A Guide to Online Colleges in Montana

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With over 147,000 square miles of land, it’s no wonder Montana has the nickname Big Sky Country. Montana is a Rocky Mountain state, a state filled with ancient remains and prehistoric art. There are mountain ranges that stretch far and wide and where one range ends, the next begins. In fact, there are 77 named mountain ranges that span across this great state. Lakes, rivers and streams wind their way throughout the scenery creating a looking glass view of the mountains above them. There are nearly 50 state parks in Montana including Granite Ghost Town State park, Pictograph Cave State Park, and the Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park. Montana’s landscape tells a story of the explored and untouched and even though it is the 4th largest state by mass (it is still only the 44th by population). When in Montana you’re reconnected to a sense of the wilderness where the elements tell as much of the story as do the locals: known for their friendly nature and ability to talk to anyone who stops in. Visitors and locals alike will take trips out the the Grand Tetons, Glacier National Park, and Yellowstone. Traveling by horse is still very common in Montana, where ranchers still make a living. At night when the mighty sun dips over into the Pacific Ocean, the Big Sky Country is still alight with miles upon miles of celestial wonders. What once was a fur trade state is now a state with endless possibilities. Missoula, Great Falls, and Billings all have fantastic universities, safe neighborhoods, great downtowns, and industries that are expanding and welcoming. Maybe still one of the best kept secrets in America, but if you’re one of the few lucky ones the call Montana home, you can’t picture yourself anywhere else.

In-state tuition is often applied to public schools offering online programs. Many online programs require some face-to-face time, or more numerous support services at their brick and mortar locations. Intensive study experiences — often on the weekends or in several week long bouts — enable many online students to accelerate their time until graduation. And students looking at online education can drastically expand their educational options if they also look to hybrid degrees (degrees where degrees can be taken partially, or mostly online). Finally, one of the most common stipulations in scholarships is that students be from a certain state or region, often more funds are available to students seeking degrees in-state.

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Featured Online Schools

Top Public Schools

The top public schools in Montana offer online programs of study ranging from an associate to master’s degree. Our top public universities are Montana State University, Montana State University Billings, Montana State University Northern and The University of Montana. The Billings campus offers 20 fully online degree programs that range from an associate to master’s degree in fields like accounting, public relations, and education. The University of Montana is the highest ranked program and offers 7 online degrees including their new bachelor of arts in media arts. Unique online offerings from Montana State University include agricultural education, family financial planning, and environmental sciences. The broad range of offerings and affordable prices make Montana public schools a great option for future students.

Top Private Schools

The top private school for online offerings is the University of Great Falls. The University of Great Falls is a private Roman Catholic institution that is located in Great Falls, Montana. According to U.S. News the University of Great Falls is one of the best schools in the region. Currently, there are 9 fully online degrees offered including a associate in paralegal studies, B.A. in sociology, and a M.S. in organizational management.

How to Become a Resident

Before qualifying for in-state tuition, individuals should look to ensure they are classified as a “resident.” According to the Board of Regent’s Policy 940.1, individuals must reside in the state of Montana for a 12-month continuous period of domicile. Individuals must initiate domicile officially either by way of a voter registration card or something similar such as a Montana Driver’s license. From this point going forward prospective students may begin to count their days. Attempts to establish domicile without official documentation may not gain approval. It is vital that individuals initiate their domicile through official state channels. Once commenced, you must act in accordance with expectations set out by the State of Montana. Contradictory on inconsistent actions that violate residency include but are not limited to voting absentee in another state, taking part in an exchange program, accepting financial aid based on a non-residency status in the state of Montana. Upon commencement, you must apply for a Montana state driver’s license no longer than 60 days after the establishment period. It is recommended that individuals who have established a 12-month domicile include supplemental documentation as supportive evidence. Supportive documents may include proof of residency, voter registration card, a utility bill, and tax records. Individuals absent from the state of Montana for an excess of 30 days during their 12-month period may be eliminated from in-state tuition consideration. For more details check out the Montana Board of Regents Policy and Procedures Manual here.

In 2016-17 the average published tuition prices for Montana public four-year universities is $7,056 for in-state tuition which is $2,344 below the national average for public universities. Some of the highest value schools are also our top picks for online options. The University of Montana is one of the top schools in the nation and the tuition rates are well below the national average for public institution. In fact, the University of Montana offers programming for lower than most in-state flagship universities. In-state students will pay just $6,446 for a tier-1 level education. The same level of education for out-of-state students is $24,562 — much closer to the cost of a private education. Montana State University Northern offers the lowest cost of tuition for those who study in-state. Tuition here is just $5,329, the cost of community college in many other states across the nation. If you study in-state and online, you will also save tremendously on the cost for room and board. Studies show that bachelor’s degree take on average 6 years to complete. This is a total room and board savings of nearly $40,000. If you add that to the cost of in-state tuition savings, individuals are looking to save nearly $100,000 dollars on their education. There is certainly something to be said of staying in state.

