When researching online colleges in Montana, you will find a vast array of digital resources at your disposal. Within the Montana University System, 16 schools enroll 46,000 students and offer online and hybrid degree formats tailored to fit student needs. Montana's largest industries include agriculture, travel and tourism, timber, and mining. As such, distance learners can earn degrees in programs like agricultural education, land resources and environmental science, wilderness management, horsemanship, and diesel technology. More traditional programs, such as degrees in business administration, communications, public relations, accounting, human resource management, and mathematics, may also be completed at online schools in Montana.
Montana maintains membership with the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, a resource-sharing education system from which students at all levels benefit both financially and academically. The state also houses the Montana Higher Education Consortium, which creates professional development, networking, and collaboration opportunities for faculty at all Montana universities and colleges. This organization promotes high educational and teaching standards, cutting-edge research, and quality programs for students. Additionally, Montana offers competitively low tuition rates. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in-state and out-of-state tuition in Montana remain 27% and 18% cheaper, respectively, than the national average.
For distance learners, online courses at colleges in Montana offer more scheduling flexibility than traditional on-campus programs. Both part- and full-time online programs can help students earn their degrees while maintaining jobs, familial obligations, and other daily commitments.
Four reasons to find an online college in your state:
- Guaranteed in-state tuition saves you money
- Be a part of a university or college you know and love
- Get a degree from a school employers know and trust
- Be close enough to easily visit when desired
Ranking guidelines for the best online colleges in Montana:
Note: In ranking the best online colleges in Montana, giving attention to the variety of degree programs available at the institutions is of utmost importance. For this reason, a more prestigious school in Montana may offer one, or a few online degrees, but that may not be enough for that school to rank highly among the best online colleges in the state. In this ranking, we are dedicated to showing who's leading the way in delivering quality online degree programs in Montana.
The Best Online Colleges in Montana
1. Montana State University - Billings
Montana State University Billings has one of the largest campus populations in the state with more than 4,900 students in attendance. The campus sits on 100 acres of land. The university's online platform, MSUB Online, offers more than 200 classes online. The campus has hosted several TEDx Talks with speakers including several local educators, leaders and musicians.
Montana State University Billings offers a variety of associate, baccalaureate, master and certificate programs via MSUB Online. Associate's degrees include accounting and human resources. Bachelor's degree options include public relations and mass communication. Master's degree offerings include special education and mental health counseling. Certifications available include medical coding and billing, as well as long-term care.
Resources for online students include technical support, an online alcohol abuse prevention course, an online job board and an online library with librarians available via email or over the phone.
Montana State University Billings is regionally accredited by The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).
See some of Montana State University Billings's top rankings on TBS
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2. University of Montana
The University of Montana, established in 1893, is a public research university and the flagship campus of the University of Montana System.
The University of Montana offers a variety of associate, baccalaureate, master and certificate programs via UM Online. Associate's degrees include energy tech, while bachelor's degree options include media arts. Master's degrees include public health, music education, educational leadership and curriculum studies. Certifications available include forensic studies and nonprofit administration.
Resources available to online students include career advice videos, an online job board, technical support via email or over the phone, online tutoring by appointment and an online library.
The University of Montana is regionally accredited by The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).
See some of The University of Montana's top rankings on TBS
3. Montana State University - Bozeman
Montana State University, a public university established in 1893, is among the largest universities in the state with more than 15,000 students in attendance and over 110 available degree programs across 9 academic colleges. The university's museum is home to the largest Tyrannosaurus rex skull ever discovered.
Montana State University offers a variety of entirely online baccalaureate, master and certificate programs. Online bachelor's degrees include a degree completion program in liberal studies. Online master's degrees include agriculture and nursing. Online certificates include addiction counseling and Native American studies.
Online student resources include an online writing lab, technical support via email or over the phone and an online library with librarians available via live chat, email, text message or over the phone.
Montana State University is regionally accredited by The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).
See some of Montana State University - Bozeman's top rankings on TBS
4. Montana State University - Northern
Montana State University–Northern, founded in 1929, offers its roughly 1,100 students more than 40 degree programs. The university offers an array of undergraduate degrees in areas such as agriculture, business, applied science, education, nursing and more. The university offers a Master of Education in Counselor Education degree and a Master of Science in Education, Instruction and Learning degree.
Montana State University-Northern has a number of associate's degrees available entirely online. These associate's degree offerings include business, nursing, criminal justice and education.
Resources available to online students include an online library with access to a vast pool of online databases, document delivery and several librarians available via text message or over the phone to assist students.
Montana State University–Northern is regionally accredited by The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).
