Accredited Degree Programs, Scholarships and Resources for Top Schools
Montana is home to an expansive online education system, including six public four-year universities, 13 public community colleges, tribal schools and a number of private colhleges and technical schools. Montana also offers some online courses for students at the primary level in grades K-12. Six public universities and five two-year community colleges in Montana offer online degree and course options. A small number of private institutions, including Rocky Mountain College and the University of Great Falls, also offer online studies. For those in grades K-12, the Montana Digital Academy offers single courses and district programs. However, there are currently no fully-online schools in the state at the K-12 level.
Best Online Colleges in Montana
Montana has cheaper tuition than many other states. In-state college students in Montana pay an average of $6,783 per year in tuition, which is significantly less than the national average of $9,037. Students can find online courses and degrees at many of Montana's 16 public and two private colleges and universities.
This guide covers important information for students considering online schools and colleges in Montana, including financial aid opportunities, programs for nontraditional students, and resources for online learners.
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How Much More Do College Grads in Montana Make?
On average, college graduates in the U.S. earn more than individuals without a college degree. In Montana, university graduates earn above-median wages within three years of graduation. As the following table illustrates, higher levels of education typically correlate with higher salaries.
|Less Than a High School Diploma||High School Diploma||Associate Degree||Bachelor's Degree||Master's Degree||Doctoral Degree|
Paying for Online College in Montana: Tuition and Financial Aid
Montana students pay lower-than-average tuition rates at public and private postsecondary institutions. The following tables compare the cost of in-state, out-of-state, and private school tuition in Montana with national averages. Montana colleges charge less for tuition across the board, making the state an affordable option for online students.
|In-State Tuition||Out-of-State Tuition||National Average|
|$6,783||$23,678||$9,037 (In-State); $25,657 (Out-of-State)|
|Tuition||Out-of-State Tuition||National Average|
Cost Considerations for Online Students in Montana
When weighing the costs of their education, students should consider expenses beyond tuition, such as travel and technology fees. We cover several cost considerations for online students below.
Some online programs require students to attend one or more in-person sessions on campus. Tuition rates do not cover the costs of traveling to campus.
Students may encounter price differences for online programs at the same school. For example, professional degrees like nursing and engineering often cost more than many other programs.
Online students may need to pay technology expenses, such as laptop, internet, software, and electronic textbook fees.
Some schools charge less for summer sessions than for other sessions throughout the year.
Some online programs allow out-of-state students to pay in-state tuition rates regardless of where they live.
Qualifying for In-State Tuition in Montana
Out-of-state students often pay significantly more in tuition than in-state learners in Montana. Qualifying for in-state tuition in Montana can save students more than $16,000 each year. Learners qualify for in-state tuition by living in Montana for 12 consecutive months. They must submit proof of residency, such as a Montana vehicle registration, driver's license, or voter registration card. Montana State University outlines residency requirements.
Out-of-state students who live in some states near Montana may qualify for tuition reductions through the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE). WUE students save an average of $9,400 each year.
Paying for College in Montana: Scholarships and Financial Aid
Scholarships for Montana College Students
Who Can Apply: Applicants must be employees or the children of employees at Glacier Bank Corporation. Students also need a minimum 2.5 GPA.
Who Can Apply: Applicants must be high school seniors or graduates of Montana high schools with a minimum 3.5 GPA and graduate within the top 20% of their class.
Who Can Apply: Candidates must be Montana residents completing an associate degree from a Montana community college or two-year campus of the Montana University System. Applicants also need a minimum 3.4 GPA.
Amount: Undergraduate tuition (up to four semesters)
Who Can Apply: Students must be Montana residents pursuing an undergraduate degree. They must demonstrate financial need, meet satisfactory academic progress, and qualify for the Pell Grant.
Amount: $500 per semester
Who Can Apply: Montana high school students pursuing a degree in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, or healthcare at an eligible campus qualify for this opportunity. Applicants must meet several criteria, including holding a minimum 3.25 high school GPA.
Amount: Up to $6,000
Grants for Montana College Students
Who Can Apply: Students must be Montana residents pursuing an undergraduate degree at a qualifying campus with a minimum 2.0 GPA. Applicants must demonstrate financial hardship caused by a significant unforeseen event, such as an illness, loss of a family member, or accident.
Amount: Up to $1,000
Who Can Apply: Nonresidents of eligible states and U.S. territories can apply to reduce their tuition for up to four years through this opportunity.
Who Can Apply: To qualify for this opportunity, students must be members of the Montana National Guard in good standing who do not already hold a bachelor's degree.
Who Can Apply: Montana students who are National Merit semi-finalists receive a full tuition waiver if they attend a Montana University System campus within nine months of graduating high school.
Who Can Apply: Students with one-quarter American Indian blood or those who are members of a recognized Indian tribe in Montana can apply for this tuition waiver. Applicants must demonstrate financial need.
The Importance of Accreditation for Online Colleges and Universities in Montana
As more colleges and universities offer online courses and degrees, assessing the quality of prospective schools and programs can prove challenging. Accreditation is a voluntary quality assurance process that colleges undergo to demonstrate that they meet education standards regarding faculty, curricula, academic support, and student learning.
Regional and National Accreditation
Postsecondary institutions can hold regional or national accreditation. Nonprofit, degree-granting institutions typically hold regional accreditation, while for-profit, technical and vocational schools hold national accreditation. Regional accreditation is generally considered the more prestigious of the two.
Accreditation benefits students in several ways. Only learners at accredited schools qualify for federal financial aid, and many schools only recognize and accept degrees and credits from regionally accredited schools. Additionally, many employers prefer candidates with an accredited degree.
Some programs within a school may also hold accreditation, such as engineering and library science programs. Subject-specific accrediting agencies vary by discipline. For instance, the Accreditation Board for Engineering Technology accredits engineering programs, while the American Library Association accredits library science programs.
How to Know if Your School or Program is Accredited
Schools and programs typically share their accreditation status on their websites, but students can also verify accreditation by searching the Council for Higher Education Accreditation's database. Students can search by institution, program, and accreditors.
Online College and Adult Education in Montana
Montana offers many online adult education programs to help nontraditional students advance their careers. We outline adult education programs and resources for Montana students below.
Adult Education Programs for Montana Students
- Flathead Valley Community College Adult Education Program: This program helps adult learners complete the high school equivalency test, explore career and job options, and prepare for college and job training.
- English as a Second Language Courses: Montana State University - Billings offers English as a second language (ESL) courses to local residents. Classes cover grammar, reading, writing, listening, and speaking.
- Adult Basic Education Learning Center at Miles Community College: Adult students can take the high school equivalency test, request a GED transcript, and take ESL classes through this resource. They can also receive help with preparing for the high school equivalency test.
Online College Resources for Montana Students
Current and prospective online students in Montana can take advantage of many resources to support their studies. The following resources include information on financial aid opportunities, program availability, and education news for Montana students.