In the following ranking, we look at the 10 best affordable colleges in Montana for bachelor’s degrees. For those who have ever contemplated escaping the hustle and bustle of city living and throwing caution to the wind in exchange for remote living and wide-open spaces, Montana might be the dream destination. Students who attend college in this state typically find themselves enjoying the best of both worlds: unpolluted skies, fresh air, small-town charm, and beautiful mountain views but also world-class research opportunities, challenging career preparation, and rigorous academic programs. Institutions of higher education such as Carroll College and Montana Technological University are especially impressive in terms of academic prestige, but every one of the following 10 schools rightfully holds its place on our ranking of the best affordable colleges in Montana. Not only did we examine the cost to get a sense of affordability, but we also looked at two other key metrics related to class size and student success as identified below.
Although the following ranking is based around the best affordable colleges in Montana, there is more that goes into selecting an institution than cost. Therefore, we evaluated each of the following 10 schools based not only on tuition but also student-to-faculty ratios and graduation rates to get a better understanding of all the institution has to offer. Regardless of the career path you wish to follow once you have earned a bachelor’s in Montana, there are a handful of highly ranked, nationally recognized programs and institutions to choose from. How do you know which one will best meet your needs? In an attempt to help prospective students, we searched for colleges in Montana that offered bachelor’s degrees, using the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) website and its College Navigator tool to get our initial list of schools.
Average Cost of Attendance
Of course, this wouldn’t be a ranking about affordable colleges in Montana without awarding points based on the average cost of attendance. While tuition is arguably one of the first things students look for in a program, try to avoid selecting a school just because it is the cheapest; instead, verify that it offers the major or area of study in which you are interested as well as experienced faculty and accreditation. In other words, keep tuition in mind, but look at the big picture before making your decision. Below, we ranked tuition based on how much an in-state student can expect to pay if he or she were to take an average course load for one full year, according to NCES. Although we did not use rates for out-of-state students as a basis for awarding points, we provided these figures for your reference.
Under $7,500: 3 points
$7,500 to $15,000: 2 points
$15,001 and above: 1 point
The second metric we looked at was class size as measured by each school’s student-to-faculty ratio. When comparing institutions, keep your personal preferences and learning style in mind and remember that there is no one-size-fits-all school. Do you wish to blend into the background and complete your program requirements without too many interactions with others, or are you looking to develop personal relationships with your peers and faculty members? Although there are benefits and drawbacks to both large state universities and small private colleges, for this ranking, we awarded the most points to institutions with the lowest student-to-faculty ratios, as reported from NCES.
10:1 or less: 3 points
11:1 to 15:1: 2 points
Greater than 15:1: 1 point
Graduation rates are a fantastic way to measure not only the success of each school’s students but also their level of satisfaction. Although there are exceptions, in most cases, students who are happy with a program are more likely to remain at that institution and earn their degree. On the other hand, students who are unhappy at a school are more likely to disenroll and finish their studies elsewhere. Students may leave for any number of reasons such as low-quality or unaffordable programs, poor or no academic support, and inexperienced or unhelpful faculty. For this reason, we determined that universities and colleges in Montana with high graduation rates would earn more points than institutions that reported low graduation rates, as stated from NCES.
More than 50 percent: 3 points
Between 30 percent and 50 percent: 2 points
Less than 30 percent: 1 point
Ranking Top 10 Best Affordable Colleges in Montana
10. Rocky Mountain College
Rocky Mountain College is a private accredited college in Montana located in Billings. Established in 1878, the school is affiliated with the United Church of Christ, the Presbyterian Church, and the United Methodist Church. RMC offers a variety of high-value academic programs, including economical undergraduate, graduate, and pre-professional study options with several majors, concentrations, and minors. Unique areas of study at this top-value college include philosophy and religious studies, health and human performance, geography and geology, equestrian studies, and one of the best aviation programs in the country. The school’s core curriculum is grounded in a strong liberal arts tradition that encourages students to develop skills in professional excellence, creative expression, critical thinking, communication, and leadership. RMC values experiential learning, and approximately 88 percent of students are placed in internships. The school is recognized as one of the most affordable colleges in Montana, providing scholarships or grants to 99 percent of enrolled students.
In-State Tuition: $28,572
Out-of-State Tuition: $28,572
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 11:1
Graduation Rate: 49 percent
9. University of Providence
Great Falls, Montana
Located in Great Falls, the University of Providence, formerly the University of Great Falls, is a private Roman Catholic university. Established in 1932 as Great Falls Junior College for Women, UP offers 30 low-cost programs and concentrations both on-campus and online that are designed to help students obtain their professional goals and discover their calling. UP offers these high-value degrees through the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the School of Health Professions, and areas of study include addictions counseling, business administration, criminal justice, exercise science, psychology, nursing, and military paralegal studies. Recognized as one of the best-value colleges in Montana, UP awards financial aid to approximately 96 percent of its students. Outside of the classroom, students may join 17 competitive varsity athletic teams or participate in outdoor activities such as horseback riding, fishing, rafting, kayaking, and hiking. Non-outdoor enthusiasts can stay busy by signing up for intramurals, joining a club, or serving the community and those in need.