5. University of Providence
Great Falls, Montana
The University of Providence is a Roman Catholic university established in 1932. It used to be an all-female teacher's college, but the university began admitting men just 5 years later. The university has more than 30 learning centers throughout Montana, Wyoming and part of Alberta, Canada in addition to its main campus. The university serves more than 1,000 students and offers over 20 degree programs.
The University of Providence offers its associate's, baccalaureate and master's degree programs through Microsoft Lync and through Moodle. Associate's degrees include criminal justice and paralegal studies. Bachelor's degree options include psychology and criminal justice. Master's degree offerings include organizational management.
Online student resources include an extensive online library.
The University of Providence is regionally accredited by The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).
See some of The University of Providence's top rankings on TBS
6. Montana Tech
Located in Butte and established in 1900, Montana Tech offers a variety of online degrees and certificates. For undergraduate students, the bachelor of science in nursing completion post-licensure degree builds upon learners' previous knowledge gained in associate registered nurse programs. This degree requires clinical hours that must be completed in Montana. Another online program available to students includes the healthcare informatics technology certificate, which benefits working professionals who wish to transition into the information technology field.
Graduate degrees offered at this online school in Montana include the master of science degree in project engineering and management or industrial hygiene. Lastly, Montana Tech offers a graduate certificate in healthcare informatics. Courses take place through the Blackboard learning system in both synchronous and asynchronous formats, depending on the course and instructor.
Prospective undergraduate students must apply online and submit their ACT or SAT scores and high school transcripts. New freshmen should hold a minimum GPA of 2.5 and rank in the top 50% of their high school graduating class. Applicants for online graduate programs must submit their GRE scores, transcripts, three letters of reference, a personal statement outlining professional goals, and a resume. Prospective distance learners for any program at Montana Tech should email their desired department to ensure they submit all required application materials for that major.
Montana Tech is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).
The following page includes a ranked list of the most affordable online colleges in Montana. It includes both community and junior colleges -- where students can pursue associate degrees -- and four-year universities. The cheapest online college in Montana may not always be the best fit, so students should weigh their cost savings against academic quality, seeking out a combination of these two factors to identify schools with the best possible value.
The Most Affordable Online Associate Degree Programs in Montana
1. Great Falls College Montana State University
Great Falls, Montana
Great Falls College MSU offers associate programs and information technology-focused certifications. Affiliated with the Montana State University system, Great Falls College MSU opened in the 1960s at the request of the state legislature to provide career-focused education to the surrounding population. The college now enrolls over 1,300 full-time students and many more part-time students.
In modern times, Great Falls College MSU furthers its original mission of career-focused education by offering itself to a wider population through distance learning. The college's slate of online programs includes a general associate of arts degree, a general associate of science degree, an associate degree in accounting, a health information coding specialist certificate, a healthcare informatics technician certificate, and a medical scribe apprentice certificate. Students can transfer core coursework to any degree at a four-year MSU school.
In each of its online programs, Great Falls College MSU delivers all coursework asynchronously and without any in-person or on-campus requirements. Each associate degree requires around 60 credits and takes two years, while credit requirements and completion times vary for certificate programs. All of the college's online programs use the BannerWeb/MyInfo learning management system. Given its affordable tuition, Great Falls College MSU earns its place as one of the cheapest online colleges in Montana.
Great Falls College Montana State University is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).
2. Dawson Community College
Located in the remote city of Glendive, Montana, DCC opened its doors in the 1940s to provide vocational and technical programs to the citizens of eastern Montana. In modern times, DCC offers associate of arts and sciences degrees, associate of applied science degrees, and certificate programs. As of 2019, DCC expanded upon its original mission by reaching students all across the country with nine distance learning programs.
The online program offerings at DCC include a general associate of applied science degree; a general associate of arts degree; an associate of applied science degree in early childhood education; an associate degree in chemical dependency counseling; and certificates of applied science in human resources and rural organization employee management. DCC delivers all coursework in each of these programs asynchronously.
As many of DCC's online students work or raise families full time, the college does not require online students to visit campus for any reason. Each online course lasts for six, 10, or 15 weeks. DCC uses both Brightspace and Moodle for learning management systems. DCC runs on open enrollment, accepting all students with a high school diploma or a GED. DCC is also one of the only online community colleges in Montana.
Dawson Community College is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).
The Most Affordable Online Bachelor's Degree Programs in Montana
1. Montana State University - Northern
Based out of the small town of Havre, MSUN's campus sits about an hour from the Canadian border. Originally opening its doors in 1913 as a manual training and agriculture-focused school, MSUN maintains roots in career and vocational education to this day. Over the years, the college became a member of the Montana State University System and added more academic offerings. In modern times, MSUN has expanded into the distance learning realm, now offering nine online degrees.
