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Online Colleges in Montana

Most Affordable Online Colleges

Introduction

Montana is a land of contrasts, from its wide, flat stretches of dry rangeland to its frozen, snowcapped mountain ranges. With its sparse population and sprawling landscape, it's no wonder that many colleges and universities in the state have embraced online learning as a way to help residents earn a degree without having to travel great distances to campus. What follows is a rundown of what kind of online degree programs are offered in Big Sky country, as well as information on the most affordable schools.

There are 23 public and private 2- and 4-year colleges and universities in Montana. Seventeen of those schools are public, and the remaining six are private, nonprofit 2- and 4-year schools. The bulk of these 23 institutions are managed under the auspices of the Montana University System, which includes the six campuses of Montana State University, including the main campus in Bozeman. In addition, there are three public community colleges. All told, there are 11 colleges and universities in Montana where a student can earn a bachelor's degree.

According to the university system office, the following is a breakdown of the number of online degree programs offered at each level of academic achievement:

  • Online associate degree: 20 programs
  • Online bachelor's degree: 20 programs
  • Online master's degree: 20 programs
  • Online doctoral degree: 1 program

Montana is growing. Between 2010 and July 2014, the state's population jumped past the 1 million mark, recording 1,023,579 residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Among the 683,960 residents who are at least 25 years old, 20 percent have a bachelor's degree and about 9 percent have a graduate or professional degree. Among the nearly 100,000 residents between the ages of 18 and 24, 46 percent have at least some college or have earned an associate degree.

According to the Montana Department of Commerce, there are nearly 525,000 workers in the state's labor force, and only about 20,000 of those people don't have jobs. That's an unemployment rate of just over 4 percent. Most of those jobs are coming from construction, health care, agriculture and mining. Travel and tourism is also a large industry in Montana, and the government employss more than 80,000 Montanans.

The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that Montana's workers earn an annual mean wage of $39,880 as of May 2014. That translates to $19.17 per hour.

Most Affordable Colleges in Montana

The following list of Montana schools that offer online degree programs or classes is ranked by tuition costs, from lowest to highest. Tuition figures are sourced from the National Center for Education Statistics for the 2013-2014 school year and reflect in-state tuition, when that data is available.

1

Helena College University of Montana

Tuition/Year
$2,358
Graduation Rate
19%
# of Online Degrees
1
Accredited
 
School Type
2-Year

About

Helena College offers a long list of for-credit online classes, from accounting and computer sciences to math and writing. Many of their classes are hybrid, combining online work with face-to-face classes. Helena College of the University of Montana makes a special effort to connect with and support lifelong learners.
School Website: 
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2

Highlands College of Montana Tech

Tuition/Year
$2,380
Graduation Rate
19%
# of Online Degrees
1
Accredited
 
School Type
2-Year

About

Highlands College is a small school within the larger sphere of Montana Tech. It offers associate degree and certificate programs that many students use as credit toward a bachelor’s degree at Montana Tech. Montana Tech's online degree programs include master's degree programs in industrial hygiene and project engineering and management, a graduate certificate in health care informatics, and an undergraduate certificate in health care informatics technology. What's more, it offers dozens of classes through its Moodle online teaching system.
School Website: 
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3

Great Falls College Montana State University

Tuition/Year
$2,496
Graduation Rate
18%
# of Online Degrees
10
Accredited
 
School Type
2-Year

About

Great Falls College offers more than 100 online and hybrid classes, and its fully online degree programs include Associates of Applied Science programs in business administration management, health information technology, medical billing and coding, and medical transcription. The school also offers Certificates of Applied Science in health information coding, medical billing and medical transcription. Its online professional certifications include health care office, pharmacy technician and health care informatics tech.
School Website: 
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4

Dawson Community College

Tuition/Year
$3,226
Graduation Rate
24%
# of Online Degrees
4
Accredited
 
School Type
2-Year

About

Although it's in Montana, Dawson's online programs are through CCCOnline, which stands for Colorado Community Colleges Online. The school takes special care to offer individual attention to students who are learning from a great distance. Its online degree programs include Associate of Arts, Associate of Science, Associate of Applied Science in business management, Associate of Applied Science in criminal justice, Associate of Applied Science in early childhood education and Associate of Applied Science in law enforcement.
School Website: 
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5

Miles Community College

Tuition/Year
$3,540
Graduation Rate
38%
# of Online Degrees
2
Accredited
 
School Type
2-Year

About

Miles's online classes operate on the semester basis but allow students the freedom to study when and where they want. Classes include many humanities and science courses, including chemistry and human anatomy. The courses provide credit toward the many associate degree programs offered at the school.
School Website: 
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6

