Updated: August 1, 2017
Several decades ago, famous horror writer Stephen King got his start in this state’s educational system. In addition to providing 10% of the country’s blueberries and 50% of its lobsters, Maine is a granter of many types of college and graduate degrees.
For those who don’t have the opportunity to study on campuses set in edgy towns and wild forests, online programs are an excellent option. Some students may be drawn to the state’s specializations in forestry and maritime fields, while others are eager to pursue affordable options related to healthcare education. Regardless, both public and private institutions in Maine are well worth exploring during the hunt for the perfect distance learning degree.
What are the best online colleges in Maine?
To answer this question, a variety of factors are reviewed, including institutional excellence, student satisfaction, and return on investment. Institutional excellence is scored according to reputation, test scores, student-to-faculty ratio, total endowment, and graduation rate. Student satisfaction comes from a variety of student and alumni reviews published online and in-print. Return on investment is a measure of student success, based on graduating debt, alumni salaries, financial aid availability, and tuition costs. In an effort to be comprehensive, information for these rankings is pulled from sources such as the National Center for Education Statistics’ IPEDS database, Payscale, individual college websites, and US News & World Report.
University of New England
College Choice Score: 100
Average Net Price: $32,175
With campuses in Portland, Biddleford, and Tangier, Morocco, the University of New England is a private institution, ranked in the top 15% of four-year colleges in the country by The Princeton Review. Founded in 1831 as a seminary, today, UNE is one of the largest schools in Maine with over 12,000 students. The university is also home to the state’s only medical and dental schools, in addition to offering over 70 undergraduate and graduate programs.
UNE is known mostly for training healthcare professionals and environmental scientists, and these specialties are reflected in its online degree offerings. Distance learners can complete a wide variety of science prerequisite courses that they may need for applying to other graduate programs, including anatomy, microbiology, medical terminology, and physics. In terms of full degree programs, mostly graduate studies can be completed entirely online. These include:
- M.S. in Applied Nutrition
- M.S. in Education (General)
- M.S. in Health Informatics
- Ed.D. in Educational Leadership (Doctor of Education)
- MPH (Master of Public Health)
- MSW (Master of Social Work)
- B.S. in Health Informatics
The University of New England is the largest trainer of healthcare professionals in Maine and is estimated to produce a $1 billion economic impact for the state. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation recently selected the school as one of its pilots for testing competency-based higher education programs, which strive to better prepare graduates for the workplace. Other perks of UNE include its spot on Online Schools Center’s list of “30 Amazing Colleges at the Beach.
University of Maine
College Choice Score: 96.85
Average Net Price: $15,958
The only land-grant college in the U.S. located on an island, the University of Maine is also the state’s only research university. It was established in 1865 as a consequence of legislation signed by Abraham Lincoln. In 2016, about 12,000 students were in attendance at the 660-acre campus in the small town of Orono. While UMaine once specialized in agriculture, the school now offers 90 undergraduate majors across five colleges, as well as a variety of unique graduate degrees.
UM’s online college is extensive, offering over 500 courses per year. With the slogan “Be a black bear from anywhere,” the university promises to deliver the same life-changing degrees via distance learning that students receive on campus. Certain programs, like the bachelor’s degree in university studies, are very customizable to support goals like promoting career advancing, preparing for graduate studies, or exploring personal interests. The list of degrees offered includes:
- Ph.D. in Biomedical Science
- Master of Business Administration
- M.Ed. in Elementary and Secondary Education
- M.Ed. in Special Education
- M.S. in Information Systems
- M.S. in Spatial Informatics
- B.A. in Political Science
As a public university, the University of Michigan is cheaper for in-state students at about $349 per credit hour versus $523 for out-of-state. To help students graduate efficiently and with minimal debt, the school encourages distance learners to “think 30” in terms of their goal for credits completed each year. According to the website, debt load increases by 38% when graduates finish in five years rather than four.
Maine Maritime Academy
College Choice Score: 92.27
Average Net Price: $21,070
Founded shortly before the U.S. entered World War II, Maine Maritime Academy is a state college and one of six nautical training institutions in the country. With just under 1,000 students, it ranked #31 on Money Magazine’s list of best public schools in the country in 2015. Available undergraduate majors are all related to maritime and science fields, and a small number of graduate programs are offered in specialties like global supply chain management. There is no requirement for students to serve in the military after graduation.
