No matter where you are in life — in high school, at a steady job, or underemployed — making plans to earn a college degree can provide a host of future benefits, including expanded job opportunities, increased income, and preparation for advanced education. Enrolling in your home state at one of several online colleges in Montana means a number of things: access to closer meaningful networking connections; more affordable, in-state tuition; and a resume listing a locally recognized school.
Higher Learning Initiatives in Montana
The Montana University System's Board of Regents created a policy that would make two-year college programs more affordable and accessible to Montana university students. In order to do this, the board worked with education leaders throughout the community to put together a plan that would allow potential students to find programs that fit their academic and financial needs.
The College! Now initiative harnesses the power of online colleges in promoting two-year educational opportunities and encourages universities and students to pursue them. The program is projected to increase enrollment in associate degrees at community colleges and online colleges in Montana so students will have transfer opportunities for four-year degrees and high-quality educational opportunities at lower tuition.
Core Principles of Quality for Online Courses in the Montana University System
In order to help Montana universities abide by a set of principles and expectations, the Montana University System laid out a set of rules and requirements for all online colleges in Montana. The written principles explain the expected design and delivery of all online courses in Montana. As explained in the core principles, “the specific implementations of these principles will certainly vary as technology changes and teaching and learning methodologies evolve, but the principles themselves should persist.” The standards have been adopted using the Quality Matters Rubric Standards and other best practices identified within the industry. The core principles cover key aspects of online education, including learning objectives, assessments, course technology, learner support, and accessibility.
Distance Learning Initiative
In order to improve the quality of distance learning and Montana online colleges, the Montana University System created the Distance Learning initiative. In 2007, the Montana Legislature approved funds for increasing the availability of online education in the Montana University System. With the $900,000 that was granted, the system invested in faculty, resources, and infrastructure for online education programs. Because of this grant, Montana universities now offer more than 90 online degrees and 700 online courses.
Popular Degree Programs in Montana
When making plans for a future career, college students may seek out the largest or highest-earning industries in their home state. This can impact the overall popularity of related college programs. In Montana, students often pursue majors that lead to employment in forestry and public education.
- Forestry: Forestry programs offer a range of specializations, including ecosystem science and restoration, tourism and recreation management, and general forestry. Forestry jobs and related industries remain popular in Montana due to the state's ecological makeup. Montane forest ecosystems cover 26% of the state, with forests suitable for timber covering more than 20%.
- Elementary Education: Elementary education degrees prepare individuals to lead K-8 students in the basic study of science, math, language arts, and social studies. Teaching remains a popular occupation in most states, including Montana, thanks to government benefits and fulfilling work environments. Elementary education prepares educators to teach a range of ages, allowing additional flexibility.
Paying for College in Montana
Selecting an online college in Montana requires thought and investigation, both into the offerings of prospective institutions and your own preferences and needs. In addition to locating a school with your ideal major and quality services available to online students, you should consider your finances and determine what you can reasonably afford. Most modern college students graduate with some loan debt, but you can lessen this burden by planning ahead.
Although specific tuition rates vary depending on the school you select, students attending Montana universities and Montana community colleges online generally pay less in tuition and fees than the national average. Note that the values in the table below do not include additional costs for books, supplies, transportation, or housing.
Average Price for In-State Tuition and Fees by Institution Type, 2017-18
|Public Two Year||Public Four Year|
Source: College Board
Employment Outlook in Montana
The average annual wages of Montanans dips about $8,000 below the national average, in part due to its largest industries being agriculture, tourism, and timber, which generally produce lower returns for workers than those in states with bustling technology or engineering industries. In many cases, however, Montana's lower cost of living and low unemployment rate make these smaller average salaries negligible. According to employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), college graduates in Montana may find the largest number of jobs available in administrative support, healthcare, education, and technical areas like engineering, machine operation, and transportation.
Accreditation for Colleges in Montana
Whether you plan to attend a Montana community college online or on campus, investigate the school's accreditation status before sending in an application. This voluntary, third-party evaluation process acts as a guarantee of high standards for institutional budgeting and spending, curriculum requirements, faculty qualifications, and student services. In the case of a school that offers both online and on-campus degrees, the accreditation process remains just as thorough for a program's online counterpart. Accreditation also impacts the transferability of course credits. Most colleges only accept credits from institutions with the same accreditation type.
