offering a four-year degree.

Most Affordable Colleges in Massachusetts

The following list ranks the 10 schools in Massachusetts that offer online degrees at the lowest tuition costs. This ranking is based on a number of factors that are important to prospective students such as the actual degree programs that are taught online, and information on tuition fees, accreditation and notable alumni. Tuition figures are sourced from the National Center for Education Statistics (2013-2014) and reflect in-state tuition (when in-state tuition is available) for all students, including online students. See our Methodology section for more details on the ranking methodology.

1

Framingham State University

Tuition/Year
$8,080
Graduation Rate
51%
# of Online Degrees
5
Accredited
 
School Type
4-Year

About

Framingham State prides itself on ensuring that its online and hybrid courses are academically as rigorous as the face-to-face versions of the courses. In addition to its Bachelor's degree in Liberal Studies, it offers fully online Master's degrees in Education, with a concentration in curriculum and instructional technology; Instructional Technology; Nutrition; and Elementary Education.
School Website: 
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2

Salem State University

Tuition/Year
$8,130
Graduation Rate
46%
# of Online Degrees
3
Accredited
 
School Type
4-Year

About

Salem State University offers two fully online undergraduate degrees - in Fire Science Administration and Intercultural Communications - and one graduate degree program in Library Media Studies.
School Website: 
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3

Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

Tuition/Year
$8,525
Graduation Rate
57%
# of Online Degrees
2
Accredited
 
School Type
4-Year

About

Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts will soon be expanding its online offerings, and these classes will be taught in a "cohort style," in which groups of students proceed through their classes together. In addition to online, these degree-completion courses are offered in the evening and during weekends to accommodate people with jobs and families that make it difficult for them to travel to campus. The school's two Bachelor's degree programs include Early Childhood Education and Business Administration.
School Website: 
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4

Westfield State University

Tuition/Year
$8,694
Graduation Rate
49%
# of Online Degrees
6
Accredited
 
School Type
4-Year

About

Westfield State University, founded in 1838, was the first co-educational college in America to offer an education without barrier to race, creed or economic status. It continues to find ways to bring in students who previously were excluded from studies on college campuses by offering six undergraduate degree programs fully online. These degrees include Business; Sociology; History; Liberal Studies; Criminal Justice; and Psychology.
School Website: 
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5

Fitchburg State University

Tuition/Year
$8,985
Graduation Rate
50%
# of Online Degrees
11
Accredited
 
School Type
4-Year

About

Fitchburg State University leads the way in Massachusetts with the most affordable online degree programs in a state that's rich in colleges. Fitchburg's Master's degree programs include Business Administration, with concentrations in either management or human resources; Forensic Nursing; and Special Education, with six different concentrations. Its undergraduate programs include Nursing and Business Administration.
School Website: 
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6

New England College of Business

Tuition/Year
$9,235
Graduation Rate
100%
# of Online Degrees
9
Accredited
 
School Type
4-Year

About

The New England College of Business claims to have repackaged its 100 years of teaching into a fully online degree-earning format. Its Associate degree is in Business Administration, and its Bachelor's degrees online are offered in Business Administration; Digital Marketing; and International Business. Its online graduate degrees include Business Administration; Human Resource Management; Finance; Healthcare Management; and Business Ethics and Compliance.
School Website: 
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7

University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth

Tuition/Year
$11,681
Graduation Rate
49%
# of Online Degrees
8
Accredited
 
School Type
4-Year

About

UMass-Dartmouth's Bachelor's degree in Liberal Arts allows students to choose two of six different concentrations. It also offers Bachelor's degrees online in Political Science; Business Administration; Nursing; and Women's and Gender Studies. Its Master's degrees include Business Administration; Computer Science; and Public Policy.
School Website: 
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8

University of Massachusetts - Boston

Tuition/Year
$11,966
Graduation Rate
44%
# of Online Degrees
16
Accredited
 
School Type
4-Year

About

UMass Boston, in addition to Bachelor's degrees in Global Affairs and Nursing, offers 13 graduate degree programs in the following areas: Applied Linguistics; Critical and Creative Thinking; Science in a Changing World; Instructional Design; Learning, Teaching and Educational Transformation; School Counseling; Orientation and Mobility; Teaching Students with Visual Impairments; Vision Rehabilitation Therapy; Family Therapy; Gerontology; Mental Health Counseling; and Rehabilitation Counseling.
School Website: 
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9

University of Massachusetts - Lowell

Tuition/Year
$12,097
Graduation Rate
54%
# of Online Degrees
24
Accredited
 
School Type
4-Year

About

UMass-Lowell, like its big sister in Amherst, offers a variety of degree programs that blend face-to-face learning with online learning. Administrators there call it the "best of both worlds." Still, UMass-Lowell still offers fully online Bachelor's degree programs in English; Nursing; Information Technology; Criminal Justice, including an option with a paralegal concentration; Liberal Arts; Psychology; and Business Administration. Its Master's degree programs online include Information Technology; Business Administration; Accounting; Criminal Justice; Security Studies, with concentrations in Cyber Security and Homeland Defense; Health Informatics and Management; Educational Administration; Reading and Language; Curriculum and Instruction, with concentrations in science education and autism studies; and Education of Diverse Populations.
School Website: 
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10

