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Online Colleges in Montana

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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 schools in Montana for 2016, let’s start with the state of higher education and online education in particular in Montana 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.

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 nonneed 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 degree granting institutions offering online education in Montana, 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 our best of Montana, explore our state resources, like a database of every college and university in Montana or our index of popular in-state scholarships.

Want to know what it takes to make our rankings? Check out our distinct approach.

Methodology

To determine the best online colleges in each state, we examined the factors most important to prospective students: Academic quality and reputation, online program strength, and cost and student aid. At the most basic level, we use the following formula to determine the best online colleges: Academic Quality + Online Offerings + Cost and Student Aid = Final Score. Of course, there's more to these calculations than meets the eye. Visit our methodology page to discover the data points that shape our formula and to learn more about the process we use to rank schools.

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Montana State University

1
Montana State University
Bozeman
$6,800
$21,391

An Online Education at Montana State University

The Extended University at MSU's main campus offers a greater selection of fully online graduate degree programs than its satellite campus in Havre. Students may also attend licensure, professional development and certificate courses totally online. Distance learners use the Desire2Learn system, a virtual classroom distinguished by its interactive message boards, surveys, course materials and assignment drop boxes.

Online Undergraduate Degrees

  • Degree Completion in Liberal Studies B.A.

Graduate applicants should have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0. Some departments require students to submit standardized exam scores, such as the MAT, GRE or GMAT.

Online Graduate Degrees

  • Agricultural Education M.S.
  • Curriculum and Instruction M.Ed.
  • Science and Engineering Management M.S.E.M.
  • Educational Leadership M.Ed.
  • Family Financial Planning M.S.
  • Land Resources and Environmental Sciences M.S.
  • Mathematics - Mathematics Education Option M.S.

Online courses at MSU last for a full semester, with admissions occurring on a rolling basis. Distance learners are expected to spend about 9-12 hours each week on their studies per class. Students can access a tech support help desk Monday - Friday by calling 406-994-1777.

Contact Information

Montana State University
Bozeman, MT 59717
(406) 994-0211

University of Montana

2
University of Montana
Missoula
$6,045
$21,719

An Online Education at University of Montana

The University of Montana Online uses Moodle to deliver digital course materials, provide access to discussion forums, and allow students to communicate with each other and their professors. Visitors to the site can login by clicking "Non-NetID login"; the username is guest.guest and the password is guest. By doing this, potential online students can familiarize themselves with the Moodle interface through the online course "Moodle 101 for Students."

With the exception of the health center, online learners have access to the same support services as their on-campus peers. Connecting with others via email or chat, online students receive career and academic advising, tutoring and tech support.

Online Graduate Degrees

  • Master of Education in Early Childhood Education
  • Master of Education in Advanced Early Childhood Education
  • Master of Education in Educational Leadership
  • Master of Public Administration

Along with the degrees listed above, the University of Montana offers 220 online courses; three hybrid degrees; and eight fully-online minors, certificates and endorsements.

Contact Information

Missoula, Montana
Missoula, MT 59812
(406) 243-0211


Acclaim for online programs

  • #135on U.S. News & World Report's Best Online Education Programs

University of Great Falls

3
University of Great Falls
Great Falls
$20,960

An Online Education at University of Great Falls

This private Catholic institution offers associate, bachelor's and master's degree programs entirely online. UGF embraces synchronous and asynchronous learning formats with special course designations: "D" section courses include real-time online conferences through Microsoft Lync, while courses marked "ASY" accommodate students who want the flexibility of choosing when to login. The Moodle LMS hosts UGF's asynchronous courses, featuring interactive tools like classroom wiki pages, surveys, instant messaging and discussion forums.

Online Undergraduate Degrees

  • Bachelor of Science Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Arts in Psychology

Graduate applicants are not required to submit admissions test scores unless their cumulative undergraduate GPA is below a 3.0. If so, prospective students must meet minimum GRE score requirements of 150 in Verbal Reasoning and 149 in Quantitative Reasoning.