The University of Montana-Western

Tuition/Year
$3,699
Graduation Rate
46%
# of Online Degrees
2
Accredited
 
School Type
4-Year

About

The University of Montana-Western is the only school in the country at which students take one class at a time. The school calls it Experience One. Its School of Outreach also offers online classes that focus on professional development or personal enrichment. The outreach school offers some education programs fully online, including a teacher certification, an early childhood development degree, a special education endorsement and a library media endorsement. In a partnership with ed2go Online Career Training, the outreach school offers programs in business and professional, health care and fitness, hospitality and gaming, IT and software development, management and corporate, media and design, skilled trades and industrial, and sustainable energy and going green.
School Website: 
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7

Montana State University-Northern

Tuition/Year
$3,953
Graduation Rate
26%
# of Online Degrees
8
Accredited
 
School Type
4-Year

About

Montana State University-Northern calls its distance learning program Desire2Learn, and it emphasizes to its online students the importance of being disciplined and organized when taking classes over the Internet. MSUN offers six online degree programs: Associate of Arts in general education, Associate of Science in business, Bachelor of Science in nursing, Bachelor of Science in business administration, Bachelor of Science in criminal justice and masters of education in instruction and learning. It also offers minors in business technology, marketing, accounting and small business management.
School Website: 
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8

Flathead Valley Community College

Tuition/Year
$4,133
Graduation Rate
24%
# of Online Degrees
1
Accredited
 
School Type
2-Year

About

Flathead Valley offers online course, interactive television courses and hybrid courses, which combine online sessions with face-to-face classes. It offers dozens of fully online courses from various fields, including accounting, allied health, business, biology, computers, education, electrical technology, emergency management, math and other disciplines.
School Website: 
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9

Montana State University-Billings

Tuition/Year
$4,397
Graduation Rate
24%
# of Online Degrees
19
Accredited
 
School Type
4-Year

About

Montana State University-Billings offers online bachelor's degree programs in business administration (accounting), business administration (general), communication (organizational), communication (mass), health administration, public relations, applied science and liberal studies. It also offers a variety of additional concentrations in these areas. Its online associate degree programs are in accounting technology, business administration, general studies, human resource management (general), and human resource management (college of business articulated emphasis). MSU's master's degree programs are available online in educational technology, health administration, public relations, rehabilitation and mental health counseling, special education (advanced), and special education generalist.
School Website: 
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10

The University of Montana

Tuition/Year
$4,603
Graduation Rate
48%
# of Online Degrees
15
Accredited
 
School Type
4-Year

About

The University of Montana offers more than 220 courses online and several online degree programs. Master's degree programs online are offered in curriculum studies, educational leadership, music education, public administration and public health. There is a fully online bachelor's degree program offered in media arts and an associate degree program offered in energy technology. There are also six certificate programs: customer relations, forensic studies, network and information security, nonprofit administration, public health and wilderness management. Also offered are two minors, anthropology and communication studies, and one endorsement, library media.
School Website: 
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11

Montana Tech of the University of Montana

Tuition/Year
$5,177
Graduation Rate
44%
# of Online Degrees
1
Accredited
 
School Type
4-Year

About

Montana Tech, founded in 1900 and originally called the Montana School of Mines, is located in Butte. The school has been affiliated with the University of Montana since 1994. Montana Tech's online degree programs include master's degree programs in industrial hygiene and project engineering and management, a graduate certificate in health care informatics, and an undergraduate certificate in health care informatics technology. In addition to its online degree programs, it also offers dozens of classes through its Moodle online teaching system.
School Website: 
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12

Montana State University

Tuition/Year
$5,330
Graduation Rate
50%
# of Online Degrees
4
Accredited
 
School Type
4-Year

About

In addition to its bachelor's degree completion program in liberal studies, Montana State University offers nine master's degree programs online, including agricultural education, curriculum and instruction, educational leadership, family financial planning, land resources and environmental sciences, mathematics, nursing, science and engineering management and science education. MSU also offers graduate certificates in addiction counseling, architecture, Native American studies, nursing education, school library media, science and engineering management, and science teaching.
School Website: 
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Top Cities For Students In Montana

Billings, Montana

Mean Wage

$41,660

Average Cost of a House

$185,900

# of Employed People

81,280

Total Population

104,170

Avg Salary with a Bachelor's Degree

$41,956

Economics

There are just over 80,000 workers in Billings, the fastest-growing city in Montana. The BLS reported in 2014 that these workers make a mean annual wage of $41,660. The Census Bureau reports that of the 72,317 residents who are 25 or older, 21 percent have a bachelor's degree and 9 percent have a graduate or professional degree. The investment those people made in education are paying off. While high school graduates in Billings have a median annual salary of about $25,688, those with a bachelor's degree made a median salary of $42,000 a year and those with advanced degrees made a median salary of nearly $56,000, according to 2014 Census Bureau data.

Demographics

Workers in Billings, located in south-central Montana along the border of Wyoming, make up about 18 percent of the state's total workforce.

Fun Facts

Many people come to Montana to enjoy the fishing, hunting, biking and hiking, but Billings also offers Pictograph Cave State Park, the Yellowstone Valley Farmers Market and shows at the Alberta Bair Theatre.