MSUN's slate of online programs includes two associate degrees, six bachelor's degrees, and one master's degree. As of June 2019, MSUN offered online degrees in general education, business, community leadership, nursing, criminal justice, business administration, business technology, trades management, and instruction and learning. In all of its online programs, MSUN delivers all program coursework asynchronously through the Brightspace and Desire2Learn learning management systems.
MSUN also does not require any on-campus visits for its online programs to cater to the working professionals and parents who make up a large percentage of the college's online student body. Despite four-year universities generally charging higher tuition than community colleges, MSUN earns a spot among the most affordable online colleges in Montana.
Montana State University Northern is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).
2. The University of Montana - Western
Located in the city of Dillon, UMW went through several iterations after opening its doors at the turn of the 21st century as a teacher training college and became an official member of the University of Montana System in 2000. Maintaining an intimate learning environment, UMW enrolls approximately 1,200 full-time students.
UMW delivers all of its online coursework asynchronously and without any on-campus requirements through the Ed2Go learning management system. Students can complete online courses in fields such as business, accounting, finance, healthcare, medicine, language, law, writing, technology, and teaching. UMW does not publicly list which programs it offers entirely online, but it offers individual courses in all of those fields.
Thanks to its reasonable tuition rates, UMW also earns a place among the most affordable online colleges in Montana. UMW participates in the Western Undergraduate Exchange program to help lower tuition costs for out-of-state students. The college earns regional and national acclaim for its Experience One programs, in which students take one course at a time and engage in experiential, practical learning.
The University of Montana Western is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).
3. Montana Tech
Originally opening its doors in the mountain city of Butte in the 1900s as the Montana School of the Mines, Montana Tech evolved over the years into a comprehensive technological and vocational school. Montana Tech officially joined the University of Montana System in 1994. As of 2017, Montana Tech enrolled approximately 2,700 total students, most of them undergraduates.
Some of those 2,700 students enroll in online programs. Montana Tech currently offers four online programs: a bachelor of science in nursing completion degree, a graduate certificate in healthcare informatics, and master's degrees in industrial hygiene and project engineering and management. Each program delivers its coursework asynchronously through Moodle without any on-campus requirements to better meet the needs of working professionals.
Montana Tech also earns a spot among the most affordable online colleges in Montana thanks to its low in-state and out-of-state tuition rates. The Wall Street Journal named Montana Tech as the ninth-best value in terms of return on investment out of all the public colleges in the nation. Furthermore, the college supports its online students by providing them with access to counseling, a career center, a veterans center, student health services, and disability services.
Montana Technological University is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).
4. Montana State University - Billings
Based out of the largest city in Big Sky Country, MSU Billings originally opened in 1927 as a teachers school. Since then, MSU Billings has evolved to add many programs in the arts and sciences, business, and health professions. Originally the regional university for eastern Montana, MSU Billings officially joined the Montana State University System in 1994.
In modern times, MSU Billings extends its reach and diversifies its student body through distance learning. The university offers approximately 240 online courses through the Desire2Learn learning management system. Students can complete all of their online coursework at MSU Billings asynchronously without ever having to visit campus. Offering affordable prices to both residents and out-of-state online students, MSU Billings is one of the most affordable online colleges in Montana.
MSU Billings currently offers 32 online associate, bachelor's, master's, and certificate programs. Those 32 programs include 17 bachelor's options, five associate options, four certificate options, and six master's options. MSU Billings offers online programs in fields such as business administration, human resources, communications, public relations, healthcare administration, and special education.
Montana State University Billings is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).
5. University of Montana
Based in the city of Missoula, UM holds the title of Big Sky Country's flagship university. UM originally opened its doors in the 1890s shortly after Montana was recognized as a state in the Union. UM now primarily focuses on research and liberal arts and excels in distance learning to reach students across the nation.
The university currently offers six master's degrees, two bachelor's degrees, one associate degree, 12 certificates, two endorsements, and UM's unique RevUp program, which trains students to earn well-paying trade jobs in two years. Program fields include customer relations, forensic science, cybersecurity, nonprofit administration, wilderness management, public health, and music education.
UM also earns its spot among the most affordable online colleges in Montana by offering relatively cheap per-credit tuition rates to distance learners. Its online programs also strive for convenience, delivering all of their coursework asynchronously through Moodle and requiring no visits to campus.
The University of Montana is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).