Interest in distance learning continues to climb nationwide and traditional brick-and-mortar colleges have joined private for-profit schools in delivering coursework for certificate and degree programs online. In Montana, rugged winters may strongly influence a student’s educational plans. It is not uncommon for colleges in the state to cancel classes and close temporarily due to bad weather, another factor contributing to online education’s ever-growing popularity.
In Montana, the push toward providing a more substantial collection of online offerings is being led in the public postsecondary education sector by the Montana University System’s Online Education department. There are currently 16 campuses in the MU system providing some level of online degree programs, certificates, and coursework. This includes both the Missoula and Western campuses of the University of Montana, four campuses of the Montana State University system, and a number of community and technical colleges. The state’s three private, not-for-profit faith-based colleges each offer some level of degree, certificate or course access through distance education. Those schools include Carroll College, Rocky Mountain College, and the University of Great Falls.
Montana college students allocate cash for costs ranging from tuition and fees to books and living expenses. Tuition, typically the most significant expense, depends on the type of school and whether or not an applicant qualifies for state residency. In 2012, the average in-state tuition for Montana institutions ranked 3rd nationally for affordability, priced at $5,735 per academic year. While tuition holds a central place in budget calculations, students also need to consider college fees for miscellaneous services such as parking and registration. Schools may also charge fees for the use of recreational amenities or technology labs.
Montana students’ financial estimates should also cover living expenses and transportation. Plans for online coursework should take into consideration any computing requirements, which could include a reliable wireless network, recent versions of word processing and office productivity software, and an up-to-date operating system.
Montana’s living costs are on par with the U.S. average, which could bolster student resources depending on the locale. The following table compares the cost of living (COL) for Montana’s population centers with the national average, which is shown as 100%:
|Urban Area||Composite Index||Housing||Groceries||Utilities||Transportation||Health Care||Misc.|
While tuition and fees remain the largest costs associated with college, students should also consider the return on that financial investment (ROI). Some schools may have higher price tags but yield higher-than-average career opportunities and salary potential after graduation, and vice versa. The list of colleges below represents those in Montana with the highest documented ROI, measured by subtracting the cost of attending four years from the average graduate’s lifetime earnings:
For those seeking higher education in Montana, the decision-making process should take into account a school’s accreditation status. Financial aid programs typically require accreditation, which demonstrates that a college meets certain academic standards. Postsecondary institutions in Montana can apply to accrediting agencies such as the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. Individual colleges, departments, or programs within an institution can also seek specialized accreditation. As an example, the School of Business Administration at the University of Montana holds accreditation for its undergraduate and graduate business programs via The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International). The university has maintained this accreditation since 1949, demonstrating a continued commitment to delivering quality business education to its many students.
There are numerous elements of online learning that make it attractive to nontraditional college students. Chief among these are accessibility, convenience, and flexibility. The key for any student looking for the right program is to first select the field of study they wish to enter and determine if programs in that area are available online. Next, students should identify other factors that will determine their ability to undertake study, such as finances, balancing outside commitments with education, and levels of degrees available. This search tool helps students easily find the online learning program fitting their unique educational needs and wants.
Whether students are beginning their first program or have become distance education experts, academic success depends on mastering the tools and resources offered online both generally and within specific course systems. There are endless resources available for Montana students, ranging from time management and general efficiency programs to subject specific creative tools and databases. The list below is provided as an introductory sample of the types of helpful resources students can access online and free of charge.
Many post-secondary institutions in Montana have recognized the need for alternative learning modes to help students in less populated areas. The state’s two-year and four-year colleges, for example, have developed a network of online degree programs and courses at multiple degree levels. However, some Montana schools have gone above and beyond the rest, with cost structures and support services that make them attractive options for new and seasoned online students alike. Discover the Best Online Colleges in Montana for 2015, and learn how (and why) they continue to make a difference.
|RANK||COLLEGE||Tuition And Fees||Enrollment||Accredited||MORE INFO|
|1||Montana State University-Northern||$5,480||1,618||YES|
Montana State University at Northern Extended Learning provides online degrees to students who want to advance their knowledge and education at one of the online colleges in Montana. A variety of degrees are available completely online and include, but are not limited to, an Associate of Science in Business, a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing, and a Master's of Education in Instruction and Learning. Students can also pursue minors and individual courses online.
|2||Montana State University-Billings||$5,711||5,736||YES|
Montana State University at Billings is one of the online colleges in Montana providing distance learning opportunities at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Students can complete associate, bachelor's, and master's degrees as well as pursue certificates and concentrations through distance learning. The university is accredited through the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
|3||The University of Montana||$5,985||15,487||YES|
The University of Montana provides distance-learning opportunities to students at the undergraduate and graduate levels. As one of the online colleges in Montana, it offers associate, minors, and master's degrees, as well as certificates and endorsements, available through e-learning. Course are administered through the Moodle learning platform and may be found in subjects such as customer relations, forensic studies, and public administration.
|4||Montana State University||$6,705||15,421||YES|
Montana State University offers online degrees and certificates to students who prefer distance learning. As one of the online colleges in Montana, the university gives students the opportunity to pursue degrees such as the Bachelor's of Arts in Liberal Studies and the Master's of Science in Agricultural Education. Students can also find graduate certificates and professional development courses available online through the university.
|5||University of Great Falls||$20,288||1,183||YES|
The University of Great Falls is one of the online colleges in Montana providing students with distance learning opportunities at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Students may be able to pursue degrees that use blended or online learning in areas such as addictions counseling, criminal justice, organizational management, psychology and several others.
Carroll College is one of the online colleges in Montana providing undergraduate and graduate level coursework though distance learning. Most classes are eight weeks in length and accelerated in terms of pace and schedule. Students may be able to pursue online courses in subjects such as accounting, business, education, leadership, philosophy, sociology, and others depending upon availability.