Online Degrees In Montana (MT)
Montana’s natural beauty — with its clear streams, pristine forests and two national parks — draws more than 10 million tourists each year and makes it easy to see why Montana is called “Big Sky Country.” Skies are sunny for residents too, thanks to one of the nation’s lowest unemployment rates and one of its fastest rates of wage growth, according to Montana’s 2018 Labor Day Report.
But economists warn of storm clouds looming ahead. Montana’s population of working-age adults is waning while demand for workers with college credentials is growing, leading experts to forecast a widening skills gap that stall growth or even reverse it. And with more than half of residents living in rural areas, far away from postsecondary institutions, accessibility of education could be a challenge for residents.
Online degree programs in Montana could help solve this puzzle by providing needed postsecondary education to more people, regardless of their distance from schools or their scheduling constraints, and often more quickly and affordably than traditional degree programs.
Why Earn an Online Degree in Montana?
Though Montana is the fourth-largest state, its population is one of the sparsest, with only seven people per square mile. At least two-thirds of its population lives in rural areas. Though the state is home to 32 postsecondary institutions, only seven of them are rurally located. This means that for most of the state’s residents, attending college classes on campus may be impossible.
Meanwhile, the state is desperate for college-educated workers. The Montana Department of Labor expects a worker shortage of at least 24,000 people in the next decade, and the Lumina Foundation says that by 2025, 60 percent of Americans are likely to need college credentials. Montana has set a goal of 60 percent college attainment, but its current rate is 45 percent. More of the state’s residents must earn postsecondary degree to meet this demand.
Fortunately, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that median weekly incomes increase with each level of education beyond high school. Those with bachelor’s degrees earn about 60 percent more than people with high school diplomas alone.
Online education in Montana could be the key to earning college credentials, overcoming geographic barriers and increasing earnings. These degree programs frequently are offered at an accelerated pace and allow students to complete their studies at flexible times from anywhere in the state.
Top 10 Online Colleges in Montana
Using our own methodology that uses National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) data, including number of online programs, tuitions, graduation rates, student service offerings and more, we’ve developed this list of top Montana colleges that offer online degree programs.
|Average in-state tuition||$4,485|
|No. of online programs||19|
|% of students in distance education||58|
|Avg. amount of Aid||$4,497|
|Average in-state tuition||$2,752|
|No. of online programs||6|
|% of students in distance education||60|
|Avg. amount of Aid||$3,955|
|Average in-state tuition||$24,968|
|No. of online programs||9|
|% of students in distance education||55|
|Avg. amount of Aid||$12,947|
|Average in-state tuition||$2,608|
|No. of online programs||1|
|% of students in distance education||39|
|Avg. amount of Aid||$2,745|
|Average in-state tuition||$3,930|
|No. of online programs||1|
|% of students in distance education||64|
|Avg. amount of Aid||$5,298|
|Average in-state tuition||$5,707|
|No. of online programs||1|
|% of students in distance education||30|
|Avg. amount of Aid||$6,445|
|Average in-state tuition||$5,654|
|No. of online programs||11|
|% of students in distance education||10|
|Avg. amount of Aid||$4,609|
|Average in-state tuition||$5,347|
|No. of online programs||12|
|% of students in distance education||26|
|Avg. amount of Aid||$5,597|
|Average in-state tuition||$4,496|
|No. of online programs||5|
|% of students in distance education||52|
|Avg. amount of Aid||$4,230|
|Average in-state tuition||$4,523|
|No. of online programs||3|
|% of students in distance education||32|
|Avg. amount of Aid||$5,649|
Top Online Degree Programs in Montana
Whether you’re fresh out of high school, returning to school after a long absence or a mid-career professional looking to enhance your skill set, the following list of top online degree programs in Montana, developed using NCES data, can help in your search for degree programs.
Quality of Online Education in Montana
To address the impending worker shortage and improve college attainment rates, the Montana University System (MUS) developed a strategic plan that sets goals for increasing college participation, retention and completion rates. Among its goals is improving distance and online learning across the entire system, including expanding online programs. The MUS now offers more than 100 online degrees and has prioritized quality as part of these offerings.
Ten of the state’s postsecondary institutions are members of the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (SARA), a member organization in which participants agree to adhere to a set of national quality standards among distance education programs, enabling students to access online programs across state lines that have comparable standards.