In-State Tuition: $25,168
Out-of-State Tuition: $25,168
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 12:1
Graduation Rate: 46 percent
8. Carroll College
Established in 1909, Carroll College is a private, Roman Catholic, liberal arts institution of higher education located at the base of the Rocky Mountains in Helena. The school is recognized among the top-value colleges in Montana, and it is known nationally for its affordable academic programs and its emphasis on experiential learning. Low-cost degree programs include international relations, communication studies, engineering, financial planning, biochemistry and molecular biology, and anthrozoology. The academic experience at Carroll features professors who challenge yet support students, facilities and laboratories that foster state-of-the-art learning, and small class sizes. Campus life at Carroll is comprised of ministry, student government, intramural sports, student clubs, and the Carroll Adventure and Mountaineering Program (CAMP) that provides students with various opportunities to experience outdoor recreation. The school’s location provides easy access to downtown Helena, where students find entertainment, espresso shops, restaurants, and opportunities for employment.
In-State Tuition: $35,486
Out-of-State Tuition: $35,486
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 11:1
Graduation Rate: 69 percent
7. University of Montana
The University of Montana is a low-cost public research university located in Missoula. As the flagship institution and the second-largest campus of the Montana University System, UM is known for integrating the liberal arts and sciences into inexpensive professional, graduate, and undergraduate programs. Situated in the second-largest city in the state, this affordable college in Montana is a national leader in creative scholarship and research and offers cheap degree programs through more than 10 academic units. Popular economical interdisciplinary majors include a Bachelor’s in English with a concentration in literature and the environment, Bachelor’s in Anthropology with a specialization in forensic and biological anthropology, and a Bachelor’s in Ecosystem Sciences and Restoration with options in either aquatic ecological restoration or terrestrial ecological restoration. Also, the Davidson Honors College provides opportunities for original research to highly motivated students. This best-value college in Montana also boasts a fabulous outdoor program which includes a ski and bike maintenance shop, equipment rentals, year-round classes and trips, and films and lectures that revolve around environmental topics.
In-State Tuition: $7,244
Out-of-State Tuition: $24,959
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 17:1
Graduation Rate: 46 percent
6. Montana State University Billings
Established in 1927 as Eastern Montana Normal School, Montana State University Billings is an affordable accredited university in Montana and the third-largest university in the state. Located in Billings, the school offers more than 100 low-cost certificates as well as associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees through five colleges: Allied Health, Arts and Sciences, Business, Education, and City College, which provides two-year academic options. Unique cheap undergraduate degree paths include outdoor adventure leadership, psychiatric rehabilitation, environmental studies, and broadfield science, which offers a comprehensive foundation in technology and general science. More than two-thirds of MSU Billing’s student body remain in Montana after earning their degree, and the school boasts an alumni base of more than 12,000 members in Yellowstone County and thousands more worldwide. MSU Billings also supports the local community through civic engagement, scholarships, and internships.
In-State Tuition: $5,928
Out-of-State Tuition: $19,246
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 14:1
Graduation Rate: 29 percent
5. University of Montana-Western
The University of Montana-Western is a high-value university in Montana, located in Dillon. Montana Western is a member of the Montana University System and affiliated with the University of Montana. Founded as Montana Normal School in 1893, the institution has grown from a center for training teachers to a comprehensive institution of higher education. Today, Montana Western is the only institution in the state and the only public college in the U.S. to offer Experience One (X1), a unique initiative in which students take a single course at a time, three hours per day, for 18 days before they move on to the next. Cheap degree programs are offered through the school’s 10 departments, including the Department of Education, the oldest in Montana, and the Department of Equine Studies, which offers the only four-year program in national horsemanship in the nation. All students from this cheap university benefit from internship and formal research opportunities to prepare for their careers. From the school’s impressive list of campus organizations and clubs to its successful athletic programs, there is no shortage of things to do at Montana Western, and the school is brimming with solid support networks, groups, organizations, and activities.
In-State Tuition: $5,717
Out-of-State Tuition: $17,179
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 17:1
Graduation Rate: 45 percent
4. Montana State University
Enrolling more than 16,900 students, Montana State University is the largest institution of higher education in the state. Located in Bozeman, this affordable Montana university emphasizes creative projects and undergraduate research, spending an average of $120 million each year in research expenditures. MSU confers more than 225 inexpensive academic degrees through its Colleges of Agriculture, Arts and Architecture, Business, Engineering, Letters and Science, Nursing, Graduate School, Gallatin College, and Education, Health, and Human Development. There is an abundance of high-quality, low-cost college courses offered at MSU, including programs in film and microbiology as well as specialized programs such as military aerospace studies and pre-professional degrees. An Honors College also provides exclusive research and study opportunities for the most motivated MSU students. MSU also offers more than 250 study-abroad programs to be completed in more than 60 countries.
