Montana, despite its large area, has fewer institutions of higher learning than other states by virtue of its small population size and rural geography. The future of higher education in Montana is generally improving thanks to oversight by the Montana University System Office of the Commissioner of Higher education and their initiatives, despite state funding cuts and slight tuition increases. Online education is also playing an important role for students living in rural areas, and there is a growing support network for rural tribal citizens.
But before we dive into our list of best online colleges in Montana for 2017, let’s start with the state of higher education and online education in the state today.
A Brief Overview of Higher Education in Montana
In 2013, the National Center for Education Statistics reported that Montana had 22 degree-granting institutions, broken down as follows: 17 public schools, 5 nonprofits and 0 for-profits. The total number of bachelor’s degrees awarded in the ’12-’13 school year at these schools was: 4,925 at public schools, 719 at private nonprofits and 0 at private for-profits.
- 17 public
- 5 non-profit
Tuition-wise, the College Board found that, in the ’15-’16 school year, the average in-state tuition and fees for four-year public schools was $6,350, while the out-of-state average was $21,290.
As for the state’s financial aid efforts, the National Association of State Student Grant & Aid Programs (NASSGAP) reported that Montana awarded $3.7 million in need-based grants and $1.34 million in non-need grants for the ’13-’14 school year. Grants make up 2.2% of the state’s total fiscal support for higher education.
Montana increased higher education funding per student by 13.3% in ‘14-’15. Coupled with a relatively small tuition increase, it seems Montana is on the road to recovery for higher education enrollment. It is also worth noting that Montana has a first year retention rate of 70.1% and a relatively low student loan default rate.
The State of Online Higher Education in Montana
The NCES estimates that at least 6.3% of students enrolled in Montana’s Title IV institutions are in fully online programs. Of those, 5.2% were reported to be undergraduates and 84.8% were found to be living in Montana.
The University of Montana and the Montana University System are the leading providers of online education in the state. In 2008, the Montana University System Board of Regents established Core Principles of Quality for Online Education in the university system, which outlined core principles of online course format, delivery and quality control designed to insure the highest academic experience possible for distance learners. Despite the fairly limited number of online colleges in MT, students will find the course offerings to be diverse, with many offered entirely online.
Best Online Colleges in Montana
Below, you will find our rankings of the best online four-year programs in Montana. Our profiles look at how schools approach online education and then list out their services for distance students and their popular, fully online degrees. After reviewing the best online schools in Montana, explore our state resources, like a database of every college and university in Montana or our index of popular in-state scholarships.
|Rank||School Name||School Logo||City||Cost||Address & Contact Info||School Links||Acclaim for Online Programs||School Description|
|1||University of Montana||Missoula||$$$$$||Missoula, Montana|
Missoula, MT 59812
Montana, located in Missoula, provides a world-class education in liberal arts and the trades through its undergraduate and graduate programs. Fully online degrees include five master’s, two undergraduate degrees, and seven certificate programs, which include forensic studies, energy technologies, and wilderness management. Other online offerings include minors programs, a library media endorsement, and RevUp programs. Revup programs are designed to quickly train students for employment. Student resources include online tutoring and instructional workshops, academic advising, and special assistance for veterans. As one of the most outdoor-oriented online schools in Montana, UM takes full advantage of its rugged, Rocky Mountain setting. Campus recreation includes aquatics, fitness, golf, intramurals, outdoor sports, sports clubs, and youth camp programs. With hundreds of campus groups and over a dozen art galleries, theaters, and concert venues, students can enrich their education with diverse cultural and entertainment activities.
|2||Montana State University - Billings||Billings||$$$$$||1500 University Drive|
Billings, MT 59101-0298
Montana State - BIllings, founded in 1927, is dedicated to teaching excellence and civic engagement. Undergraduate and graduate programs provide a well-rounded education through its five colleges in arts and sciences, business, allied health professions, education, and City College. Montana State offers 24 online degree programs, which is more than any other school in the state. There are over 240 online classes leading to bachelor’s and master’s degrees, like the master’s in public relations and certificates in medical coding and insurance billing.
MSU is among online schools in Montana that have a regional jobs hub; the school’s three campuses open up numerous networking and career opportunities throughout Billings. Online students enjoy access to university resources. Library books can be mailed to your home, and you can access thousands of ebooks online. Tutoring is available in a range of subjects, including math, writing, chemistry, and foreign languages. Career Services helps students obtain internship opportunities, part-time work, and post-graduation careers.
|3||Montana State University||Bozeman||$$$$$||Montana State University|
Bozeman, MT 59717
Montana State, established in 1893, is the state’s largest university, with more than 16,000 students. The school is located in Bozeman. MSU ranks among the top 3% of colleges and universities for research spending and is nationally recognized for its leadership in research. The school devotes over $100 million annually to research expenditures, with funds going to top research departments like immunology, chemistry and biochemistry, physics, and environmental sciences. There are many opportunities for students to participate in hands-on research.