National and regional make up the two types of accreditation. Regional accreditation, the most common, generally applies to state schools, public colleges, and private, nonprofit institutions, while schools of a specialized nature (e.g., Bible colleges, vocational schools, online-only schools) and for-profit institutions more commonly pursue national accreditation.
Not all accrediting agencies evaluate programs with the same rigorous standards. To ensure your prospective institution has gone through proper vetting, check to see if its accreditation agency is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and/or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Top regional accrediting agencies to look for when researching Montana community colleges online include the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities and the Higher Learning Commission.
Scholarships for Montana Online College Students
Scholarships represent one of the most effective ways for college students to lower their out-of-pocket tuition expenses. Students can find potential awards for criteria including major selection, minority status, academic achievement, or financial need. Take a look at 10 scholarships for Montana college students.
Who Can Apply: Students graduating with an associate degree from an eligible Montana community college with plans to transfer to a bachelor's program at a Montana University System school may apply.
Who Can Apply: Applicants must be Native American, Alaska Native, or Native Hawaiian, and be attending a a two- or four-year college or university full time. Applicants must provide transcripts and documentation of tribal enrollment.
Who Can Apply: Current, active FFA members who are high school students or current, full-time college students may apply. Applicants must be under the age of 23 and submit supporting documentation including transcripts.
Who Can Apply: Montana residents majoring in conservation, horticulture, forestry, land management, or a related area at a school in Montana may apply. Students must be college sophomores and possess a 2.7 GPA.
Who Can Apply: Students attending the largest university in the state can apply to dozens of scholarships made available from individual academic departments. Application requirements vary depending on the scholarship.
Who Can Apply: Eligible applicants include female Montanans who've resided in the state for at least three years and who are attending or planning to attend a Montana college or university. The application process requires references and an interview.
Who Can Apply: High school students planning to attend an eligible Montana school may apply to this renewable scholarship. Awards are given based on a point scale, according to GPA rankings and ACT/SAT scores.
Who Can Apply: Montana residents majoring in horticulture, botany, wildlife science, forestry, or similar subject may apply. Students must be classified as sophomores or higher and plan to pursue a related career.
Who Can Apply: Residents of of five Northwest U.S. states, including Montana, can apply to 60 different scholarships through a single application. Applicants must be pursuing postsecondary education and identify as LGBT, questioning, or ally.
Who Can Apply: Applicants must be Montana high school students or Montana residents attending a postsecondary institution in the state. Applicants must attend (or plan to attend) at least half time and maintain a 2.5 GPA.
Resources for Students in Montana
- Montana University System: The Montana University System consists of 16 public universities and community colleges in the state. The MUS website provides the public with easy access to information and resources concerning enrollment and tuition data, college preparation, financial aid, transfer of credits, and distance learning.
- Montana State Library: Montana community members, including prospective and current college students, can utilize the Montana State Library website to discover information about their local libraries and access a variety of library services including digital databases, online catalogs, and library card applications.
- Montana Department of Labor and Industries: Ideal for the current or prospective college student making plans for the future, the Montana Department of Labor and Industries website provides a variety of online career resources including occupation exploration, state labor market information and data, job-hunting tips, and a statewide job board, MontanaWorks.
- Reach Higher Montana: This public benefit partnership (not affiliated with state government) studies the state of higher education in Montana. Resources provided to students, parents, and educators include education newsletters, college preparation checklists, information pages on Montana colleges, finance and scholarship resources, and FAFSA event planning assistance.
Online Schools in Montana
Montana State University
- Graduation Rate: 49%
- Average Net Price: $16,578
Montana State University-Billings
- Graduation Rate: 33%
- Average Net Price: $13,899
Montana State University-Northern
- Graduation Rate: 23%
- Average Net Price: $14,271
Montana Tech of the University of Montana
- Graduation Rate: 48%
- Average Net Price: $12,164
University of Great Falls
Great Falls, MT
- Graduation Rate: 22%
- Average Net Price: $19,957
The University of Montana
- Graduation Rate: 49%
- Average Net Price: $13,723
The University of Montana-Western
- Graduation Rate: 42%
- Average Net Price: $9,816