Online Colleges in Montana

2019's Top Online Programs

Montana holds wide appeal for people who want to relocate to an area with outdoor recreational opportunities like fishing, skiing, hunting, and camping. In addition to recreational sports and wide open spaces -- including Yellowstone National Park and all of Glacier National Park -- Montana's relatively low crime rate makes it one of the 10 best states to inhabit.

Montana's public and private colleges and universities have structured their programs to appeal to students from a range of backgrounds. The growing number of accredited online degrees in Montana makes it easier for people to pursue their career goals in the context of their current situations. This article ranks the top online colleges in Montana. You'll also find information covering industries that plan to demonstrate the most growth over the coming years. Finally, this article guides you through financial aid options and student support services as you pursue your degree through an online college in Montana.

Job Outlook for Students with College Degrees in Montana

Montana's statewide unemployment rate parallels that of the nation. Rates vary across the state and by industry, but the western and southwestern parts of the state boast the lowest rates, given their economic growth. The average annual salary falls 16% below the national average, again with considerable variation across the state; however, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, Montana residents pay an average of 6% less than the rest of the nation for their goods and services. Furthermore, personal income in the western and southwestern, more populous regions, show stronger personal income growth than the national average.

Similar to national trends, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Montanans who work in fields requiring some college education earn considerably more than those with just a high school diploma. In general, those working in management positions in the various trades and professions earn higher salaries at $89,790, than the average employees in those fields. Most of these management positions require some kind of a college degree. Other fields paying well above the annual mean wage for the state include healthcare, law, engineering and architecture. Fields involving college-level training in math and the sciences also pay well above the state average.

Unemployment Rate, August 2018

Montana 3.7%
United States 3.8%

Source: BLS

Annual Mean Wage, May 2017

Montana $42,400
United States $50,620

Source: BLS

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Cost of Online Colleges in Montana

Overall tuition and fees at online colleges in Montana parallel the national average for public two-year colleges. Public four-year colleges offer a bargain with tuition and fees falling 25% below the national average. This lower rate coincides with the priority of affordability identified in the report Reach Higher Montana. This effort involved freezing tuition from 2008 through 2017. Montana's comparatively low tuition extends the purchasing power for Montana residents. With some variation by major and college, online college students in Montana pay about the same in tuition and fees as do students on campus. Likewise, online students pay the same as their on-campus counterparts for books.

Online students benefit financially from the online delivery format in that it cuts out the costs of transportation and additional housing costs associated with on-campus delivery. Online students also usually do not need to pay certain fees such as building or activity fees. Furthermore, most online students benefit financially by maintaining full-time employment, making it easier to fund their education as they go.

Average Price for In-State Tuition and Fees by Institution Type, 2018-19

  Public Two-Year Public Four-Year
Montana $3,730 $7,100
U.S. Average $3,660 $10,230

Source: The College Board

In-State vs. Out-of-State Tuition in Montana

Given the amount of taxpayer funding to support the cost of education at one of Montana's public two- and four-year colleges, Montana residents enjoy tuition rates well below the national average. However, according to CollegeBoard, out-of-state students at Montana's public four-year and two-year colleges pay more than in-state and in-district residents. Some private Montana colleges charge the same tuition and fees for both resident and out-of-state students.

Such a disparity between in-state and out-of-state tuition at the public colleges and universities need not deter online students from studying at an online college in Montana. Since Montana participates in the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement, students from one of the 15 other participating states may apply for tuition reduction through the Western Interstate Commission on HIgher Education. Through the organization's Western Undergraduate Exchange or the Western Regional Graduate Program, out-of-state students can pay just 150% of the in-state tuition.

Average Tuition and Fees, 2018-19

  Public Two-Year Public Four-Year
Montana $7,100 $23,830
U.S. Average $10,230 $26,290

Source: The College Board

Financial Aid in Montana

All prospective and current college students need to devote considerable time to researching and applying for financial aid. Treat the process as a job by devoting time to it every week. As the chart below indicates, Montana pays out little in state grants for full-time undergraduate students. Students can still receive plenty of financial aid including federal grants, such as the Pell Grant. Undergraduates demonstrating financial need and pursuing their first undergraduate degree may apply for this grant through the financial aid office of their chosen college. Those with exceptional financial need can also apply for Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG). Not all schools participate in the FSEOG program. Those that do have less FSEOG money than Pell Grant money, so apply early.

You should start your financial aid search process early by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as early as possible. While you must file the form to be eligible for any federal student aid, some private organizations use that date in order to grant scholarships and related awards. You should also contact the financial aid office of the college or colleges you'd like to attend to learn about financial aid options granted only by that institution.

State Grant Aid per Full-Time Equivalent Undergraduate Student, 2016-17

Montana $30
U.S. Average $820

Source: The College Board

Scholarships and Grants for Montana College Students

Consistently, those students who devote regular time to researching and applying for financial aid options pay considerably less out of pocket for their online college degree. Consider applying for one or more of the following scholarships, which can be applied to two or more of Montana's colleges or universities. Each college and university also offers scholarship and financial aid options specific to that institution. Visit with the financial aid officer to learn about options applicable to you and your degree.


Best Majors for Online Students in Montana

Selecting the best major to pursue at an online college in Montana involves balancing both subjective and objective considerations. Beyond your personal preferences for career and major, you should also consider industry growth projections and career growth potential. According to the Montana Department of Labor and Industry, management, healthcare, construction, and personal services will account for the largest job growth by sector. Selecting a major in one of these fields improves your likelihood of finding and retaining employment within the state.

You should also weigh the factor of career growth potential. Does the field provide ample opportunity for taking on additional responsibility? Does the career offer good earning potential? For example, of the projected new jobs in construction, what are the average annual wages, and wage ranges? The following majors focus on industries with good projected growth. Each field offers jobs with solid career growth potential.

Business Management

Coursework toward a degree in business management focuses on developing understanding and application of sound business principles. Specific topics include leadership, strategic management, entrepreneurship, and communication. Students learn to lead and manage a variety of industries.

Nursing

As the demand for nurses rises in Montana, so do the educational expectations associated with the job. Nursing coursework builds on a foundation of courses in biology, chemistry, and mathematics. Students progress through the principles and skills needed for nurse leadership and training.

Health Administration

Given the growth and complexities of the healthcare field, medical institutions need competent management by those who understand the business of healthcare. Coursework addresses trends in healthcare, health informatics, managerial epidemiology, and financial management in healthcare. Most programs require an internship along with a capstone project.

Resources for Online College Students in Montana

My Montana Library: This statewide library resource allows students to search publications within multiple libraries across the state of Montana. The website even offers employment search capacity. A special section focuses on information specific to Montana.

Job Service Montana: This site contains useful information on industry trends within the state. In addition to job placement services, one section covers internship possibilities. Medicaid enrollees find the Help-Link resource useful for jobs training.

Return to Learn: Montana State University created this resource to help adult learners either go to college for the first time or return after a prolonged absence. The site addresses success and career coaches as well as learning strategies training.

My Academics: Managed by the University of Montana as part of the Office for Student Success, My Academics helps students plan and track their academic goals and activities. The Office for Student Success also offers The Writing Center with plenty of helps for writing in various disciplines.

Google Scholar: This powerful and simple search engine allows students to access scholarly articles and publications across many disciplines. The resource searches libraries and professional publications as opposed to the public publications which have not been peer reviewed.