Individual Montana colleges that offer online degree programs are working hard to demonstrate quality as well. Just one example is Flathead Valley Community College (FVCC), which has overhauled its online education program to be in accordance with SARA; implemented an online specialist from each division of the school to support and counsel educators in providing high-quality learning experiences; and established a regular program quality review process.
What to Look for in Online Degree Programs in Montana
In order to determine which online degrees in Montana might be a good fit for your career goals, learning style and personal needs, here are some factors to consider about prospective programs:
- Online program delivery: Is the program entirely or partially online, and if there are on-campus requirements, can you adhere to them? For example, the Montana State University Billings offers an online associate degree in business administration that combines online courses with evening courses on campus, whereas the University of Montana’s B.A. in media arts is offered fully online.
- Learning environment: Is the class size small enough to give you the level of personal attention you need? How frequently would you need to log on, and is the style and amount of interactions with peers and faculty a good fit? What are the program’s technology needs? And considering that some online programs are accelerated, does the length of class sessions suit your needs?
- Student services: Does the program offer enough support for you to be successful, such as tutoring, counseling, one-on-one mentoring and advisement, 24/7 tech support or even writing and math centers? Would you have access to the help you may need?
Top Occupations in Montana
In order to help you select a program that offers return on your investment, we’ve put together this list of the top jobs in Montana using occupational data from the BLS.
Number of Workers
|Office and Administrative Support Occupations||61,450||$36,230|
|Food Preparation and Serving Related Occupations||51,620||$24,670|
|Sales and Related Occupations||47,080||$37,830|
|Transportation and Material Moving Occupations||36,610||$39,440|
|Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations||30,080||$80,180|
|Educational Instruction and Library Occupations||29,820||$44,860|
|Construction and Extraction Occupations||29,080||$51,090|
|Business and Financial Operations Occupations||22,250||$62,730|
|Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Occupations||21,120||$48,640|
|Building and Grounds Cleaning and Maintenance Occupations||19,490||$29,650|
|Healthcare Support Occupations||18,250||$30,310|
|Fast Food and Counter Workers||12,880||$23,090|
|Office Clerks, General||12,840||$33,880|
|Personal Care and Service Occupations||11,490||$28,170|
|Waiters and Waitresses||10,050||$21,900|
Scholarships and Financial Aid in Montana
Although currently the state offers no state government-funded, need-based grants to first-time students, the MUS strategic plan has set a goal of reinstating these and increasing the amount of aid awarded in order to attract more Montanans to earn college degrees. Several scholarship programs are available to help students afford online degree programs in Montana. They include:
MUS Honor Scholarship: This four-year renewable scholarship waives the recipient’s tuition when used at an eligible MUS campus. The value varies depending upon campus attended, but the average value at a four-year Montana campus is about $5,000 a year or $20,000 for four years.
2 Plus 2 Honor Scholarship: This annual scholarship is awarded to students who graduate with associate degrees from two-year campuses of the MUS or a Montana community college. It consists of a waiver of undergraduate tuition at any four-year unit of the MUS and may be received for up to four continuous semesters.
National Merit Semifinalist Scholarship: This scholarship for Montana students receiving National Merit Semifinalist Scholarships provides a tuition waiver that is valid through the first two consecutive semesters of enrollment at an MUS campus within nine months after high school graduation. The student must maintain satisfactory grades.
Be sure to check with your individual school about other financial aid opportunities that may be available to you.
Tests You May Need to Take
Though there is no official, required college entrance exam that every online college in Montana requires. The ACT and SAT are generally accepted by most schools, though some schools may state a preference for one. For example, University of Montana, Montana State and Dawson Community College accept scores from either the ACT or SAT, but Dawson states a preference for the ACT. Other schools, such as FVCC, require no exam scores. Check with your prospective schools individually to learn about their requirements.
