A Guide to Online Colleges in Maine

Maine is home to some of the highest peaks in the state, the largest lakes, as places to sit and watch the phenomenal

Updated February 1, 2024

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Welcome to “Vacationland.” This state nickname may sound like an advertisement for the state of Maine but it’s actually an apt name for all types of visitors to this fantastic New England state that borders New Hampshire and Canada. Out of the cities, head to the most northern state in New England for its slow living, scenery, unique heritage, and amazing cuisine. If you’ve heard of a Maine lobster you know that dining is nothing short of elegant here. The Highlands include some of the highest peaks in the state, the largest lakes, as places to sit and watch the phenomenal indigenous animals like moose, Lynx, whales, and the American Black Bear (maybe try that one from afar).

Though Maine is known for its lobster and a collection of lighthouses dotted along pristine island towns, it's known for much more. Maine is home to a fantastic system of schools in the University of Maine College System (where the majority of schools are ranked as the top schools in the entire northeastern region, and schooling is offered at an affordable price). Maine is also diverse. To this day the state is home to Native Americans, Franco-Americans (think Quebec, just a little south), and immigrants from all over the world. Maine is a destination state, and a state you can make a home in. It's also the backdrop and inspiration for many great novelists works — like John Irving and Elizabeth Strout, Stephen King, and Henry David Thoreau. When people call Maine home it tends to be a statement of pride steeped in centuries-old traditions.

In-state tuition is often applied to public schools offering online programs. Many online programs require some face-to-face time, or more numerous support services at their brick and mortar locations. Intensive study experiences, often on the weekends or in several week-long bouts, enable many online students to accelerate their time until graduation. Students looking at online education can drastically expand their educational options if they also look to hybrid degrees (degrees that can be taken partially, or mostly online). Finally, one of the most common stipulations in scholarships is that students be from a certain state or region, often more funds are available to students seeking degrees in-state.

The top public schools in Maine offer online programs of study at the associates through the doctoral level. The University of Maine offers 20 programs completely online including an impressive 13 masters degrees including an MBA, MSE and several M.Ed degree, engineering and more! The University of Maine at Augusta offers 19 online associate and bachelor’s degrees like a bachelor’s in computer information systems, Contemporary popular music and an Associate in Mental Health and Human Service. The University of Southern Maine offers 12 programs online for undergraduates and graduates in several business fields, liberal arts, and education. Presque Isle and Fort Kent — two other University of Maine colleges are some of the highest ranked colleges in the region and also offer programs for undergraduates at a great value and include career-ready fields like an associate in medical laboratory technology from Presque Isle, or an Associate in Criminal Justice at Fort Kent

There is one private school on our list offering online programs and that is Saint Joseph’s College of Maine. Their online offerings are by far our most extensive in that there are 61 bachelor’s and master’s programs available completely online. Saint Joseph’s College provides degrees in many areas of business and has a few fast track programs such as the RN to BSN fast track and the RN to MSN fast track. Additionally, with 35 master’s degrees there is much to choose from including areas of health like health administration, nursing practice, a master in divinity and much more!

Featured Online Schools

Becoming a Resident

Establishing residency is essential for securing that in-state tuition price. In many cases, paying out-of-state tuition can triple the costs of your education. The state of Maine has more stringent rules with regards to obtaining domicile than other states. As is the case with most states, “domicile” is defined as having lived independently (more than 50% of your sustainability is your own) or dependently (less than 50% of your sustainability is your own with your parents or guardian) for one full calendar year. For Maine, this means showing a little bit more “loyalty” to the state itself and proving without a shadow of a doubt that you are not simply residing in Maine to be a student. Though for the most part, in-state residency will be considered on a case-by-case basis, odds are tremendously in your favor if your year of domicile has occurred before your application into a school, you have not travelled and applied to schools outside of Maine during or after your year of domicile and can include verifiable paperwork that serves as evidence for your year in domicile. Many schools in the Maine public system offer fantastic prices and a great education. In fact, a number of public schools in the University of Maine system are ranked as the best in the region and offer prices far below the national average. Some exceptions include members of the Armed Forces, veterans of the United States Armed forces, dependents using a GI Bill, and those who qualify for a regional tuition reciprocity agreement.

