Massachusetts’ Best Public Colleges and Universities of 2021

Public colleges and universities account for almost 75 percent of all undergraduate students in the U.S. The best public colleges in Massachusetts provide broad access to reputable degree programs, affordable tuition, and sprawling educational communities.

Massachusetts’ Best Public Colleges and Universities of 2021

Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts

Some of the most talked about universities in Massachusetts are its private schools, including Boston University, Harvard University, Northeastern University, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which also happen to be the largest. Tuition for these prestigious schools runs between $50,000 and $54,000. Students here have access to some of the top programs in the country in fields such as biology, literature, law, education, engineering, and religious studies. The alumni from New England schools are equally as impressive, including Martin Luther King Jr., Bill Gates, and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

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The public higher education institutes also boast top-notch programs, allowing students to pursue associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in fields like mathematics, social work, medicine, and economics. The University of Massachusetts Amherst, the state’s largest public university, offers tuition around $16,000 and serves over 28,000 students. Additionally, students who are interested in attending a religiously affiliated school have 17 options to choose from, most of which feature high graduation rates for their students. For future dental, medical, or mental health professionals, Massachusetts also offers loan forgiveness programs for those working in underserved communities.

As the port of destination for the Mayflower, home to the Plymouth colony, and site of the Salem Witch Trials, Massachusetts looms large in United States history, but this most populous New England state isn’t just for history buffs. The Bay State is also known for its delicious cuisine, beautiful coastlines, and devout sports fans. Not to mention, it has over 100 colleges for students to choose from.

Find a program that’s right for you and explore the best schools Massachusetts has to offer.


What are Massachusetts’ Colleges & Universities?

Massachusetts’ Best Overall

What is a public college? And what is the difference between a private and public college?

Public and private colleges and universities operate under different business models — one is a private company with private funding; the other is owned by the state and receives both state and federal funding to operate. If you’re weighing the pros and cons of private vs. public college, consider that many public colleges provide diverse course offerings, influential professors, and an excellent return on your investment.

Public colleges are schools that receive most of their funding from tax revenues. As a result, the cost of a four-year degree at a public university is often lower than the equivalent cost at a private college — especially for students attending a public school in their home state. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, the average annual cost (tuition, fees, room and board for full-time students) at a four-year public university was slightly over $20,000. In contrast, private universities cost, on average, nearly $43,000 annually.

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How do we determine Massachusetts' best public colleges and universities?

The people affiliated with a school are ultimately what make it great. This is why, at the undergraduate level, we rank the best colleges and universities based on what we call “Concentrated Influence”. Concentrated Influence takes the combined influence score of a college or university’s top academic influencers (including faculty and alums) and divides it by the school’s total number of undergraduates.

Using concentrated influence gives small and mid-sized schools an opportunity to shine by taking away the size advantage of larger universities. A small school with proportionately more influential faculty than a large school, whose influence in absolute terms may be bigger, will nonetheless score higher in a concentrated influence ranking. Our approach highlights undergraduate schools that truly rank for excellence, regardless of size.

If you are serious about finding the best colleges and universities for a bachelor’s degree, you should be asking where the most influential professors are teaching and whether their graduates are themselves advancing the school’s reputation for academic excellence.

Most ranking sites rely on an opaque combination of reputation surveys and arbitrary performance metrics. Concentrated Influence provides a ranking that is free from bias, insulated from manipulation, and reflective of real-world educational outcomes.

Find out more about our ranking methodology here.


This list is composed entirely of public colleges and universities that offer four-year undergraduate degrees. We’ve identified 12 public universities in Massachusetts, 10 of which satisfy our criteria. The list below of the best public universities in the state satisfies the following four conditions:

  1. It must receive direct funding from the state.
  2. It must be fully accredited.
  3. It offers a broad range of bachelor’s degree programs.
  4. Its graduation rate must be greater than 50%.

10 Best Public Colleges & Universities in Massachusetts

  1. #1

    University of Massachusetts Amherst

    #146 institution's historical influence
    #953 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $16K

    Acceptance

    65%

    Graduation

    83%

    Student body

    29K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1290/29

    Amherst, MA

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    What is University of Massachusetts Amherst known for?