To be included in our ranking of the best colleges for online degree programs, all colleges had to meet the following five criteria:
- Be an accredited U.S. institution
- Offer either 2- or 4-year degree programs
- Have at least 1 percent of students taking at least some of their classes via distance education
- Be active in the 2015-16 school year
- Report data for all 15 specific ranking variables included in our methodology
We then ranked the remaining 2,169 colleges and universities and scored each on a 100-point scale on these specific. Our data points include:
- The in-state tuition and fees for full-time undergraduates, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Percent of undergraduate students awarded federal, state, local, institutional or other sources of grant aid, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- The average amount of federal, state, local, institutional or other sources of grant aid awarded to undergraduate students, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Full-time Retention rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Percent of students participating fully or partially in distance education to total enrollment, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Graduation rate within six years, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- No. of degree programs offered via distance education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Percent of students working and not enrolled 6 years after entry, College Scorecard, 2013-14
- Open admissions policy for all or most entering first-time undergraduate-level students, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Flexibility and student services, based on whether the school offers the following services, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Dual credit
- Credit for life experience
- Advanced Placement credit
- Academic and career counseling
- Job placement services for graduates
- Offers credit for military training
- Admission Requirements for Freshman Students, Montana State University, accessed May 30, 2019, http://www.montana.edu/admissions/apply/freshman/
- Apply: Freshman Admission, University of Montana, accessed May 30, 2019, http://admissions.umt.edu/apply/default.php
- Approved SARA Institutions in Montana, NC-SARA, accessed May 30, 2019, https://www.nc-sara.org/states/MT
- A Stronger Nation 2019: Montana’s progress toward the goal, Lumina Foundation, February 2019, http://strongernation.luminafoundation.org/report/2019/#state/MT
- Associated Press, “Montana Jobless Rate Inches Down to 3.7 Percent in March,” Montana Public Radio, April 19, 2019, https://www.mtpr.org/post/montana-jobless-rate-inches-down-37-percent-march
- B.A. Online, School of Media Arts, UM Online, University of Montana, accessed May 30, 2019, http://www.umt.edu/mediaarts/academics#1458613563286-2809b2cc-0879
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Measuring the Value of Education,” April 2018, https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2018/data-on-display/education-pays.htm
- Business Administration Associate of Science Program of Study, City College Montana State University Billings, accessed May 30, 2019, http://www.msubillings.edu/citycollege/programs/pos/busindustry/BusAdminAS.htm
- College Navigator: Montana, Institute for Education Studies, National Center for Education Statistics, accessed May 30, 2019, https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?s=MT
- Corin Cates-Carney, “Montana Wages Increasing, But State Faces Labor Shortage,” Montana Public Radio, September 4, 2018, https://www.mtpr.org/post/montana-jobless-rate-inches-down-37-percent-march
- Financial Aid, Nebraska’s CCPE, accessed May 29, 2019, https://ccpe.nebraska.gov/financial-aid
- First Time Student Admission Requirements, Dawson Community College, accessed May 30, 2019, https://dawson.edu/future/first-time-student/first-time-student-admission-requirements/
- Keila Szpaller, “Bill would boost need-based college financial aid in Montana by $10 million,” Missoulian, January 16, 2019, https://missoulian.com/news/state-and-regional/govt-and-politics/bill-would-boost-need-based-college-financial-aid-in-montana/article_9abf669e-7fd2-5166-b37b-1111b8c64667/
- Labor Day Report, Montana 2018, Montana Department of Labor and Industry, September 2018, http://lmi.mt.gov/Portals/193/Publications/LMI-Pubs/Labor%20Market%20Publications/LDR18.pdf
- Mary Cloud Taylor, “College to Update Online Program,” Daily Inter Lake, May 25, 2019, https://www.dailyinterlake.com/local_news/20190525/college_to_update_online_program
- Montana, Rural Health Information Hub, July 30, 2018, https://www.ruralhealthinfo.org/states/montana
- MUS Strategic Plan 2018, Montana University System, accessed May 30, 2019, https://mus.edu/data/StratPlan/StrategicPlan.asp
- Online Education, Montana University System, accessed May 30, 2019, https://mus.edu/online/
- “Questions You Should Ask When Choosing an Online Program,” NC-SARA, accessed May 28 2019, https://www.nc-sara.org/studentquestions
- Scholarships, Montana University System, accessed May 30, 2019, https://www.mus.edu/Prepare/Pay/Scholarships/
- Step 3: Placement Testing, Flathead Valley Community College, accessed May 30, 2019, https://www.fvcc.edu/student-admissions/apply-for-admission/placement-testing/
- Terry Kendrick and Kelly Cresswell, 2017 Study of Gaps in College Access and Success Programming in Montana, accessed May 30, 2019, https://www.reachhighermontana.org/about/materials/RHM-Gap-Analysis.pdf
- Tristan Scott, “Bridging the Labor Gap,” Flathead Beacon, March 27, 2018, https://flatheadbeacon.com/2018/03/27/bridging-labor-gap/