University of Massachusetts - Amherst

Tuition/Year
$13,443
Graduation Rate
73%
# of Online Degrees
68
Accredited
 
School Type
4-Year

About

UMass-Amherst is the flagship campus for the University of Massachusetts campus, and that is reflected in the school's offerings in online degrees. UMass-Amherst offers 32 Bachelor's degrees online and 33 graduate degrees. In addition, if offers one Associate degree and two doctoral degrees entirely online. Although it has made a strong commitment to online learning, UMass-Amherst has also started blending these online courses with face-to-face sessions based at many of the university systems various campuses around the state.
School Website: 
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School Interviews

Lisa Panagopoulos

Lisa Panagopoulos, Assistant Director of Faculty Development for Online Learning at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, Division of Online and Continuing Education

Q. Can you tell us a little about the online programs offered at the University of Massachusetts Lowell?

UMass Lowell's online program has received multiple international honors for quality, course development and teaching and annually attracts more than 20,000 enrollments in fully online and blended (combining web and classroom instruction) courses, certificate programs and degrees. Our online degrees include bachelor's, master's and doctoral programs in a wide range of academic disciplines. Offered through the university's Division of Online and Continuing Education (OCE), the courses use the Blackboard Learning Management System (LMS). In a typical semester, more than 400 fully online and more than 700 web-enhanced courses are taught by highly skilled faculty members, and all of those courses are ADA and FERPA compliant.

Q. What advice would you give students interested in an online degree program?

Anyone considering an online degree program should not be intimidated. At UMass Lowell, our online degree programs are overseen by the same academic departments as those that are offered on campus. Each of our online courses contains the personality of the instructor as reflected in lecture content and regular interaction with students. UMass Lowell's online students are from all around the country and the world, making for very rich, diverse and highly interactive courses with a significant amount of information-sharing and other interaction that enriches the learning experience. We have structured programs with convenience in mind, especially for working adults with busy schedules and anyone else who would find attending classes in person difficult. UMass Lowell also offers specially designed academic advising, tutoring and other support for our online students. They even have their own honor society. It really is the best of both worlds.

Q. How do you anticipate online learning might evolve in the coming years?

UMass Lowell was one of the first universities to offer online courses when the program was launched nearly 20 years ago. Over that time, UMass Lowell's online program has continued to be a leader in the field because of its commitment to keeping the program current and we believe that the same approach will be needed in the years to come. That means continuing to ensure that courses and programs keep pace with the needs of students, that instructors are trained and supported in the online environment and that we continue to develop and follow the latest in best practices for online teaching and learning. Although online learning has been available for two decades, it is still in its infancy. As technology becomes more affordable and accessible, online instructional resources further develop and the ease and availability of rich media and social media increases, online education will continue to evolve and grow in the coming years.


Karen Rhoda, Ph.D., Executive Director University Extension at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

Q. Can you tell us a little about the online programs offered at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth?

The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth offers five online undergraduate, three online graduate degrees and seven online certificate programs. Online programs at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth are accredited following the same admissions requirements, program objectives, course competencies and student learning outcomes as our on-campus programs. Students enrolled in online programs receive personalized advising in their program and the resources essential to support the success of online learners such as online tutoring, a writing center and dedicated library staff ready to assist with student research needs. Online students also enjoy the advantage of an online orientation, small class sizes, networking with top league faculty who are recognized experts in their field and interacting with fellow students from various regions of the nation and around the world. Online courses are asynchronous meaning that students do not need to log on at the same time allowing for the flexibility and convenience needed by students with real-life responsibilities.

Q. What advice would you give to students interested in an online degree program?

Today's students should look for universities that provide the online program suited to their educational and career goals. Very importantly, students need to look for programs structured to provide services that specifically assist online students wishing to begin or return to college or earn a graduate degree. Savvy prospective online students understand that earning a degree requires a commitment of time and effort, and need to know that an institution's program and support services will ensure the quality of their student experience and provide a degree that is valued in the work arena. Many of today's online students are adult students who seek to earn the degree they've always wanted. They need to know that their counterparts are the fastest growing segment in higher education.

Q. How do you anticipate online learning might evolve in the coming years?

Online learning will utilize more technology over the next several years in order to bring more ways to adapt to students' learning styles to the virtual classroom. More people will be earning the degree they've been wanting by enrolling in online programs. Online degrees will bring the competitive advantage to more citizens needed for today's careers. The leaders in online education will continue to seek more nimble connection to the needs of the 21st century global economy and its work arena.

Top Cities For Students In Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts

Mean Wage

$59,080

Average Cost of a House

NA

# of Employed People

500,000

Total Population

500,000

Avg Salary with a Bachelor's Degree

$57,875

Economics

The Boston metro area, which includes Quincy and Cambridge, is home to more than 2.5 million workers. These workers earn an average hourly wage of $28.40 and an average annual wage of $59,080.