Maine Maritime Academy is self-described as “a college of engineering, management, science, and transportation,” and its distance learning options are no exception. While hands-on training is an integral part of the school’s curriculum, fully online master’s degrees are available for professionals to advance their career paths. Taught by faculty with real-world industry experience, these include:
- M.S. in International Logistics Management
- Master & Commander in Maritime Management
As is the case with MMA’s undergraduate programs, graduate students in the maritime management program are required to participate in an intensive summer co-op. Graduates of MMA’s online degrees often go on to solve complex problems in fields like energy and transportation, working for companies like Amazon, Exxon-Mobil, Boeing, and Carnival Cruise Lines.
College Choice Score: 85.36
Average Net Price: $18,474
Husson University was established in 1898 in Bangor as the Shaw School of Business. It began granting undergraduate degrees in the mid-twentieth century, finally earning its status as a university in 2008. Husson has been growing rapidly over the past couple of decades, with the freshman class growing 5-10% every year since 2000. Now enrolling around 3,500 students, the private university has colleges in business, health and education, science and humanities, and communications, as well as a pharmacy and business school.
Online programs offered by Husson are mostly in business and healthcare fields. The school boasts a generous policy when it comes to transferring credits: up to 90 hours may count toward a degree. The university’s website highlights that programs allow for specialization not always available to distance learners, especially within the business school. The degrees offered are:
- Master of Business Administration in Organizational Management
- Master of Business Administration in Healthcare Management
- Master of Business Administration in Biotechnology and Innovation
- B.S. in Integrated Technology
- B.S.B.A. in Management
- B.S.B.A. in Marketing
- B.S. in Business Administration
Satellite campuses in Westbrook and Presque Isle make the university’s geographic footprint the largest of any school in the state. Husson’s tuition is relatively affordable for a private school, and students taking online courses pay the same price as those on campus for most programs. It is worth noting that admitted graduate students may be required to take a “leveling” course prior to matriculation if they do not have education or experience in business.
Saint Joseph's College of Maine
College Choice Score: 83.41
Average Net Price: $26,543
The only Catholic college in the state, Saint Joseph’s was a women’s college until 1970. Today, the campus just outside of Portland has an enrollment of around 1,000, with another 2,400 studying online. While only undergraduate degrees can be earned on campus, Saint Joseph also offers graduate degrees online. The most common majors include biology, education, business, nursing, and sports management.
Saint Joseph’s has had a distance learning program for working adults since 1976, and today serves online students in all 50 states and some foreign countries. Undergraduate and graduate degrees can be completed fully online, but it is worth noting that the college’s new general education requirements for bachelor’s programs may be more extensive than other schools’. Over 30 programs are offered, including:
- Master of Business Administration in Leadership
- Master of Business Administration in Social Entrepreneurship
- M.A. in Theology (Pastoral Theology)
- M.A. in Theology (Sacred Theology
- M.S. in Nursing
- M.S. in Education
- B.A. in Health Administration
- B.A. in Business Administration (Accounting)
- B.A. in Business Administration (Banking)
Saint Joseph’s is known for its charitable community presence, having received awards like the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll and the Community Engagement Classification from the Carnegie Foundation. The school also is a member of the International Student Exchange Program, which facilitates exchanges between institutions in 37 countries. Additionally, Saint Joseph’s provides regular opportunities to participate in international service trips.
University of Southern Maine
College Choice Score: 80.19
Average Net Price: $16,238
With three main campuses in Portland, Gorham, and Lewiston and a strong online presence, the University of Southern Maine has just under 8,000 students. USM is a central part of the southern part of the state’s economic and cultural growth and has also been ranked in The Princeton Review’s list of best colleges in the northeast. While the university offers undergraduate programs in over 100 fields and many graduate degrees, it faced prominent controversy in 2014 when administrators decided to cut several departments and fire 50 faculty members.
