- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2015-16, National Center for Education Statistics, accessed March 2, 2016, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2014-15, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, accessed March 2, 2016, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
- School pages accessed May 25, 2017: About MMA, Massachusetts Maritime Academy, https://www.maritime.edu/about-mma; Degrees and Certificates, University of Massachusetts Online, http://www.umassonline.net/programs/bachelors-degree-programs; 175 Facts for 175 Years, Westfield State University, http://www.westfield.ma.edu/about/175-facts-for-175-years; About FSU, Framingham State University, https://framingham.edu/about-fsu/; Part-Time Graduate and Undergraduate Programs, University of Massachusetts Lowell, https://continuinged.uml.edu/degrees-certificates.cfm; About, Worcester State University, http://www.worcester.edu/About/; Tuition Reduction Programs, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, http://mcla.edu/Admissions/financial-aid-and-cost/nebhe/index; Career Services, Salem State University, https://www.salemstate.edu/careers;
- Take a Course, College of Continuing Studies, Bridgewater State University, accessed July 12, 2017, http://www.bridgew.edu/ccs/take-a-course
- Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, accessed May 15, 2017: About the Public Higher Education System, http://www.mass.edu/system/aboutsystem.asp; About MassTransfer, http://www.mass.edu/masstransfer/about/home.asp; Campus Directory, http://www.mass.edu/system/campusdirectory.asp;
- Office of Student Financial Assistance, Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, accessed May 15, 2017, http://www.mass.edu/osfa/home/home.asp
- Scholarship directory data is copyrighted material which is reproduced on this website by permission of Wintergreen Orchard House, a division of Carnegie Communications. Copyright © 2017-18 by Wintergreen Orchard House. All rights reserved.
We wanted to help Massachusetts students get the best education for their money and sort through the dozens of colleges and universities in the state. So, in addition to highlighting the state's most popular degree programs and digging into state-related scholarship information, we did some statistical analysis of each four-year school and ranked the top ten in the state.
For community college students looking to transfer to a four-year traditional or online school, be sure look into MassTransfer, a statewide initiative designed to make that transfer simple and seamless. There may even be additional financial incentives available at the state level for MassTransfer students. Check with your advisor for details.
We included independent four-year schools in our analysis as well as those in the Massachusetts System of Public Higher Education. In the case of large universities with one main campus and several satellite locations, we treated each campus as a separate school.
Best 4-Year Colleges in Massachusetts
Our specially crafted analytical system uses data from the U.S. Department of Education to score each institution on metrics such as affordability, flexibility and student success.
The landmark public research university in central Massachusetts offered the third-largest catalog of academic programs in the Bay State in 2015-16 and recorded a streak of other top-tier finishes on our metrics. Only one school in our top ten recorded a higher graduation rate than UMass Amherst, and its retention rate of first-year students came in at No. 3 among institutions that made our top ten.
Students seeking an online bachelor's degree program in Massachusetts had a wide range of options here, in popular subjects like business and psychology as well as less common online degree tracks like arts management and social justice. The array of distance education degrees available at the Amherst school was the third-largest in the state, and more than 24 percent of the student body was reported as taking at least some of their coursework online.
Just about everyone in the country knows the name of this prestigious private institution in Cambridge, and the numbers show that it generally lives up to the hype. Harvard University recorded the No. 1 graduation rate in Massachusetts and nationwide in 2016, and its retention rate ranked No. 4 in the state and in the 98th percentile nationally.
Harvard offered the state's No. 2 academic catalog in terms of variety, and its slate of online degree programs was second-largest among schools on our list. It also covered the state's highest proportion of tuition with institutional grant aid. The high raw cost of attendance and limited measures of on-campus flexibility were likely all that kept this Ivy League stalwart from fully dominating the rankings.
Distance education enrollment numbers show that Fitchburg State University is one of the best online colleges for Massachusetts students, taking the No. 4 spot statewide for its percentage of learners enrolled in at least some online courses.
It ranked No. 8 in the state for the raw affordability of its tuition and fees, as well, and took the No. 1 spot on a more precise measure of college cost - average net price.Average net price is a cost measure that's calculated by subtracting the expected amount of institutional grant and scholarship aid from the average estimated expense of tuition, fees, room and board, books, supplies and other necessities. Students at FSU paid the lowest average net price in the state in 2015-16, and just three other schools on our list reported a lower out-of-pocket cost for students in lower income brackets.
This member of the Massachusetts State System of Public Higher Education has been educating students in Westfield for more than 170 years. Tuition and fees at this old-guard state school ranked No. 2 statewide for affordability, and the average net price for middle- and low-income students came in at No. 4 and No. 5, respectively, among schools on our list.
That focus on affordability may be a big part of the reason that Westfield State University graduates reported leaving school with a manageable median amount of student debt. Only three other schools on our list saw their alumni leave school with less debt on average. The graduation rate was also substantial at this southeastern Massachusetts institution — only three schools on our list ranked higher in 2015-16.
Framingham State University is a medium-sized institution situated less than an hour west-by-southwest of Boston, and students from the metropolis and surrounding area can earn an education here without breaking the bank. FSU ranked No. 2 in the state for its affordable average cost of tuition and fees, and just one other school on our list reported a lower cost of books and supplies than the Framingham school.
The university also has a number of campus-based programs in place that show a commitment to student access. Remedial services are available for returning students who have spent a period of time away from the higher learning environment, and incoming students may be able to earn course credit for life experience that applies to their degree program.