Online offerings include an undergraduate degree in liberal studies, five graduate certificates, seven master’s degrees, the principal and superintendent endorsement, and professional development courses. MSU is among online colleges in Montana to offer success advising, career coaching, financial coaching, and tutoring. These services provide personalized learning strategies and tips on studying, note taking, and developing relationships with faculty.
|4||Montana Tech of the University of Montana||Butte||$$$$$|
Montana Tech builds on the region’s rich mining history with an emphasis on engineering, science, and technology programs. Its degrees at the associate, bachelor, master, and certificate levels combine theory with real-world practice in responsible development of natural resources. Montana Tech offers more than 60 programs, and it’s one of two schools in the nation that offers a BS in geophysical engineering. The school is also one of only 10 that offers a BS degree in metallurgical engineering. The online undergraduate program in health care informatics is the first such degree in the nation.
Montana Tech’s online programs include three graduate level programs and two undergraduate certificate programs. Its graduate programs rely on high-tech facilities. The statewide Center for Environmental Remediation and Assessment, an EPA program, is located on campus. Montana Tech is located in Butte. The Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology is a department of Montana Tech that serves the public and local, state, and federal government.
|5||University of Great Falls||Great Falls||$$$$$||1301 Twentieth St S|
Great Falls, MT 59405-4996
Great Falls, founded in 1932, is a private, Roman Catholic, liberal arts university that embraces its missionary roots through numerous opportunities for volunteerism in the community. The school serves more than 1,000 students. Great Falls offers undergraduate and graduate degrees for full-time and part-time students. Small class sizes with a 12:1 student-teacher ratio ensure meaningful dialogue that facilitates learning. The school offers six online bachelor’s programs, two associate programs, the Army Paralegal Program, and an online master in science of organizational management. Students searching for online colleges in Montana should note there are more degree programs available for students who can attend weekend courses or finish their last semester on campus. More than 100 individual courses can be found online. Distance learners participate in courses by attending scheduled, live and interactive discussion sessions through Microsoft Lync® or through the Moodle learning platform. Every online student is assigned an academic advisor who provides guidance on class scheduling and programs.
|6||Montana State University - Northern||Havre||$$$$$||300 W 11th St|
Havre, MT 59501
Montana State – Northern, located in Havre, offers programs at the associate, bachelor’s, and master’s levels at educational centers in Great Falls and Lewistown. Degree programs focus on technology and liberal arts education. A student body of more than 1,200 pursue degrees in business, nursing, engineering and mechanical technology, teacher education, natural sciences, and the humanities. The school has more than 40 majors and more than 30 minors. The most popular majors include elementary education, nursing, business, diesel technology, and counselor education.
Distance learners seeking online colleges in Montana will find nine completely online degrees at MSU - Northern. Degrees include business, business technology, business administration, community leadership, nursing, and criminal justice. The Sweetgrass Society, one of more than a dozen clubs on campus, promotes Native American pride and sponsors one of the largest powwows in the region. Other clubs appeal to those with an interest in rodeos, healthy living, and agriculture.
Most Affordable Online Colleges in Montana
Below you’ll find another list of the top online schools in Montana, sorted by tuition rate.
Scholarships and Financial Aid in Montana
Entering Montana Resident Scholarship
This scholarship is available to all students entering the University of Montana. The award amount is based on applicants’ academic merit. To qualify for the maximum award of $2,000 per year, students must have a GPA of 3.9+ and an ACT score of 34+.
Haynes Foundation Scholarship
Available to full-time undergraduate students at Montana State University. To be eligible, applicants must be graduates of a Montana high school with a GPA of 3.5+. A demonstration of financial need is required. The Haynes Foundation scholarships are awarded to 30 students each year.
Heisey Foundation Scholarship
The Heisey Foundation scholarships are available to sophomores, juniors, and seniors at Montana State University Billings. To be eligible, students must have graduated high school in Montana (this scholarship is not available to out-of-state students). Award amounts vary.
Hubert & Viola Abrams Scholarship
The Hubert & Viola Abrams scholarship totals $800. It is available to juniors and seniors at Montana State University. To be eligible, applicants must have financial need, a GPA of 3.0+, and must be residents of eastern Montana.
Lesley Sherman Memorial Scholarship
The Lesley Sherman Memorial Scholarship is open to Montana State University students who have declared a program of study at the City College. Applicants must be full-time students with a GPA of 2.0+ and demonstrated financial need; must be from a small town.
Montana University System Honor Scholarship
The Montana University System Honors Scholarship is available to students who graduated from a Montana high school within the last nine months. Interested students should contact their high school guidance counselors for eligibility and application requirements.
MSU-Billings Foundation Memorial Endowed Scholarship
Montana State University’s Edna Frost Bookstore Scholarships are awarded to one male student and one female student each year. To be eligible, students must have completed two semesters with a GPA of 3.0+, demonstrate financial need, and be Montana residents.
National Merit Gold/Silver Scholarship
Available to National Merit finalists and semi-finalists who indicate the University of Montana as their first-choice school to the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. Selection is based on academic merit. The award amount is $2,000 per year for finalists or $1,000 per year for semi-finalists.
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