Billings Montana may be America’s best kept secret. Located just south of the Crow Reservation and Northeast of Yellowstone National Park, you can see 5 different mountain ranges from Billings. Some of Billings’ accolades include the number one city to launch a small business according to Fortune, 3rd best place to raise a family according to Best Life, 9th in the country for lowest tax burden according to Forbes, one of the 8 best cities for starting new careers according to Where to Retire and one of the top 50 cities in America for cyclists. Montana State University also holds one of its campuses here. This city is not only a fantastic place to start you career, raise a family, be a student and see the wildest sides of the wild west, but is also just 6 miles from some of the most ancient markings of our nation’s indigenous people: the Pictograph Caves. The Pictograph Caves were homes to early hunters and contain examples of ancient rock paintings that include images of animals, warriors, and even rifles. Billings is the largest city in Montana with 108,869 people. It is said that the elk, deer, and antelope outnumber the humans. Whether you love riding motorcycles, riding horses, or exploring the greatest of great outdoors, Billings Montana is a fantastic place to call home.

Missoula is known as the “Garden City” for its lush dense green landscape. Located at the convergence of five valleys in the northern Rockies, Missoula is also considered the “hub of five valleys.”” The University of Montana is located in Missoula and features a 200-acre campus that is considered to be one of the most beautiful campuses in the nation. Residents and students alike enjoy camping, fishing, rafting, kayaking, and canoeing through all of the nearby river ways. Archaeological artifacts date the Missoula Valley’s early inhabitants as far back as the ice age — 12,000 years ago. Lewis and Clark took a load off at Traveler’s Rest and during the European settlement this area was a place of repeated ambushes, probably due to its location in the convergence. Today this location is more associated with reference to Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park, making it a popular stopping point for tourists and explorers alike. In addition to endless natural beauty, Missoula is also home to fine architectural landmarks and buildings like the Missoula County Courthouse, Elk’s Temple, Northern Pacific Station, and the W.A. Clark’s Lumber Mill. The top industries include retail, healthcare, and food service and accommodation.

Great Falls Montana gets its namesake from the five waterfalls located along the Upper Missouri Basin. Today, each of the Falls supports a hydroelectric dam hence the nickname “The Electric City.” Located just outside of Glacier National Park, Great Falls Montana is the stopping point for many locals and visitors both past and present — including the Lewis and Clark expedition. In fact, Great Falls is home the the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, detailing the arduous journey while encouraging visitors to partake. Giant Springs State Park is also located in Great Falls and is one of the largest springs in the world — a popular spot for locals to cool down in the summer months. Fortunate visitors may walk the stunning river walk, feed the trout and take in the splendid views of the Rainbow Dam. Montana is a huge state — over 147,000 square -miles and so locals are accustomed to taking long day and weekend trips. Residents of Great Falls are no different and will often be found exploring the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone National Park, and Glacier National Park. When in town, locals take advantage of the 24-mile River’s Edge Trail and enjoy walking, biking, and jogging. In town, Great Falls has all of the amenities of a downtown with great watering holes, restaurants and more. With safe and stunning surroundings, growing industries and a fantastic university it’s no wonder students and residents alike love to call Great Falls home.

Billings


Population: 108,869
Cost of Living: 88.9%
Top Industries: Construction, Healthcare, Retail
Local Online Degrees: 1

Missoula


Population: 69,821
Cost of Living: 92.8%
Top Industries: Retail, Accommodation and Food Service, Healthcare, Education
Local Online Degrees: 1

Great Falls


Population: 59,152
Cost of Living: 86.4%
Top Industries: Healthcare, Retail, Construction, Accommodation
Local Online Degrees: 1

Bozeman


Population: 41,660
Cost of Living: 91.6%
Top Industries: Education, Retail, Healthcare, Construction
Local Online Degrees: 1

The Best Online Colleges in West Virginia

  • 1. Montana State University

    Online Programs: 7
    Type: Public
    Website

    Established in 1893, Montana State University is a public land-grant university located in Bozeman, Montana. Bozeman is home to The Museum of the Rockies and situated south of Saddle Peak and north of Yellowstone National Park. There are 16,440 students enrolled at MSU, Montana’s largest university. According to U.S. News Montana State is ranked highly as a national institution, in particular for its business, engineering, and psychology programming. The Northwest Commission on College and Universities accredits Montana State to offer programs that range from undergraduate to graduate degrees. There are nine academic colleges that focus on professional studies like business and nursing as well as the sciences and arts. Gallatin College presents their workforce degree programs, associate degrees, and developmental education. As a land grant institution, there are a number of quality research opportunities in areas like agriculture, transportation, optical technology, and mental health. Online, MSU offers 7 degrees in fields like curriculum and instruction, family financial planning, nursing, and agricultural education.

