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Online Colleges in Montana

Most Affordable Online Colleges

COLLEGE FINDER

Article Sources

Methodology

To be included in these rankings, all colleges had to meet the following criteria for the specific subject being ranked:

  1. Offer at least one degree or certificate in that subject online
  2. Have awarded at least one degree or certificate in that subject in 2014-15

Once we had our list of schools for each subject, we ranked them on six criteria, using the weights specified:

  1. In-state tuition, National Center for Education Statistics, 2014
  2. Graduation rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2014
  3. Accessibility, based on the admissions rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2014
  4. Program prominence, based on how many of the degrees and certificates awarded by the school in 2014-15 were in this particular subject, National Center for Education Statistics, 2014
  5.  Related subjects, based on the number of similar programs that the school offers at any level, National Center for Education Statistics, 2014
  6. Variety of degree levels, based on the number of degree and certificate levels out of a possible nine that the school offers in this particular subject, National Center for Education Statistics, 2014

Methodology Sources

  • Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/

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
  7. Great Falls, Median Earnings, U.S. Census Bureau, accessed November 2015, http://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?src=CF
  8. Median Earnings, U.S. Census Bureau, Billings, accessed November 2015, http://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?src=CF
  9. Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Missoula, MT, Bureau of Labor Statistics, accessed November 2015, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_33540.htm
  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
  13. Montana University System, http://mus.edu/Qtools/Degrees/quicksrch.asp?cam=%25&deg=4&maj
  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. Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, accessed January 2017, http://www.nwccu.org/
  17. Online Courses, Flathead Valley Community College, https://cams1.fvcc.edu/Schedules/sp16/cam.asp
  18. Online Courses, Miles Community College, https://www.milescc.edu/DistanceLearning/OnlineCourses.htm
  19. Online Degree and Certificate Programs, Montana State University, http://www.montana.edu/online/degrees/
  20. Online Programs, Dawson Community College, https://www.dawson.edu/academics/online/
  21. Online Programs, Great Falls College Montana State University, http://elearning.gfcmsu.edu/Programs.html
  22. Online Programs, Montana Tech, http://www.mtech.edu/academics/distance/online_programs.htm
  23. Top 5 industries in Montana, Newsmax, http://www.newsmax.com/FastFeatures/industries-montana-economy/2015/04/13/id/638208/
  24. Top Things to Do in Great Falls, http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractions-g45198-Activities-Great_Falls_Montana.html
  25. UMW Outreach, University of Montana-Western, http://www.umwestern.edu/programs/school-of-outreach.html#umw-tabbed-teacher-education
  26. University of Montana UMOnline Programs, https://umonline.umt.edu/programs/default.php
  27. Reach Higher Montana - #406students, Accessed April 2017, http://www.reachhighermontana.org/406students/
  28. Reach Higher Montana - 10 Steps to Financial Aid, Accessed April 2017, http://www.reachhighermontana.org/10steps/
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The state of Montana is a world of its own. A place of endless crystalline air and picture-postcard vistas, where miles of emerald prairie are suddenly interrupted by mountains as regal as Olympus, it has truly earned its nickname of Big Sky Country. Because of Montana's vast amounts of wilderness, the Rocky Mountains, and Glacier National Park, it is commonly seen as a place for families and adventure-seekers to explore. Whether you crave rafting, fishing, hiking or camping, you'll find every activity you desire and more in Montana.

Fortunately, the state offers plenty in terms of higher education as well. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)'s College Navigator, there are 33 universities, community colleges and other institutions of higher education within state limits. This includes:

  • Six public, four-year universities
  • 13 public community colleges
  • Six private non-profit schools
  • Eight for-profit institutes

Because Montana's cities are so spread out, the state embraced the idea of online education early on. With web-based learning, Montana residents have the opportunity to earn college degrees wherever they reside. The Montana University System even has their own online learning portal that connects students to the many online graduate and undergraduate degree options in the state.

Best Online Colleges in Montana for 2018

If you're considering online learning in Montana, it's crucial to research schools and programs ahead of time. To help make the process easier, we've created this ranking of the 10 best online colleges in Montana, using data pulled from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Our unique methodology (details at the bottom of this page) ranked Montana's schools based on factors such as graduation rate, acceptance rate and retention rate. If you'd like to make your own rankings of Montana schools, check out our Top Colleges Tool.

1

Montana State University

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$6,887
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
8.32%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
10
School Type
4-year

Montana State University is the largest institution of higher education in the state, yet only half of its 2017 student body was made up of Montana residents. The school pulls in students from out of state and, indeed, from all over the world due to the high quality of its degree programs and its long history as a prestigious university established in 1893.

In addition to its excellent on-campus programming, the school offers a robust online learning program with ample resources for distance learners through its online portal, Montana State Online. Through Montana State Online, students can obtain online academic advising, technical support and many other student success and career resources.