In-State Tuition: $7,277
Out-of-State Tuition: $24,993
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 19:1
Graduation Rate: 57 percent
3. Montana State University-Northern
Located in Havre, Montana State University-Northern is one of the cheapest universities in Montana. Established in 1929 as Northern Montana College, Northern is now a member of the Montana State University System. Ranked as the best school in the state for economic upward mobility, Montana State University-Northern produces graduates that have better workforce outcomes than those from other four-year universities in Montana. Students from this top-value school may choose from several low-cost degree programs in engineering technologies, diesel technology, registered nursing, and education. Northern also offers several options to students looking for flexibility, including online-only degrees in criminal justice, community leadership, and business. On-campus students benefit from many inclusive services such as mentoring, advising, and academic support as well as many clubs, organizations, and activities such as the student-run radio station, athletics, and community service.
In-State Tuition: $5,955
Out-of-State Tuition: $18,665
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 14:1
Graduation Rate: 35 percent
2. Montana Technological University
Located in Butte, Montana Technological University is a low-cost university that was founded in 1900 as the Montana State School of Mines. Today, Montana Tech has evolved into a dynamic institution composed of the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology as well as two schools and two colleges: the Graduate School; School of Mines and Engineering; Highlands College; and the College of Letters, Sciences, and Professional Studies. Montana Tech enrolls more than 2,700 students from 43 states and 13 countries in affordable undergraduate and graduate degree programs, and the school is renowned for producing sought-after graduates in areas ranging from energy, science, and engineering to technology, information sciences, and healthcare. In addition, not only is Montana Tech ranked as the best-value engineering school in the country, but it is also the number one best-value college in Montana and the best school in the state for its Bachelor of Science in Nursing program. Students are encouraged to get involved, whether that be through internships and experiential learning outside of the classroom or by joining one of many vibrant on-campus clubs and organizations.
In-State Tuition: $7,412
Out-of-State Tuition: $22,575
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 14:1
Graduation Rate: 52 percent
1. Salish Kootenai College
With low in-state tuition rates, a 9:1 student-to-faculty ratio, and a solid graduation rate, it is no wonder Salish Kootenai College ranks as our best affordable college in Montana. Established in 1977, SKC is a private Native American tribal institution of higher education located on the Flathead Reservation in Pablo, that serves the Pend d’Oreiles, Kootenai, and Bitterroot Salish tribes. Although enrollment is not limited to Native Americans, the school’s main mission is to serve the needs of Native American students. Academic options at SKC consist of workforce certifications, certifications of completion, associate programs, and bachelor’s degrees. SKC offers traditional cheap bachelor’s programs in areas such as business administration, education, the life sciences, hydrology, information technology, nursing, psychology, and social work. However, it also stands apart from other low-cost colleges in Montana for its unique programs in wildlife and fisheries, tribal historic preservation, tribal governance and administration, and forestry with concentrations in forest management and wildland fire management. Outside of the classroom, SKC offers several exciting clubs and organizations centered around Native American interests, forestry and natural resources, and nursing. Students may also join the Student Senate and men’s and women’s basketball teams who compete in the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) National tribal college championships.
In-State Tuition: $6,349
Out-of-State Tuition: $11,584
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 9:1
Graduation Rate: 54 percent
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the Most In-Demand Careers in Montana for Graduates with a Bachelor’s Degree?
The Montana Department of Labor & Industry aims to help develop and maintain a skilled workforce. Therefore, it creates employment and labor force projects to provide insight into both the state’s changing workforce as well as the future demand for workers. According to the state’s labor information, Montana is expected to add 6,010 jobs each year through 2018, then slow to 5,380 annually through 2026 as it experiences a tightening labor market. The labor force itself is anticipated to grow by 4,500 workers annually through 2026, which is 1,000 jobs fewer than average employment growth. The result? Unemployment rates as low as 2 percent by 2026. Why is this important for prospective students?
As future college-goers begin to narrow down the institutions they would like to attend and choose their major, understanding the economy and the occupations that are in the most demand may sway their decision one way or another. On the other hand, those that already know the career path they would like to follow will gain a better understanding of the short- and long-term outlook for their fields. The following are the top 10 occupations that earn more than $45,000 with the most openings between 2016 and 2026. Most of these positions can be obtained with either a bachelor’s degree or with a bachelor’s degree and additional training or experience.