Missoula, Montana

Mean Wage

$39,650

Average Cost of a House

$236,800

# of Employed People

56,980

Total Population

68,377

Avg Salary with a Bachelor's Degree

$31,450

Economics

Workers in Missoula, located on the western edge of the state and home to the University of Montana, earned a mean annual wage of $39,650 in 2014, according to the BLS. The Census Bureau reports that among the 42,569 residents of the city who are older than 25, a whopping 28 percent have a bachelor's degree and nearly 18 percent have a graduate or professional degree. According to 2014 Census Bureau data, those with a graduate or professional degree earn a median average of $48,546 in Missoula, while bachelor's degree holders earn a median average of $31,450 and high school graduates earn a median average of $24,100.

Demographics

Missoula's 56,980 workers constitute 13 percent of the state's workforce.

Fun Facts

Located on the Clark River, Missoula makes a great destination for those who enjoy water sports. Its long, cold winters also make it a mecca for those who enjoy snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and sleigh rides. Downhill skiing is just a short drive away at Snowbowl, which is minutes from downtown.

Great Falls, Montana

Mean Wage

$37,370

Average Cost of a House

$158,900

# of Employed People

34,910

Total Population

58,505

Avg Salary with a Bachelor's Degree

$38,769

Economics

Nearly 35,000 workers call Great Falls home, and the BLS reported that they earned a median annual salary of $37,370 in 2014. About 18 percent of the 40,000 residents who are 25 and older have a bachelor's degree, and 7.5 percent have a graduate or professional degree. Among the 5,600 residents who are between 18 and 24 years old, 44 percent have at least some college under their belt. Residents with just a high school diploma earn a median annual salary of $25,688, while those with a bachelor's degree earn a median annual salary of $41,956 and those with a graduate or professional degree earn a median annual salary of $55,943, according to the Census Bureau in 2014.

Demographics

There are 34,910 workers in Great Falls, which makes up 8 percent of the state's entire workforce.

Fun Facts

Great Falls is close to almost any type of outdoor recreation you can imagine. In the summer, Giant Springs State Park is a big attraction, as is Rainbow Falls and the Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge. In the winter, many residents and visitors head to Showdown Ski area for some downhill runs on that light Montana powder.

 
Other Montana Resources

Montana online colleges offer something special in that they enable working professionals to pursue an education while maintaining full-time jobs and enjoying the area's recreation — what the state does best. Montana online colleges provide flexibility and convenience because courses may be completed at times of your choosing, not at designated times or locations that in the past may have been prohibitive.

Sources:

  1. 25 Things to Do, Destination Missoula, http://destinationmissoula.org/25-things-to-do
  2. About Helena College Online, Helena College University of Montana, http://www.umhelena.edu/online/aboutus.aspx
  3. American Factfinder, Montana, U.S. Census Bureau, accessed November 2015, http://factfinder.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/community_facts.xhtml#none
  4. Census and Economic Information Center, Montana Department of Commerce, http://ceic.mt.gov/
  5. College Navigator, Montana, National Center for Education Statistics, https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?s=MT&l=93
  6. Desire2Learn, Montana State University-Northern, http://www.msun.edu/distance/online.html
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  10. Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Billings, MT, Bureau of Labor Statistics, accessed November 2015, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_13740.htm
  11. Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Great Falls, Bureau of Labor Statistics, accessed November 2015, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_24500.htm
  12. Missoula, U.S. Census Bureau, accessed November 2015, http://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?src=CF
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  14. Montana's Trailhead, Visit Billings, http://www.visitbillings.com/area-attractions.php
  15. MSUB Online, Montana State University Billings, http://www.msubillings.edu/msubonline/DegreesandPrograms.htm
  16. Online Courses, Flathead Valley Community College, https://cams1.fvcc.edu/Schedules/sp16/cam.asp
  17. Online Courses, Miles Community College, https://www.milescc.edu/DistanceLearning/OnlineCourses.htm
  18. Online Degree and Certificate Programs, Montana State University, http://www.montana.edu/online/degrees/
  19. Online Programs, Dawson Community College, https://www.dawson.edu/academics/online/
  20. Online Programs, Great Falls College Montana State University, http://elearning.gfcmsu.edu/Programs.html
  21. Online Programs, Montana Tech, http://www.mtech.edu/academics/distance/online_programs.htm
  22. Top 5 industries in Montana, Newsmax, http://www.newsmax.com/FastFeatures/industries-montana-economy/2015/04/13/id/638208/
  23. Top Things to Do in Great Falls, http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractions-g45198-Activities-Great_Falls_Montana.html
  24. UMW Outreach, University of Montana-Western, http://www.umwestern.edu/programs/school-of-outreach.html#umw-tabbed-teacher-education
  25. University of Montana UMOnline Programs, https://umonline.umt.edu/programs/default.php