Best Montana Colleges & Universities

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Become Team
November 10, 2021 is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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College students in Montana can see the state's natural beauty as a huge additional benefit to earning a top-notch education there. But how does a student choose the right Montana college? What factors should students consider when making the decision between several worthy schools in the state? This guide aims to answer that question through in-depth college planning tools. We looked at the numerous colleges in Montana and came up with lists of rankings, explored cost of living, evaluated tuition and financial aid awards, and even listed the average income of alumni to give students a well-rounded view of what it might mean to attend school in Montana. Here's what we discovered.

Montana College Leaderboard: Rankings

When deciding between colleges, a ranking list of potential schools can be a great help. We have done all the hard work for you by looking at the criteria that matter most about colleges in Montana, and then comparing those facts and figures to come up with a comprehensive list of the best places to earn higher education. Look at the rankings to see where Montana colleges stand.

Rankings Methodology Minimum Qualifications
  • Located in Montana
  • Public or private not-for-profit
  • Institutionally accredited
  • At least 10 total programs
Ranking Metrics
  • Median annual alumni earnings 10 years after entering the college
  • In-state tuition and fees for undergraduates
  • Student/teacher ratio
  • 6-year graduation rate
  • % of students receiving institutional financial aid (first-time, full-time undergrads)
  • Average amount of institutional aid awarded per student (first-time, full-time undergrads)
  • Availability of placement services upon completion
  • Availability of academic/career counseling services
  • Availability of employment services
  • 3-year student cohort loan default rate
Data Sources

Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS): National Center for Education Statistics

Latest 'Final Release' data available as of Fall 2016 College Scorecard: U.S. Department of Education

2-Year Programs

Miles Community College View School Profile $ 40% 99.83 $27,200 10:1 46% N/A 1 30 Yes Yes
Helena College University of Montana View School Profile $ 30% 99.65 $31,000 12:1 29% N/A 0 31 Yes Yes
Fort Peck Community College View School Profile $ 6% 99.41 $16,300 10:1 93% N/A 0 27 Yes No
Great Falls College Montana State University View School Profile $ 17% 98.89 $26,600 18:1 11% N/A 5 38 Yes Yes
Flathead Valley Community College View School Profile $ 20% 98.71 $25,000 15:1 34% N/A 0 52 Yes No
Stone Child College View School Profile $ 20% 98.32 $18,800 21:1 84% N/A 0 26 No No
Little Big Horn College View School Profile $ 16% 96.29 $11,800 13:1 N/A N/A 0 16 Yes No
Dawson Community College View School Profile $ 35% 87.45 $30,800 12:1 60% N/A 4 13 No Yes
Blackfeet Community College View School Profile $ 15% 86.58 $15,800 12:1 24% N/A 0 36 No No
Aaniiih Nakoda College View School Profile $ 42% 86.06 $20,300 10:1 N/A N/A 0 15 No No
Chief Dull Knife College View School Profile $ 39% 86 $16,800 11:1 5% N/A 0 6 No No

4-Year Programs

Carroll College View School Profile $$$$ 62% 99.66 $44,000 12:1 99% 58% 0 47 Yes No
Rocky Mountain College View School Profile $$$$ 51% 99.48 $38,200 12:1 100% 64% 0 50 Yes Yes
Montana Tech of the University of Montana View School Profile $ 48% 92.57 $39,800 15:1 56% 91% 0 33 Yes No
The University of Montana View School Profile $ 49% 92.49 $34,100 18:1 67% 93% 6 104 Yes No
Montana State University View School Profile $ 49% 91.77 $39,700 19:1 66% 84% 3 91 Yes No
The University of Montana-Western View School Profile $ 42% 91.59 $31,700 16:1 67% N/A 0 29 Yes No
Montana State University-Northern View School Profile $ 23% 91.51 $35,300 14:1 32% 100% 5 36 Yes Yes
Montana State University-Billings View School Profile $ 33% 88.68 $32,500 17:1 54% N/A 12 58 Yes Yes
University of Great Falls View School Profile $$$ 22% 88.32 $31,000 13:1 99% 66% 4 26 Yes Yes
Salish Kootenai College View School Profile $ 38% 86 $24,100 15:1 56% N/A 0 18 Yes No
Chief Dull Knife College View School Profile $ 39% 86 $16,800 11:1 5% N/A 0 6 No No

Search & Compare Colleges in Montana

Even though we have provided a ranked list of schools, students might want to compare schools based on their own individual needs. The following search tool allows users to compare their choices based on several factors, including tuition, type of school, acceptance rate and others. The schools can then be examined side by side for easy comparison.

