Many postsecondary 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 2016-2017, and learn how (and why) they continue to make a difference.
|Rank||School Name||Score||Tuition & Fees||#ONLINE PROGRAMS|
|1||Montana State University-Billings||97.16||$$||21|
|2||Montana State University-Northern||94.99||$$||12|
|3||University of Great Falls||93.81||$$$$||9|
|4||The University of Montana||88.32||$$||3|
|5||Montana State University||86.00||$$||3|
|Rank||School Name||Score||Tuition & Fees||Financial Aid %||#ONLINE PROGRAMS||Student-teacher Ratio||Grad Rate|
|1||Montana State University-Billings||97.16||$$||54%||21||17:1||24%||
The online program at Montana State University Billings offers degrees at the associate, bachelor’s, and master’s level. Students will have access to resources like online library databases, online tutoring, and online career services to find a job while they are enrolled in the program and after graduation. The online platform, Brightspace, will be the virtual classroom used to access class materials, grades, discussions, and assignments. The online courses give students the flexibility to complete their class time at their own convenience, with specified due dates for homework and testing. Montana State University Billings is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
|Read More Read Less|
|2||Montana State University-Northern||94.99||$$||32%||12||14:1||26%||
Students can earn an online associate, bachelor’s, or master’s level degree through the online program at Montana State University Northern. The courses are taught through Brightspace, the online platform for distance learning, to offer students the flexibility to earn a degree without the typical class schedule. This also includes access to online resources that help students plan their courses, see their grades, and collaborate and communicate with each other. Reading through the online materials often takes the place of classroom discussions. Montana State University Northern is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
|Read More Read Less|
|3||University of Great Falls||93.81||$$$$||99%||9||13:1||39%||
Through distance learning at University of Great Falls, students can earn associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degrees. The two types of online class resources at University of Great Falls include attending regularly scheduled interactive discussions using Microsoft Lync, and using the course management system, Moodle. This allows all lectures to be saved and re-watched if a student misses a lecture, wants to review material, or wants access to course material at any time. Some courses may need students to find a certified proctor in their area to take proctored exams. The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities has accredited the University of Great Falls.
|Read More Read Less|
|4||The University of Montana||88.32||$$||67%||3||18:1||48%||
At the University of Montana, students can earn degrees at the associate, bachelor’s, or master’s level with the opportunity to minor in anthropology or communication studies. Courses are run through the Moodle course management system, and students can take a 30 minute Moodle introductory course to become familiar with the system. Distance learning students will have access to university resources like career services and resume reviews, library resources including shipping checked out books to the student, and online tutoring. The University of Montana is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
|Read More Read Less|
|5||Montana State University||86.00||$$||66%||3||19:1||50%||
Online distance learning students at Montana State University can pursue a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies, and multiple master’s level degrees. Students will take their classes through the Brightspace course management system, allowing students to access the course materials, communicate, and collaborate. The classes have specified start and end dates and run on the typical semester basis, which allows the students in the class to move forward as a group. Online tutoring is available for all students as well as library resources like research databases and academic advising. Montana State University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
|Read More Read Less|
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.
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.