In 2016-17 the average published tuition prices for Maine four-year universities was $7,231 for in-state tuition that’s about $2,100 below the national average for public schools. The highest value schools are also our top three picks for online options. The University of Maine-Fort Kent (UMFK) is one of the top public schools in the nation and the tuition rates are just over $6,500 for in-state tuition. Out-of-state tuition for UMFK is $$10,950. The University of Maine-Presque Isle (UMPI) is another top-ranked regional university offers its Maine residents tuition for $6,600 per year and Canadian/New England Regional resident $10,230. The pattern repeats for all other top public schools in the state. It may be worth what individuals save on room and board when studying online, typically about $30,000 for a four-year degree, and in many cases, more as the average student graduation rate for undergraduates is closer to six years!

Portland, Maine is located in the South on the coast of Maine in Cumberland County and is the largest city in Maine with a population of 66,500. Originally called “Machigonne” or “great neck” by the Native Americans, this city is as you may have guessed, situated on the coast. The Old Port, a district in Portland with cobblestone streets and 19th century architecture as well as its fishing peers, is a popular tourist destination due to it boutiques, restaurants, and nightlife. Off the coast, 25 minutes by ferry, you’ll find the Great Diamond Island — known for its hiking and biking trails, natural island beauty and marina. In fact, hiking and biking (or golf cart) will be your only options as no gas-powered vehicles are allowed. More island beauty adorns the coast of Portland including the Chebeague Island knowns for its rich sailing history, and several Greek Revival homes. Maybe not New York City, but Portland has its own share of museums, galleries and restaurants that adds to its already historical cultural richness. The Greater Portland Area is home to nearly 1/3 of the entire population of Maine — it seems to be where most Maineiacs call home.

Lewiston is a culturally diverse city home to 36,000 people and a former mill town that continues to be a visible pride point in the town’s aesthetic and heritage. Interior design exposes the brick and piping as a constant reminder and homage to its roots. The cultural diversity lies in the immigration of French-Canadians and also more recently Somalian populations. Somalian families have taken Lewiston under their wing and have been responsible for much of its revitalization since the mid-2000s. Now, Lewiston remains in tact and filled with vibrant festivals like the Greek Festival or the Great Falls Balloon Festival — a weekend long festival with the Great Falls and Androscoggin River as its backdrop that celebrates hot air balloons, food and entertainment. Balloon launches take place for 12 hours from 6am to 6pm. Lisbon street is the commercial center of Lewiston and features modern French cuisine, Indian cuisine, and a reemergence of shops as well as the Forage market. Bates College adds an additional cultural flavor as does the University of Southern Maine with locations like the Atrium Gallery, and the Bates College Museum of Art or the Captive Elements Art House. Lewiston is the second-largest city in Maine and also the most affordable city in the state. The convenience of its walkable downtown, availability of two universities and low cost of living make Lewiston a great place to call home.

Bangor, Maine, is located in the Highlands region of Maine. The Highlands are located in the center of the state and are home to some of Maine’s most breath-taking waterfalls, tallest peaks, largest lakes, winding slopes, and plenty of opportunities for moose-watching. Bangor proper is located along the Penobscot River and was established for its capabilities for lumber and shipbuilding. In fact, it was once known as the lumber capital of the world. The 31-foot-high statue of Paul Bunyan still stands there today. So what did all of that lumber do for the city of Bangor? Well, if you thought about architecture for starters, you’re right — in the form of stately homes like The Blake House as well as other 19th century gems. Bangor doesn’t stop there when honoring it’s long log tradition. Try stopping by the Logging Museum for authentic reconstruction of what life would have been like in a logging and milling community. The Native American history is still present here as well. The Penobscot tribe, one of the largest tribes among the Wabanaki still live on the Indian Island Reservation outside of the city, and you can even look at authentic artifacts at the museum on the island. Bangor is also home to The University of Maine which offers its own cultural and economical impact. Education and healthcare are among the top industries in Bangor and the cost of living is below the national average. With all of the surrounding natural beauty, rich heritage and inclusion of a top-notch public university, it’s no wonder people love to call Bangor home.