College Planning, Assistance and Outreach Programs in Montana

College is a huge life change, and as with any change, it is always nice to have support along the way. Aspiring college students need resources to help them learn about, apply to and make the most of their college experience. Fortunately, the state of Montana has numerous programs designed with those goals in mind. Here are a few of those programs.

Montana Gear Up

Gear Up is Montana's program to help students and their families prepare for college and careers by improving academic and professional skills. Steps taken by Montana Gear Up include financial aid education and academic assistance to students who reach out for help. For those who decide to attend college, Gear Up works with the chosen college to help students seamlessly transfer from high school to college life.

Montana ETS

Montana's Educational Talent Search is a federally funded program that provides individual and group assistance to middle and high school students to help them graduate high school and attend a college or university of their choice. Assistance can take the form of tutoring, mentoring, career counseling and financial aid information. Other assistance includes helping fill out college application forms, budgeting and studying for the SAT or ACT.

Movin' On in Montana

This program is designed to help high school students with disabilities transition between high school and college. During the summer months, students spend four days on a college campus, learning what life is like 'on their own'. This program covers topics such as living in a residence hall, eating at the school's cafeteria, exploring college and professional interests and learning about the civil rights of disabled students in post-secondary education. The program is completely free to accepted students.

Cost Analysis of Attending Montana Colleges

Some college students get lucky; they have a scholarship, grant or even a dedicated family member to pay for most or all of college. Unfortunately, most college students aren't this lucky. As a result, they have to rely on financial aid. It is important to know the number of students receiving financial aid, as well as the typical financial aid award, to determine the cost of attending college.

Source: CollegeBoard

Source: IPEDS

Source: IPEDS

* Institutional aid represents grant and scholarship funds directly awarded by a postsecondary institution.

* Financial aid data represents 4-year public and private nonprofit schools only.

Most Affordable Colleges in Montana

Calculating a college's affordability requires also looking at the financial aid options. A school with relatively high tuition may in fact be quite affordable if most students receive a substantial amount of financial aid. The following set of numbers represents the net price of college in Montana by offsetting tuition rates with financial aid awards.

Montana College Net Price vs. National Average

Annual Net Price
MONTANA $14,708

Source: College Scorecard
Note: Rankings/data represent 4-year public and private nonprofit schools only.

Montana Colleges With Highest-Paid Alumni

For students who want to know what kind of earnings they can expect after graduating from a particular school, check out our ranking of schools in Montana with the highest paid alumni and a comparison of those numbers with the national average. These are important statistics, since students might attend a particular college to increase their earning potential.

Montana Alumni Salaries vs. National Average

Annual Median Earnings
10 Years After Entering College
MONTANA $35,040

Source: College Scorecard
Note: Rankings/data represent 4-year public and private nonprofit schools only.

Colleges in Montana With Least Alumni Debt

Graduating school with a great job and salary lined up doesn't mean as much as it should if college debt is enough to keep students 'in the red.' Therefore, choosing a school with reasonable student loan debt is an important consideration when deciding on a potential college to attend. The following ranking provides the six best Montana colleges with respect to graduates with the least debt.

Montana College Grad Debt Vs. National Average

Median Federal Student
Loan Debt After Graduation
MONTANA $22,075

Source: College Scorecard
Note: Rankings/data represent 4-year public and private nonprofit schools only.

Cost of Living for Montana College Students Beyond Tuition

A school might appear suitable from a tuition or financial aid perspective. However, due to its location in a certain metropolitan area, a high cost of living could make that school appear much less attractive. To help figure out a school's true cost of attendance, students must consider the cost of living in the surrounding area. That's where the next section comes in, providing cost of living information for a few of the major metropolitan areas in Montana.

area composite index housing groceries utilities transportation health care misc.
Statewide Average 99% 98% 103% 93% 94% 104% 101%
Bozeman 102% 112% 103% 87% 98% 105% 100%
Kalispell 95% 86% 104% 90% 85% 104% 104%
Missoula 100% 98% 103% 101% 100% 104% 100%

Source: The Council for Community and Economic Research

Accreditation for Montana Colleges

When choosing a Montana college, prospective students should confirm the school is accredited. Accreditation ensures that the education received means something. More specifically, accreditation is the process by which an independent body certifies that a school or academic program meets the required level of instruction. Accreditation is often required for certain financial aid and transferable credits, and many employers require a degree to be obtained from an accredited institution to recognize it as valid.