- Registered Nurses
- General and Operations Managers
- Sales Representatives, Wholesale and Manufacturing, Except Technical and Scientific Products
- Accountants and Auditors
- First-Line Supervisors of Construction Trades and Extraction Workers
- First-Line Supervisors of Office and Administrative Support Workers
- Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Education
- Operating Engineers and Other Construction Equipment Operators
- Secondary School Teachers, Except Special Education
The following are the top 10 occupations that earn more than $65,000 with the most openings between 2016 and 2026. While some of these positions can be obtained with either a bachelor’s degree or with a bachelor’s degree and additional training or experience, others require a master’s, doctorate, or advanced training in the field.
- General and Operations Managers
- Civil Engineers
- Physical Therapists
- Managers, All Other
- Medical and Health Services Managers
- Physicians and Surgeons, All Other
- Loan Officers
- Personal Financial Advisors
What are the Highest-Paying Jobs in Montana?
As you begin to narrow down your list of prospective colleges and universities in Montana, you may be thinking about your future occupation and how much you will earn once you earn your degree and enter the workforce. While there are students who are going to follow a certain career path regardless of how much it pays, others may be swayed more by earnings, and they may wish to enter an industry based solely on how much they can make. To help, we consulted the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), where we obtained occupational employment and wage estimates calculated using information gathered from employers in all industries in both nonmetropolitan and metropolitan areas in Montana. According to the BLS, the annual mean wage throughout the state was $43,860 as of May 2018. The top five highest-paying occupation titles include:
- Surgeons: $266,470
- Obstetricians and Gynecologists: $265,440
- Pediatricians, General: $248,370
- Physicians and Surgeons, All Other: $247,260
- Nurse Anesthetists: $246,370
Although this information is helpful for students looking to use their bachelor’s degree as a stepping stone into medical school and the healthcare industry, we also wanted to provide information for undergraduates who are planning to enter the workforce immediately after earning their degree. According to the BLS, the following are 10 high-paying occupations, each of which boasts a six-figure salary, that have a minimum education requirement of a bachelor’s degree or lower. However, positions may require the candidate to obtain additional training, licensure, certification, and/or experience.
- Petroleum Engineers: $141,530
- Chief Executives: $132,400
- Industrial Production Managers: $127,380
- Marketing Managers: $125,860
- Architectural and Engineering Managers: $125,330
- Financial Managers: $109,940
- Physician Assistants: $106,130
- Natural Sciences Managers: $104,930
- Computer and Information Systems Managers: $104,630
- Purchasing Managers: $102,830
What are the Best Schools in Montana for Bachelor’s Recipients?
Montana is not only one of the nation’s most picturesque states, but it also home to several top-value institutions of higher education. If you are going to pursue a college degree, it is important to think about one of the biggest financial investments you will make in your lifetime. After all, there is nothing worse than paying thousands of dollars for a bachelor’s from a certain college or university only to find out that it will not pay off once you enter the workforce. Therefore, we have taken the top five best colleges and universities in Montana that have proven to be smart financial investments. We ranked each institution below in order from the highest 20-year net return on investment (ROI) to the lowest ROI. Each ROI stated below is based on how much a graduate can earn over 20 years of employment if he or she were an on-campus student pursuing a bachelor’s without financial assistance. We also provided salary earnings that graduates with a bachelor’s can expect to see both in the start and in the middle of their careers, according to PayScale.
- 1. Montana Technological University
– 20-Year Net ROI: $634,000
– Early Career Pay: $61,900
– Mid-Career Pay: $107,200
- 2. Montana State University
– 20-Year Net ROI: $369,000
– Early Career Pay: $52,400
– Mid-Career Pay: $93,800
- 3. University of Providence
– 20-Year Net ROI: $214,000
– Early Career Pay: $43,800
– Mid-Career Pay: $82,300
- 4. University of Montana
– 20-Year Net ROI: $189,000
– Early Career Pay: $45,300
– Mid-Career Pay: $88,300
- 5. Montana State University-Northern
– 20-Year Net ROI: $175,000
– Early Career Pay: $44,400
– Mid-Career Pay: $68,700
Students pursuing a degree in Big Sky Country have access to some of the nation’s most thrilling outdoor adventures, including Yellowstone National Park. More importantly, they can choose from several highly ranked schools that are also smart financial investments such as Montana Tech and its whopping $634,000 ROI. Montana Tech is most known for its degrees in STEM fields, and graduates can use their education to build successful, strong careers. For students not necessarily interested in engineering, science, mathematics, or technology, Montana State is also a solid choice, providing a comfortable $369,000 ROI and several nationally ranked academic degrees in both traditional and specialized areas of study. Ultimately, regardless of your interests and professional goals, this list of the best affordable colleges in Montana for a bachelor’s degree is sure to have a school to fit your needs.
This concludes our ranking of the top 10 Best Affordable Colleges in Montana for Bachelor’s Degrees.
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