In terms of the online degree programs, Montana State currently offers one undergraduate program (in liberal studies) and seven graduate programs in fields like nursing, agricultural education and family financial planning. Rounding out the school's online offerings are several graduate certificate programs, a principal/ superintendent licensure endorsement, and professional development courses in science for educators.

2

Great Falls College Montana State University

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$3,130
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
58.66%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
11
School Type
2-year

Great Falls College-MSU is a two-year community college affiliated with Montana State University. The school offers eight different, fully online two-year degree programs, and all with the prestige and support of the MSU name. A few of the programs available for study at this school include:

  • Associate of Arts
  • Associate of Science
  • Health information technology
  • Pharmacy technician

Students who choose to pursue their degree online at Great Falls will find a wide range of supports in place to aid in their success. Online students have full access to GFC MSU Weaver Library's electronic resources, for example. They can also sign up for tutoring through the school's Academic Success Center, obtain technical support for the learning management system D2L Brightspace, or reach out to dedicated advisors for additional help if needed.

3

Montana State University-Billings

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$5,826
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
54.69%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
18
School Type
4-year

Montana State University-Billings is part of the Montana State University system, yet offers its own programming and educational style. The school bills itself as a "leader" in Montana's higher education, and this is no empty boast: MSU-Billings has more online degree programs than any other Montana school. Coupled with the school's surprisingly affordable tuition, it's no surprise that MSU-Billings also has one of the highest percentages of distance learners in the state.

If you're considering online learning, check out MSU-Billings for online associate degree programs in topics such as accounting technology, business administration and human resource management. Alternately, you could pursue a Billings bachelor's degree in a discipline such as business administration or public relations, with multiple concentrations to choose from for the BAS or BSLS programs. Several master's and certificate programs in varied fields are also available.

4

Miles Community College

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$5,220
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
50.31%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
1
School Type
2-year

Miles Community College is a two-year introductory school aimed at attracting new high school graduates, adult learners, and those seeking quick entry into the workforce. Through online courses and interactive television (ITV), distance learners can work alongside their on-campus peers to earn an online Associate of Science (AS) or Associate of Arts (AA) degree, or equivalent certificates.

Miles CC is very friendly to transfer students who have completed some of their college coursework elsewhere. For one thing, the school offers credit for previous experience through a portfolio system, and for another, students with fewer than 30 semester hours of college credit are guaranteed admission to the school regardless of academic standing.

5

The University of Montana

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$6,468
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
19.61%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
12
School Type
4-year

The University of Montana is one of the premier institutions of higher education in the state, featuring high quality degree programs in numerous arts, science and technical fields. The school's location boasts one of the most beautiful and dramatic landscapes in the area, and hosts some of the top researchers and academics from around the world.

UM hosts its own online learning portal called UMOnline, through which students can research the school's many online degree options. From graduate to undergraduate degree programs, from minors to endorsements, there is certainly no shortage of choices at UM. One of the most interesting features, however, are the RevUp programs. Created by a partnership between Montana's two-year colleges and the Montana Department of Labor and Industry, these programs are structured to help students quickly learn the skills they need to earn a well-paying place in the workforce.

6

Montana Tech of the University of Montana

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$6,881
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
18.22%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
1
School Type
4-year

Montana Tech is the technical wing of the University of Montana. This school boasts the U of M name, but has a different focus: to provide technical education for students across a wide range of hands-on academic fields. To this end, Montana Tech has Digger Online — an online learning portal created specifically for the school. Through Digger Online, students can pursue the following degrees and certificates:

  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing completion post-licensure
  • Master of Science in industrial hygiene
  • Master of Science in project engineering and management
  • Health care informatics technology undergrad certificate (HIT certificate program)
  • Health care informatics graduate certificate

If they're in need of assistance, Montana Tech's distance learners can talk to a "virtual mentor" — students who can help their peers with tips, resources and advice about distance learning in general and the school's learning platform, Moodle, in particular. Montana Tech also offers free online tutoring for its students.

7

University of Great Falls

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$22,434
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
63.67%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
6
School Type
4-year

The University of Great Falls was founded in 1932 and has since grown to become the most prominent Catholic Providence-sponsored school in the state. To ensure they can help as many interested students as possible, they offer several online degree programs.

Great Falls distance learners can decide to pursue bachelor's degrees in fields such as addictions counseling, psychology, sociology, or legal and paralegal studies. Two online associate degrees (one in criminal justice, one in paralegal studies) are also available, as are several graduate programs.

With the highest percentage of online students of all Montana schools and the second-highest student retention rate of the 10 schools on this list, it would seem that many students both in- and out-of-state appreciate the power of Great Falls' message and the quality of its instruction.

8

The University of Montana-Western

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$4,893
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
21.74%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
3
School Type
4-year

The University of Montana-Western is easily one of the most interesting institutes on this list. It utilizes a unique learning method it calls "Experience One." In this model, students take exactly one course for 18 days (three hours per day,) then take a four-day break to refresh themselves before starting the next course. Four courses are still taken in one semester, providing the same amount of credits as a traditional multi-class system, but students have the opportunity to focus entirely on one course at a time, rather than splitting their attention across four courses at the same time.