    University of Massachusetts Amherst’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Computer Science
    • Literature
    • Philosophy
    • Business
    • Biology
    • Education
    • Political Science
    • Economics
    • Engineering
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  2. #2

    University of Massachusetts Lowell

    #943 institution's historical influence

    Tuition + fees

    $16K

    Acceptance

    75%

    Graduation

    69%

    Student body

    15K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1235/26

    Lowell, MA

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    What is University of Massachusetts Lowell known for?

    University of Massachusetts Lowell’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Engineering
    • Business
    • Education
    • Computer Science
    • Medical
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Literature
    • Physics
    • Criminal Justice

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. #3

    Massachusetts Maritime Academy

    #3464 institution's historical influence
    #186 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $10K

    Acceptance

    92%

    Graduation

    85%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1100/21

    Buzzards Bay, MA

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    What is Massachusetts Maritime Academy known for?

    Massachusetts Maritime Academy’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Engineering
    • Criminal Justice

    Most Influential Alumni

  4. #4

    Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

    #3529 institution's historical influence
    #274 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    88%

    Graduation

    53%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1065/22

    North Adams, MA

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    What is Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts known for?

    Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Literature
    • Medical
    • Biology
    • Philosophy
    • Mathematics
    • Psychology
    • Computer Science
  5. #5

    Fitchburg State University

    #1705 institution's historical influence
    #650 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    88%

    Graduation

    58%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1070/21

    Fitchburg, MA

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    What is Fitchburg State University known for?

    Fitchburg State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Education
    • Computer Science
    • Criminal Justice
    • Nursing
    • Psychology
    • Business
    • Communications
    • Biology
    • Mathematics
  6. #6

    Worcester State University

    #3348 institution's historical influence
    #1015 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    81%

    Graduation

    59%

    Student body

    5K

    Worcester, MA

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    What is Worcester State University known for?

    Worcester State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Medical
    • Business
    • Sociology
    • Computer Science
    • Nursing
    • History
    • Psychology
    • Criminal Justice
    • Communications

    Most Influential Alumni

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  7. #7

    Framingham State University

    #2037 institution's historical influence
    #424 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    79%

    Graduation

    61%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1045/22

    Framingham, MA

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    What is Framingham State University known for?

    Framingham State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Business
    • Biology
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Literature
    • Computer Science
    • Medical
    • Earth Sciences
    • Economics
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  8. #8

    Salem State University

    #2018 institution's historical influence
    #383 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $12K

    Acceptance

    87%

    Graduation

    59%

    Student body

    7K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1085/21

    Salem, MA

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    What is Salem State University known for?

    Salem State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Business
    • Social Work
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Biology
    • Literature
    • Nursing
    • Criminal Justice
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  9. #9

    Bridgewater State University

    #2647 institution's historical influence
    #674 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    82%

    Graduation

    59%

    Student body

    10K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1060/22

    Bridgewater, MA

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    What is Bridgewater State University known for?

    Bridgewater State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Political Science
    • Business
    • Literature
    • History
    • Biology
    • Mathematics
    • Medical
    • Social Work
    • Criminal Justice

    Most Influential Alumni

  10. #10

    Westfield State University

    #1927 institution's historical influence
    #739 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    92%

    Graduation

    63%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1065/21

    Westfield, MA

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    What is Westfield State University known for?

    Westfield State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Biology
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Business
    • Social Work
    • Computer Science
    • Literature
    • Criminal Justice
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

Honorable Mentions

University of Massachusetts Boston

#694 institution's historical influence
#641 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$15K

Acceptance

80%

Graduation

49%

Student body

13K

Boston, MA

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What is University of Massachusetts Boston known for?

University of Massachusetts Boston’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

  • Political Science
  • Economics
  • Business
  • Education
  • Literature
  • Philosophy
  • Computer Science
  • Medical
  • History
  • Psychology

University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

#1155 institution's historical influence
#248 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$14K

Acceptance

76%

Graduation

52%

Student body

7K

Median SAT/ACT

1090/21

North Dartmouth, MA

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What is University of Massachusetts Dartmouth known for?

University of Massachusetts Dartmouth’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

  • Business
  • Education
  • Political Science
  • Philosophy
  • Engineering
  • Computer Science
  • Nursing
  • Medical
  • Biology
  • Law
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