Population: 66,666
Cost of Living: 104.5%
Top Industries: Healthcare and social assistance, professional scientific and technical services, education, accomodation and food service
Local Online Degrees: 2


Population: 36,299
Cost of Living: 95%
Top Industries: Manufacturing, Healthcare and social assistance, retail trade, construction
Local Online Degrees: 1


Population: 32,568
Cost of Living: 98.8%
Top Industries: Retail trade, educational services, accomodation and food services, healthcare and social assistance
Local Online Degrees: 2


Population: 22,912
Cost of Living: 95.3%
Top Industries: Healthcare and social assistance, manufacturing, retail trade, construction
Local Online Degrees: 1


Population: 21,337
Cost of Living: 113.5%
Top Industries: Healthcare and social assistance, manufacturing, construction, accomodation and food service
Local Online Degrees: 2

The Best Online Colleges in Maine

1. University of Maine

Online Programs: 20
Type: Public

The University of Maine (U Maine) is a public land, sea, and space research university located in Orono, Maine. Research opportunities are available to both undergraduate and graduate students. Of the 10,922 students enrolled at U Maine, 9,297 of them are undergraduate students who learn in small classrooms with a student-to-faculty ratio of just 16:1. Some of the signature programs include marine sciences, forestry, climate change and engineering. The U.S News ranks U Maine as the 183rd best school in the nation and 99th Top public schools. Though the true value of U Maine as an institution lies in its ample research opportunities for all students, and high commitment to creating a successful educational experience once enrolled and after graduation. It’s stated distinctions include: “a commitment to affordability”, equipping the future workforce, building upon emerging programs; like the sustainability solutions and technologies program, and a new initiative “Think 30” which helps to insure a timely graduate rate and student debt reduction. Online, there are 20 degrees available that range from the bachelor’s to doctoral level. The New England Association of Schools and Colleges accredits its comprehensive programming.

2. Saint Joseph's College of maine

Online Programs: 61
Type: Private

Saint Joseph’s College of Maine is a private Catholic liberal arts college located in Standish, Maine. The campus is located on the shore of Sebago Lake by the White Mountains Presidential Range in Western Maine. There are 3,500 students enrolled who take on-campus and online degree programs. According to U.S. News St. Joseph’s College ranks 137th for best in the region. The majority of students take advantage of the vast online degree offerings St. Joseph’s has to offer. In fact, there are 61 bachelor's and master’s degree programs available through their online programs. Undergraduate programs include programs in business administration, and health as well as education. Graduate students can study education, nursing, Jewish-Christian studies among others. There are even a few dual degrees such as the MSN/MHA degree and the MSN/MBA program. Though a Roman Catholic school, St. Joseph’s welcomes enrollment from all faiths and diverse backgrounds as part of their personal mission statement.

3. University of Maine at Fort Kent

Online Programs: 16
Type: Public

The University of Maine-Fort Kent (UMFK) is a small, public, liberal arts university located in Northern Maine near the US-Canada border. The university maintains the Acadian and French-American culture and heritage for Franco-Americans while welcoming students of diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds. U.S. News ranks UMFK as the 23rd best college in the north and 13th best public school and The Princeton Review listed UMFK as the “set Northeastern College” in their 2017 edition. There are 1,559 students enrolled who benefit from small classrooms and a student-to-faculty ratio of 15:1. The New England Association of Schools and Colleges accredits UMFK to offer associate and bachelor’s degree programs. UMFK offers every degree program from accounting to zoology as well as a 16 programs online. Online learners may choose from any seven associates degrees, or nine bachelor’s degrees offered in fields like health information technology, and rural public safety administration. Additionally, in-state tuition is well under the national average at just $6,600 per year.

4. University of Maine at Augusta

Online Programs: 19
Type: Public

The University of Maine-Augusta (UMA) is a public school located in Maine’s capitol, Augusta. There are nearly 6,200 students enrolled making UMA the third largest university in the University of Maine System. The Commission on Institution of Higher Education New England Association of Schools and Colleges accredits UMA to offer associates and bachelor’s programs. Many of the programs offered on campus are also offered online in fields that range from accounting to web development. The student-body reflects students of all ages, whether recent high school graduates, or adult professionals returning for credentials. Their programming continually addresses the needs of those returning to school with additional programs for returning professionals. Some of their top programs include business, accounting, computer information systems, nursing, biology, liberal studies, public administration, and justice studies among others. Online there are 19 degrees: eight associates and 11 bachelor’s degrees including an associates in mental health and human service, associates in rehabilitation therapy as well as a bachelor's in contemporary and popular music, a bachelor's in cybersecurity and others. In-state tuition is just $6,510 per year.