  • 2. University of Great Falls

    Online Programs: 9
    Type: Private
    Website

    Founded in 1932, The University of Great Falls is a private Roman Catholic institution that is located in Great Falls, Montana. Great Falls is located between Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park. This small private institution enrolls 1,129 students. Most of the classes contain fewer than 20 students and the student-to-faculty ratio is 14:1. According to the University of Great Falls is the 19th best school in the Western region. There are 40 undergraduate, and 8 graduate degree programs offered through their 6 colleges. The colleges focus on either arts and sciences or professional studies. The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities accredits the University of Great Falls to offer associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degree programs. In addition to academics, the University of Great Falls weighs heavily on the student’s ability to make important “life choices” and encourages its learners to ask of themselves the tough questions. Their core curriculum includes answering fundamental questions like “what does it mean to participate in intellectual inquiry?” and “What does it mean to make a living and to live a productive human being?” We like that UGF focuses as much on the whole person as it does the academic content. To reach even more people, UGF provides 9 fully online degree programs that range from the associate to master’s level.

  • 3. Montana State University - Billings

    Online Programs: 20
    Type: Public
    Website

    Montana State University Billings is a public institution located in Billings, Montana. Billings is the largest city in the state of Montana. Founded in 1927 this public institution currently enrolls 4,429 students. The student-to-faculty ratio is 17:1 and the majority of classrooms contain fewer than 20 people. The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities accredits MSU Billings to offers associate through master’s degree programs through five academic colleges. Their College of Allied Health, Business, nursing and Education offer career-ready degrees at all level. Additionally, the College of Arts and Sciences provides degrees in biology, creative writing, philosophy and more. We like the comprehensive degree offerings as well as the affordable tuition and student support services offered both on campus and online. MSU Billings offers 20 online degree programs that range from the associate to master’s level including programs like an associate in accounting, bachelor’s in mass communications, and a master’s in health administration.

  • 4. The University of Montana

    Online Programs: 7
    Type: Public
    Website

    The University of Montana is a public research university located in Missoula, Montana. Missoula is situated between three national forests just south of Flathead Reservation. There are nearly 11,000 students enrolled at UM who participate in classes with fewer than 20 students and benefit from a student-to-faculty ratio of 17:1. U.S. News ranks the University of Montana as the 214th best school in the nation and 150th best public school. Programs of note include the bachelor’s in creative writing, biology, and business administration. With many unique businesses and incubators stemming from the University of Montana, it’s no wonder their motto is “Lux et Veritas” or Light and Truth. In addition to nationally recognized academia and innovative approaches to learning, Rolling Stone called the university the “most scenic campus in America.” For distance learners, the University of Montana offers 7 fully online degree programs that include an A.A.S. in Energy Technology, their new B.A. in Media Arts, and a M.M. in Music Education.

  • 5. Montana State University - Northern

    Online Programs: 9
    Type: Public
    Website

    Montana State University Northern is a public institution located in Havre, Montana. Havre is located in North Montana just south of the Canadian border. Founded in 1929 this public university enrolls just over 1,200 students There are over 40 degree programs as well as 30 minors available. The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities accredits MSU Northern to offer associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degree programs. Elementary education, nursing, business, diesel technology, and counselor education are their top majors by enrollment. One core theme includes providing liberal arts, professional and technical programs together, which they do at an affordable price. We like the variety of degree programs available, the flexibility offered as well as their online offerings. MSU Northern offers 9 online degrees including an associate of arts, B.S. in criminal justice, and a M.Ed in Instruction and Learning.

Monitoring the accreditation of a university you are interested in attending is incredibly important. Accreditation ensures your credits can transfer that you can receive Federal financial aid, and most importantly that certain standards of educational quality are during your schooling. The highest accreditation standard for most programs in the United States is provided by regional accreditation agencies. The regional accrediting agency for Montana is the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, one of six regional accrediting agencies responsible for accrediting schools in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington.

Making sure that a University you’re hoping to attend is regionally accredited — or accredited by a real and respected accrediting agency — is one of the most important choices you can make in ensuring the quality of your education.

Three Steps for Securing Financial Aid

  • Submit your FAFSA.
  • Check to see if additional forms are needed at your university of choice.
  • Search and apply for private scholarships.

Through the previous three steps most students find themselves offered some sort of federal grant, work study, private grant, scholarship, or stipend.

Great Montana Higher Education Resources

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