Currently UM-Western offers only one degree program fully online (a Bachelor of Science in early childhood education,) but the university also provides several online, night and weekend courses that can add great flexibility to a student's schedule, either from Montana or beyond.

9

Montana State University-Northern

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$5,371
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
48.54%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
7
School Type
4-year

Montana State University-Northern students who crave distance learning have several options available to them at this Montana university, ranging from associate degrees all the way up to a master's degree. All of MSU-Northern's distance courses are taught using the Desire2Learn (D2L) virtual classroom.

  • Associate of Arts in general education
  • Associate of Science in business
  • Bachelor of Arts in community leadership
  • Bachelor of Science in nursing (RN-to-BSN completion), business administration or criminal justice
  • Bachelor of Applied Science in business technology or trades management
  • Master of Education in instruction & learning

There are also minors available in business technology, marketing, accounting and small business management. MSU-Northern doesn't forget about you once you've graduated, either: each semester, the college offers a variety of workshops (both credit and noncredit) for professionals who are looking to continue or brush up on their credentials.

10

Helena College - University of Montana

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$3,109
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
29.71%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
1
School Type
2-year

Helena College is a branch of the University of Montana that conveys its distance education courses to students in an active, easy way. Instructors use the school's One Button Studio — a specially set-up recording studio that can be used without any previous video production experience — to film their lecture, then can send the instruction to students anywhere on the planet. Helena College is only the second college in Montana to have such a recording studio, and the first one in the state to boast a recording studio with editing stations.

While Helena College doesn't offer any fully-online degree programs itself, they do have a partnership with ed2go that allows them to offer a wide range of online certificate programs. These certificate programs can teach students skills that will serve them well in the workplaces of many in-demand careers, especially through Helena's One Button course deliveries.

Affordable Online Colleges in Montana

Affordable Two-Year Online Colleges in Montana

The following list of Montana two-year schools that offer online degree programs or classes was chosen for tuition costs. Tuition figures are sourced from the National Center for Education Statistics for the 2015-2016 school year and reflect in-state tuition, when that data is available.

College NameTuition & Fees/Year
Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Distance Education Participation
Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Number of Online Programs Offered
Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics..
School Type
Helena College University of Montana$3,10929.71%12-year
Great Falls College Montana State University$3,13058.66%112-year
Highlands College of Montana Tech$3,325N/A12-year
Dawson Community College$5,07038.36%32-year
Miles Community College$5,22050.31%12-year

Affordable Four-Year Online Colleges in Montana

These Montana schools offer four-year online degree programs or classes at low costs. Tuition figures are sourced from the National Center for Education Statistics for the 2015-2016 school year and reflect in-state tuition, when that data is available.

College NameTuition & Fees/Year
Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Distance Education Participation
Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Number of Online Programs Offered
Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics..
School Type
The University of Montana-Western$4,89321.74%34-year
Montana State University-Northern$5,37148.54%74-year
Montana State University-Billings$5,82654.69%184-year
Salish Kootenai College$6,2790.38%14-year
The University of Montana$6,46819.61%124-year

College Accreditation in Montana

Students searching for a great degree program shouldn't forget to check an institution's accreditation. This voluntary process means an organization or commission has reviewed a college or university's programs and found they meet certain, minimum standards.

While there are many different types of accreditation available, approval from a regional accrediting body may be the most important. Each state has an accrediting body, approved by the Department of Education, which reviews and accredits postsecondary schools there. In Montana, this body is the following:

  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities(NWCUU)

The commission oversees 162 institutions across a seven-state region. Colleges in Montana may list accreditations from other entities as well, and students should confirm whether these are also approved by the Department of Education.

Financial Aid Resources in Montana

Montana Loans

Montana does not offer any state-based loans to students, as the state prefers to focus on the Reach Higher Montana Scholarship programs. Students seeking financial aid assistance are encouraged to first exhaust scholarship and grant aid to help cover their cost of tuition, as these awards do not need to be repaid. However, if you are still in need of financial assistance for your college tuition and expenses, you may apply for federal and private loans to help bridge the gap. To qualify for federal loans, you will need to provide information about your family's financial situation by filling out the FAFSA.

Read more about how student loans work in the Ultimate Guide to Student Loans.

Additional Resources for Financial Aid in Montana

  • 10 Steps to Financial Aid offers a detailed list for Montana students to follow on their journey toward funding their education.

Featured Cities In Montana

Data sourced from the 2015 American Community Survey (census.gov).

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, MT Metro Area

Total Population

111,966

Median salary for high school grads

$25,009

Median salary with a bachelor's degree

$31,903

% of the population enrolled in college or grad school

43.6%

Median rent

$769

Fun Facts about Missoula

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, MT Metro Area

Total Population

82,090

Median salary for high school grads

$23,603

Median salary with a bachelor's degree

$38,211

% of the population enrolled in college or grad school

24.7%

Median rent

$639

Fun Facts about Great Falls

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.

 
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