5. University of Maine at Presque Isle

Online Programs: 6
Type: Public

The University of Maine-Presque Isle (UMPI) is a public university located in Presque Isle, Maine. Named aptly for the French word for “peninsula” Presque Isle is surrounded by Aroostook River and the Preque Isle Stream in Northern Maine. There are only 1,289 student enrolled at UMPI and the student-to-faculty ratio is just 15:1. UMPI offers degrees in professional fields, teacher education, health and human services as well as associates degrees and continuing education for practicing professionals all accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. According to U.S. News, UMPI is the 27th best school in the North and 15th best public school in the country! In addition to a high quality education at a low cost, UMPI utilizes a curriculum centered around what is known as “personalized learning.” Personalized learning allows for self-paced study, hands-on experiences, and incorporates career preparation. Another prime goal is to make college “realistic and attainable” by releasing student debt by an average of $11,000 so that student loans are paid off faster. Over 80% of students financial needs are met at UMPI. Additionally, the annual tuition rate is well below the national average at just $7,436 per year — a fantastic value for one of the best public schools in the nation.

6. University of Southern Maine

Online Programs: 12
Type: Public

The University of Southern Maine (USM) is a multi-campus public university located in Gorham, Lewiston, and Portland, Maine and is part of the University of Maine System. There are 7,739 students enrolled at USM who benefit from small classroom sizes, and a student-to-faculty ratio of 16:1. The New England Association of Schools and Colleges accredits USM to offer comprehensive programming including bachelor, master’s, doctoral, and undergraduate as well as graduate certification programs. Student may select from a vast range of programs from accounting and art to women and gender studies. The U.S. News report highly ranks USM for their engineering and business programs. In addition to academics USM offers fantastic professional development opportunities for civilians, active military, and veterans as well as customized training, test preparation, intensive workshops, and certificate programs. 1,200 professionals attend annually. The online programs include 7 bachelor’s degrees and 5 master’s degrees in fields like business administration, social and behavioral sciences, and special education. The annual tuition and fees are $8,920 — just below the national average.

Monitoring the accreditation of a university you are interested in attending is incredibly important. Accreditation ensures your credits can transfer, that you can receive Federal financial aid, and most importantly, that certain standards of educational quality are during in place your schooling. The highest accreditation standard for most programs in the United States is provided by regional accreditation agencies. The regional accrediting agency for Missouri is the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, one of six regional accrediting agencies responsible for accrediting schools in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

Making sure that a University you're hoping to attend is regionally accredited — or accredited by a real and respected accrediting agency — is one of the most important choices you can make in ensuring the quality of your education.

Three Steps for Securing Financial Aid

  • Submit your FAFSA.
  • Check to see if additional forms are needed at your university of choice.
  • Search and apply for private scholarships.

Through the previous three steps most students find themselves offered some sort of federal grant, work study, private grant, scholarship, or stipend.

Great Maine Higher Education Resources

Maine Community College System
This is Maine’s comprehensive two-years college system guide.
Maine Department of Education
The MDE offers resources for students, teachers, and parents with the latest news in education as well as information about scholarships.
The University of Maine Augusta Scholarship Database
For a comprehensive list of The University of Maine Augusta Scholarship opportunities head here.
UMaine Flagship Match
Out-of-State students pay their state’s prices with this UMaine Flagship Match Program.
Maine Community Foundation
For scholarship for all types of adult learners head here.
Foreign Language Association of Maine
The Foreign Language Association of Maine awards scholarships to foreign language educators and students. For a comprehensive list go here.
Wabanaki Center
The Wabanaki Center seeks to cultivate a mutually beneficial relationship between the University of Maine and Native American communities including with grants and scholarships for minority indigenous individuals. Head here for more information.
Tuition Reciprocity Arrangements
For more information on tuition reciprocity agreements for those attending school in New England head here.
Franco Center For Heritage and the Performing Arts
Celebrate the unique Franco-American heritage here.

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