Online Graduate Degrees

  • Master in Science of Organizational Management (MSM)

Online courses at UGF are capped at 15 students to preserve a certain quality of distance education. Course instructors serve as students' main point of contact for technical assistance, should the need arise.

Contact Information

1301 Twentieth St S
Great Falls, MT 59405-4996
(406) 761-8210

Montana State University - Billings

4
Montana State University - Billings
Billings
$5,745
$17,088

An Online Education at Montana State University - Billings

MSU Billings provides students with a significant array of certificate, associate, bachelor's and master's programs available entirely online through the Desire2Learn virtual classroom. Distance learners can use this platform for a variety of academic tasks, such as viewing course content, posting on classroom discussion boards, submitting assignments and taking exams. Instructors may choose to host synchronous class meetings; schedule details are outlined in the syllabus.

Online Undergraduate Degrees

  • Business Administration (AS)
  • Human Resource Management - General Applied Emphasis (AS)
  • Business Administration (BSBA) - General Business Option
  • Communication - Mass (BA)
  • Health Administration (BSHA)
  • Applied Science (BAS)
  • Liberal Studies (BSLS)

Graduate applicants may need to submit scores for the GRE, GMAT or MAT. Prospective students should check with relevant departments for information on minimum score requirements.

Online Graduate Degrees

  • Special Education Advanced
  • Public Relations (MSPR)
  • Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling
  • Special Education Generalist
  • Educational Technology (MEd)
  • Health Administration (MHA)

Numerous student services are available to online learners, including academic advising, career counseling, a digital bookstore and disability support. Students can reach a tech support help desk Monday through Friday by calling 406-247-5755.

Contact Information

1500 University Drive
Billings, MT 59101-0298
(406) 657-2011

Montana State University - Northern

5
Montana State University - Northern
Havre
$5,480
$17,312

An Online Education at Montana State University - Northern

The MSU Northern Extended University offers a modest selection of associate, bachelor's and master's degrees 100% online. Courses are delivered through the Desire2Learn system, a popular virtual classroom platform that features discussion boards, shared academic materials and a digital dropbox for assignments. Online learners can customize their degree experience by choosing a major, such as Small Business Management, Business Technology or Marketing.

Online Undergraduate Degrees

  • Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing
  • Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration

Online Graduate Degrees

  • Masters of Education Instruction & Learning

Graduate applicants are expected to have a minimum undergraduate cumulative GPA of 3.0. Admitted students must still go through a separate application process for graduate candidacy.

Contact Information

300 W 11th St
Havre, MT 59501
(406) 265-3700


Most Affordable Online Colleges in Montana

Below you’ll find another list of the top online schools in Montana, sorted by tuition rate.

Want to know what it takes to make our rankings? Check out our distinct approach.

Methodology

Our list of the most affordable online colleges is based on in-state yearly tuition, or annual tuition rates if a school does not differentiate between in-state and out-of-state students. Tuition rates are based on a full course load each semester or term. All colleges on the list offer at least one bachelor's degree completion program available entirely online. Those institutions with the lowest tuition are ranked highest, providing prospective students with a true list of the most affordable online colleges in their state.

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Montana State University - Northern

1
Montana State University - Northern
Havre
$5,480
$17,312

Montana State University - Billings

2
Montana State University - Billings
Billings
$5,745
$17,088

Montana State University

3
Montana State University
Bozeman
$6,800
$21,391

University of Great Falls

4
University of Great Falls
Great Falls
$20,960


Scholarships and Financial Aid in Montana

Entering Montana Resident Scholarship

Deadline: na
Scholarship Amount $2,000 See 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

Deadline: open
Scholarship Amount $2,000 See 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

Deadline: open
Scholarship Amount Amount varies See 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

Deadline: open
Scholarship Amount $800 See 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

Deadline: na
Scholarship Amount $250 See 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

Deadline: na
Scholarship Amount Full tuition See 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

Deadline: na
Scholarship Amount $1,350 See 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

Deadline: na
Scholarship Amount $2,000 See 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.


Higher Education Resources in Montana