Demographics

With 70 percent of the state's population, the Boston metro area is an economic force to be reckoned with in the Bay State. Boston provides nearly 80 percent of the state's entire workforce. They are a well-educated bunch. In the city of Boston proper, one in five residents has a graduate or professional degree -- nearly as many as the 23 percent who have a Bachelor's. In fact, there are more residents with a four-year undergraduate degree than there are with either an Associate's degree or some college credit to their name.

Fun Facts

Boston is rich in culture and history, making it a busy tourist destination. People enjoy visiting the Old North Church, Fannueil Hall Market Place, Harvard and Cambridge, and the Paul Revere House. History buffs enjoy the 2.5-mile Freedom Trail, which visits 16 historical sites pertaining to the Revolutionary War.

Worcester, Massachusetts

Mean Wage

$50,970

Average Cost of a House

NA

# of Employed People

245,320

Total Population

180,000

Avg Salary with a Bachelor's Degree

$55,869

Economics

Worcester is a town of just over 180,000 residents, but the metropolitan area surrounding it is much larger. There are 245,320 workers in this metro area, and they earn an average hourly wage of $24.51, for an annual average salary of $50,970.

Demographics

Worcester provides 7 percent of Massachusetts' total workforce. Of the 115,037 residents who are older than 25, 11 percent have a graduate or professional degree, and 18 percent have a Bachelor's. One in four residents of Worcester have attended college without earning a diploma or have an Associate's degree.

Fun Facts

Worcester is the busy heart of central Massachusetts and offers big city excitement as well as scenic rural vistas. There are many lakes and reservoirs in the area, many with long Native American names that are difficult to pronounce, and Old Sturbridge Village provides an authentic look at Colonial Massachusetts.

Springfield, Massachusetts

Mean Wage

$47,220

Average Cost of a House

NA

# of Employed People

290,000

Total Population

153,060

Avg Salary with a Bachelor's Degree

$47,599

Economics

Springfield, located in western Massachusetts just over the Connecticut state line, is a town of 153,060 residents, but its metropolitan area is home to nearly 290,000 workers. They earn, on average, $22.70 an hour and $47,220 a year

Demographics

Springfield provides nearly 10 percent of state's workforce, but the education level pales in comparison to the Boston or Worcester area. Among the 90,000 Springfield residents who are 25 and older, 6 percent have a graduate or professional degree, 10 percent have a Bachelor's degree and 26 percent have either an Associate's degree or attended college without earning a degree.

Fun Facts

The Basketball Hall of Fame is housed in Springfield, but that's just one of the many attractions in the area. The Springfield Museums is a complex of five different museums, and includes the famous Dr. Seuss Sculpture Garden honoring the birthplace of the famous author. The Eastern States Exposition takes place every fall, and more than 2 million people a year travel here to visit the Yankee Candle Company in nearby Deerfield.

 
Other Massachusetts Resources

  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ma.htm
  2. College Navigator, http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?s=MA&l=93
  3. Fitchburg State University, http://www.fitchburgstate.edu/academics/online-learning/
  4. Framingham State University, http://www.framingham.edu/online-learning/online-degree-and-certificate-programs/
  5. Fun things to do in Boston, http://content.time.com/time/travel/cityguide/article/0,31489,1984920_1984917_1984695,00.html
  6. Karen Rhoda interview with the author June 2015
  7. Lisa Panagopoulos interview with the author June 2015
  8. Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, http://www.mcla.edu/Academics/continiung-education/degreecompletionprograms/index
  9. Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts Notable Alumni, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massachusetts_College_of_Liberal_Arts#Notable_alumni
  10. New England College of Business, http://www.necb.edu/online-graduate-programs.cfm
  11. New England College of Business Notable Alumni, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_New_England_University#Notable_alumni
  12. Notable Alumni University of Massachusetts Amherst, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_University_of_Massachusetts_Amherst_alumni
  13. Notable Alumni University of Massachusets Dartmouth, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University_of_Massachusetts_Dartmouth#Alumni
  14. Notable Alumni Framingham State University, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Framingham_State_University#Notable_alumni
  15. Notable Alumni Fitchburg State University, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fitchburg_State_University#Notable_alumni
  16. Salem State University, http://www.salemstate.edu/academics/2788.php
  17. Salem State University Notable Alumni, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salem_State_University#Notable_alumni
  18. Things to do in Central Massachusetts, http://www.massvacation.com/regions-towns/central-massachusetts/
  19. U.S. Census Bureau: American Factfinder, http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?src=CF
  20. University of Massachusetts Amherst, http://www.umassonline.net/programs/online-format
  21. University of Massachusetts Boston, http://www.umb.edu/academics/caps/online
  22. University of Massachusetts Boston Notable Alumni, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University_of_Massachusetts_Boston#Notable_alumni
  23. University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, http://www.umassd.edu/extension/programs/online/undergraduateprograms/
  24. University of Massachusetts Lowell, http://continuinged.uml.edu/degrees/Undergraduate.htm
  25. Westfield State University, http://www.westfield.ma.edu/plato/?page_id=17
  26. Westfield State University Notable Alumni, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westfield_State_University#Notable_alumni