This University of Massachusetts campus in the northeastern part of the state has a robust selection of on-campus degree programs, coming in behind just two other schools on our list in that category, and the academic variety doesn't stop there. The NCES reports that 50 degree plans are available to online students — a total that landed it the No. 1 spot in the state for the depth of its distance education catalog.
Online enrollment was also high at UMass Lowell in 2015, according to the latest NCES data. The 28 percent of students taking at least some of their courses in the virtual classroom was a higher proportion than all but two other schools in our top ten. Hybrid programs where students take courses online and in a traditional classroom are also common here.
Worcester State University, founded in 1874, is a member of the Massachusetts System of Public Higher Education. That state-supported status allows them to take a fair portion of the cost burden of a college education off of the shoulders of the individual students, and the NCES numbers demonstrates the advantages of such an initiative.
WSU ranked No. 3 in the state for the manageable raw cost of its tuition and fees, and the average net price paid by middle-income students at the Worcester school was lower than all other institutions in the state but one. On top of that, graduates of WSU held a median student debt burden of less than $20,000. Just one other school on our list reported a lower average debt load for recent alumni.
The smallest school on our list comes in at No. 8. Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, a public college in the state's far northwestern corner, near the borders with Vermont and New York, offers a surprisingly affordable education for a small liberal arts school. It took the statewide No. 6 spot for its raw affordability of tuition and fees, and its average net price for middle-income students came in at No. 3 among all Massachusetts schools.
Thanks in part to its position near a multi-state border, MCLA offers breaks on tuition for out-of-state students. Residents of New York and southern Vermont can get an 85 percent reduction in their non-resident tuition on any degree plan offered by the college, while subject-restricted discounts apply to residents of Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, northern Vermont and Maine.
Another member of the Massachusetts System of Public Higher Education comes in at No. 9, thanks to a sizeable academic catalog that ranked ninth in the state and an average net price that landed at No. 7 statewide for middle-income students. Salem State University also provided an array of on-campus services to help its students succeed throughout college and beyond.
The career services office at Salem State takes its student guidance role very seriously, aiming to connect with students during their first few days on campus and working to stay active and available to them well into their time as alumni. Students can get help with career exploration, résumé building, locating internships and more. The most-popular major at the school was nursing, with more bachelor's degrees awarded in that field in 2015 than in any other.
Students at Bridgewater State University paid the state's fourth-lowest raw cost of tuition and fees in 2015-16, and the points of pride in terms of affordability don't stop there. The average net price for middle-income students at the Bridgewater school ranked No. 5 in the state, and its average estimated cost of books and supplies per student was the lowest of any school on our list.
The College of Continuing Studies at BSU offers undergraduates more than 500 courses available either online or on campus outside of normal classroom hours. Nearly 25 percent of enrolled students took at least some of their credit courses in the online environment in 2015, good for the No. 5 spot among schools on our list in that category.
Most Popular Degree Programs in Massachusetts
If you don't yet know what you want to study in college, a list of the top majors in your state may help stimulate the decision-making process. Here's a rundown of the degrees most often pursued by Massachusetts students.
In-Demand Careers in Massachusetts
Having an idea about the job market for Massachusetts graduates can help you direct your education toward a degree plan that takes some of the pain out of the post-college job search. Here are the hottest career fields of the moment, according to employment projections.
|Career Title||Projected Job Growth||Total Employment||Annual Salary|
|Home Health Aides||37.5%||27,020||$29,200|
|Interpreters and Translators||31.8%||1,830||$58,690|
|Operations Research Analysts||29.3%||4,590||$82,170|
|Physical Therapist Assistants||29.3%||2,420||$60,210|
|Physical Therapist Aides||29.3%||1,110||$30,720|
|Ambulance Drivers and Attendants, Except Emergency Medical Technicians||28.7%||640||$32,210|
|Computer and Information Research Scientists||26.4%||1,180||$125,870|
|Diagnostic Medical Sonographers||25.1%||1,940||$81,050|
|Personal Care Aides||24.7%||42,190||$28,260|
|Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians||24.1%||1,600||$76,020|
|Occupational Therapy Assistants||23.4%||1,270||$56,130|
|Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics||22.2%||6,220||$39,660|
|Law Teachers, Postsecondary||21.2%||1,090||$141,050|
|Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Teachers, Postsecondary||20.9%||460||$69,490|
|Health Technologists and Technicians, All Other||20.9%||1,790||$56,920|
|Marriage and Family Therapists||19.7%||330||$50,890|
|Industrial Machinery Mechanics||19.6%||3,620||$55,440|
|Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors||19.5%||5,010||$45,520|
|Nursing Instructors and Teachers, Postsecondary||19.5%||1,360||$88,240|
|Psychologists, All Other||19.2%||900||$80,230|
Financial Aid and Scholarships in Massachusetts
Students in Massachusetts should check out some of the state-based grant and scholarship programs. MASSGrant is a need-based aid program with an award amount that varies based on each student's expected family contribution (EFC) to their tuition. Also, The John and Abigail Adams Scholarship awards a full tuition waiver to qualifying students who score highly on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) test.
Renewable annually if recipient meets academic requirements.
Renewable if recipient maintains a minimum 3.6 GPA.
- Massachusetts Department of Higher Education
- Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority
- Gaining Early Awareness & Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP)
- U.Fund College Investing Plan
- Office of Student Financial Assistance