Colleges and universities in Montana are accredited at the regional level by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU). The NWCCU is a regional accreditation agency recognized by the US Department of Education. In addition to institutional accreditation, specific programs can be accredited as well. This means that the program itself has been found to meet high standards of quality in that field. Here are a few examples:

Montana College City Spotlight


Established in 1882, Billings enjoys the title of Montana's largest city, as well one of its fastest growing. In addition to big city amenities, Billings also boasts a wide variety of activities for the outdoor enthusiast. With the influence of the petroleum industry and the recent oil boom, Billings is not the prototypical college city. However, the depth of the educational offerings in this boomtown might surprise students.

College Name School Type Annual Net Price Annual Median Earnings
10 Years After College

Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.

BillingsMontana State University -Billings Public $13,126 $32,500
Founded in 1957, Montana State University Billings is made up of five colleges: arts and sciences, business, allied health, education and City College. A wide variety of programs are available, ranging from an automotive refinishing certificate all the way to a master's degree in athletic training. For particularly gifted and motivated students, MSU Billings has an Honors Program, which offers smaller classes to enhance the learning experience.
BillingsRocky Mountain College Private not-for-profit $17,119 $38,200
Rocky Mountain College provides a liberal arts education with an emphasis on stewardship. The student population is relatively small at almost 1,000 students, but that doesn't stop RMC from providing cutting edge instruction. For example, the school has the country's first unmanned aircraft certification curriculum. The overall philosophy emphasizes hands-on learning, with over 90 percent of the students engaging in experiential learning, such as internships.

Helena is Montana's state capital, founded in response to the influx of new residents during the 1864 gold rush. With an energetic and modern downtown, Helena is perfect for college students, especially those who love playing in the great outdoors. Common activities include hiking, mountain biking, fishing, skiing, geocaching and boating. For prospective college students interested in living in Helena, there are two primary options: Helena College University of Montana and Carroll College.

College Name School Type Annual Net Price Annual Median Earnings
10 Years After College

Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.

HelenaHelena College University of Montana Public $11,607 $31,000
Helena College University of Montana is a two-year public institution with a student population of about 1,400. Students can choose from 30 degree and certificate programs, including business and accounting, nursing, diesel technology, fire and rescue, geosciences technology and office technology. Many of the associate programs are specifically intended for students to transition into a bachelor's degree. Students will also enjoy personalized attention, with the student-to-faculty ration of 15:1.
HelenaCarroll College Private not-for-profit $23,583 $44,000
Carroll College is a small private college following traditional Catholic teachings. The current student body consists of about 1,400, made up of roughly half out-of-state residents. Even though Carroll College is a liberal arts school, it is known for strong biology, civil engineering, mathematics and nursing programs. About 85 percent of pre-med students at Carroll are accepted into medical and dental schools.

Source: College Scorecard

Montana College Resources for Students

Getting to college takes time and planning. Many students appreciate all the assistance they can get. The following list of resources provides helpful information about Montana higher education possibilities, career resources and paying for college.

Achieve Montana

Achieve Montana is Montana's college savings plan. These plans allow parents and students to save money for college while those savings afford them certain tax benefits.

Montana CAN

The Montana College Access Network is a partnership of various organizations that work together to improve the ability of students to receive an education at the post-secondary level.

Montana Career Information System

MCIS works on the dual mission of gathering labor data for the state of Montana as well as providing career development resources and information to all of Montana's citizens.

Run by a nonprofit organization that represents 25 Montana colleges and universities, the site exists to promote post-secondary education to Montana's students.

Montana Guaranteed Student Loan Program

The MGSLP helps students obtain a college or university education by providing financial aid awards and loan repayment assistance.

Montana University System

This is the central location to find out about any of the 16 colleges and universities of the Montana University System. Search and compare tools are available to help students decide which school to attend.

Become Team
Become Team
Contributing Writer is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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