USM’s online degree offerings are extensive, designed for students who want to gain entirely new knowledge or those who want to finish a program. Several of these options are through the School of Business, which boasts an AACSB accreditation, held by only 5% of business schools in the world. Most program faculty teach on-campus as well as online. With options at the graduate and undergraduate level, some of the USM distance learning programs are:
- M.S. in Adult and Higher Education
- M.S. in Leadership Studies
- M.Ed. in Instructional Technology
- B.A. in Communication
- B.S. in Leadership and Organizational Studies
- B.A. in Social and Behavioral Sciences
The cost for Maine residents enrolled in USM’s online programs is less than tuitions for out-of-state students. The university also offers off-campus courses in Saco, Bath, and Sanford via interactive television technology. Over the past few decades, many graduates have gone on to serve in local and state government.
University of Maine at Fort Kent
College Choice Score: 78.13
Average Net Price: $13,037
Located just south of the Canadian border, the University of Maine at Fort Kent’s proximity to Quebec has made it a center of French American culture. With around 1,500 students, the school teaches undergrads in both English and French, offering degrees in fields like environmental studies and information security. The 4,000-person town of Fort Kent has a few interesting claims to fame, including being home to an annual CAN-AM dogsled race.
UMFK is a member of the American Distance Education Consortium, a non-profit group of public schools that works to provide high-quality and affordable programs to diverse populations. The school offers both associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in some unique fields like rural public safety administration. Fully online degree programs offered include:
- B.S. in Healthcare Administration
- RN to BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing)
- B.S. in Cybersecurity
- B.A.B.S. in Allied Health
- A.A. in Emergency Management/Homeland Security
- A.A. in Health Information Technology
Perhaps surprisingly for a school of its size, UMFK is also a powerhouse in soccer. In 2010 and 2015, the men’s varsity team won the United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA) tournaments. Some alumni have gone on to play professionally, including Matt Dunn of New York City FC and Kimika Forbes of the Trinidad &Tobago women’s national team.
University of Maine at Augusta
College Choice Score: 75.19
Average Net Price: $8,837
Founded in 1965, the University of Maine at Augusta is comprised of a college of arts and sciences and a college of professional studies. About 6,000 students attend the school with the motto “Declare your future.” For the past five years, U.S. News and World Report has included UMA in its list of “Best Online Bachelor’s Programs.”
UMA offers a combination of fully online programs and some that are blended with in-person or video-conferenced coursework. Students are both recent high school grads and returning adults, seeking degrees in subjects like information technology and mental health. The university is also known for offering an entirely online undergraduate degree in library science, accredited with the ALA Library Support Staff Certification. The list of available distance learning programs includes:
- B.S. in Computer Information Systems
- B.S. in Cybersecurity
- B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies
- B.A. in Public Administration
- A.A. in Justice Studies
- A.A. in Music: Contemporary and Popular
Some of UMA’s online degrees may require participation in an internship. The university’s website encourages out-of-state students to research their state’s policies before committing to one of these programs, since some may not allow individuals enrolled in an out-of-state program to participate in local internships.
University of Maine at Machias
College Choice Score: 70.39
Average Net Price: $9,230
Located in a town of just over 2,000 that was also the site of the first naval battle during the American Revolution, the University of Maine at Machias enrolls about 1,200 students. Since 2016, the school has had a partnership with the University of Maine at Orono, including sharing administrators. U.S. News and World Report has included UMM in its list of top public comprehensive colleges in the north region for the past several years.
UMM online degrees provide students with the opportunity to customize their tracks and concentrations. Distance learning courses are offered during fall, winter, spring, and summer terms in an effort to be as flexible as possible. Internship requirements and field work can typically be completed in the student’s hometown. Available program options are:
- B.A. in Psychology and Community Studies
- B.S. in Business and Entrepreneurial Studies in Accounting
- B.S. in Business and Entrepreneurial Studies in Marketing
- B.C.S. in College Studies
Unique to the University of Maine at Machias is the school’s “Mainers in Exile” tuition pricing, which allows former UMM students who moved out of the area to continue paying in-state rates. UMM also participates in a program established by the New England Board of Higher Education that provides a tuition break to out-of-state students who do not have their chosen major available in their own state.