Best Online Colleges in Montana

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Badge (Online) with 2-Line TitleBest Collegesin Montana2017
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Montana is one of 14 member states belonging to the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), an organization dedicated to sharing resources among the higher education systems in the western United States. WICHE’s student exchange program gives learners at all levels — undergraduate, graduate, and professional — the ability to request reduced tuition rates at participating college programs outside their home states. WICHE estimates Montana families saved nearly $8 million in the most recent academic year by enrolling through these interstate exchange programs. Several institutions even offer complete online degrees at the tuition reduced rates.

Students also benefit from the state’s higher education consortium, established by the Montana Comprehensive System of Personnel Development (CSPD). The consortium encourages the exchange of ideas and professional development through the state’s teacher training and educational leadership programs, with a goal to create a more seamless education system within the state. A total of 15 colleges and universities are represented in the consortium.

Research from the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana-Missoula supports the efficiency of online learning when earning a college degree. Online colleges in Montana offer students the flexibility to learn at their own pace, on their own schedule, and without the need to commute or live on campus.

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Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description
1 The University of Montana 73.75 3/5 49% Missoula, MT

The University of Montana offers seven academic programs completely online, including five master's degree, one bachelor's degree, and one associate degree. Additionally, the university offers online minors in anthropology and communication studies, along with RevUp programs that provide vocational training for students looking for good-paying jobs in a variety of fields. There are also online certificate programs on subjects like customer relations, forensic studies, and nonprofit administration.

Admission requirements depend on the program. The university's master's of education programs, for example, require students to have an undergraduate grade point average of 3.0 or higher, along with three letters of recommendation and a written letter of intent. The University of Montana online colleges and programs accept transfer credits from any students who have graduated from high school or earned a graduate equivalency degree (GED), and who have also attempted at least 12 college-level credits.

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2 Montana State University 67.50 3/5 49% Bozeman, MT

Montana State University offers one of the top online colleges in Montana, with robust programs and student services that allow individuals to pursue several graduate degrees and graduate certifications, along with a bachelor's degree in liberal studies. The university, located in Bozeman, requires a 2.5 high school grade point average (GPA) for admission to its undergraduate program, while most of its master's degrees require a combined GRE score of 300 or greater and a demonstrated potential to be successful at the graduate level. These students must also have achieved an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or better, and some programs call for letters of recommendation and admission essays.

The university has a separate tuition schedule for online-only graduate and undergraduate students, updated on a yearly basis. There is also a tuition installment payment plan for eligible applicants who cannot make full payment of each semester's tuition on the regular payment due date.

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3 Montana State University-Billings 66.25 3/5 33% Billings, MT

With its campus located in the state's largest city, Montana State University-Billings offers nine bachelor's degree and six master's degree programs completely online, along with several online certificate and associate degree programs. The university maintains a separate tuition schedule for online students, with in-state residents able to take advantage of slightly lower rates compared to non-state residents. Students taking online classes are charged tuition on a per-credit basis.

When it comes to transfer students, MSU-Billings accepts credits from a wide range of accredited institutions, evaluated by academic advisors. Students may also access course videos and content when it's convenient for them, although there may be deadlines for assignments and exams. There are tutors available for online students through the university's Academic Support Center. When taken as a whole, the rigorous programs and strong student services make MSU-Billings one of the best online colleges in Montana.

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4 Montana State University-Northern 53.75 3/5 23% Havre, MT

Montana State University-Northern has distinguished itself as being among the best online colleges in Montana. The university has nine degree programs available online, including two associate, six bachelor's, and one master's program. Majors and concentrations cover everything from business administration and community leadership to nursing and criminal justice.

The online RN to BSN is a degree completion program designed for registered nurses to earn their bachelor's degree. In fitting with the school's mission, the other online programs prepare students for new careers or help them advance in their current roles. Online courses are delivered through the Desire2Learn platform, a resource for which is available to help students prepare for their online education. Online students, whether residential or out-of-state, pay about $50 extra per credit for their online classes.

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5 University of Great Falls 53.33 3/5 22% Great Falls, MT

The University of Great Falls is a private, Roman Catholic school that centers its liberal arts education on the teachings of Jesus Christ. It finds its place among the best online colleges in Montana through the unique way in which distance students access online courses. Students enrolled in one of the six distance learning programs can take classes asynchronously through the Moodle learning management platform or synchronously using the Microsoft Lync interactive streaming app. The Moodle courses allow students to access lectures and supplemental materials at any time that fits their schedules. The Lync classes have set times when students must log on to interact with their professors and classmates.

Two of the distance programs -- the BA in addictions and counseling and the BS in legal and paralegal studies -- require some in-person class time. All students are assigned an on-campus advisor to help them with scheduling, and class sizes are kept small in order to facilitate personal connections and a sense of community. Financial aid is available to all qualified students, and 96% of all undergraduates at UGF receive some form of aid.

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More About Online Colleges in Montana

For many students living in remote quarters of the state, attending a traditional, brick-and-mortar campus is simply not a viable option. Montana institutions offering online learning have created programs with this in mind. In 2012, 3,410 Montana students completed their education entirely through distance learning. Programs are known for offering not only accredited degrees, but also an extensive range of support services to ensure students get the most out of distance education. Prospective students concerned about financing their education should note that the average in-state tuition for Montana from 2012-2013 was $6,267, which was below the national average of $8,070. The state of Montana currently allocates $226,961,354 to public postsecondary education.

Browse our list of the best online colleges in Montana for more insight into distance learning programs in this state.

NCES Report

According to the National Center for Educational Statistics:

  • Nearly 5% of degree-seeking students completed their degrees exclusively online.
  • Over 15% took at least one online course.
  • Of non-degree seeking learners, 10.9% completed their coursework entirely online, while an additional
  • 3% took an online class as part of their coursework.
Best Online Colleges in Montana of 2016
Rank School Location
1 University of Montana Missoula, MT
2 University of Great Falls Great Falls, MT
3 Montana State University - Billings Billings, MT
4 Montana State University - Northern Havre, MT