8 Best Colleges in Montana

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Montana is a land of stunning natural beauty, friendly people, and diverse opportunities for higher education.

Students who choose to live and study in Montana can experience the wilderness of America as only Big Sky Country can provide it. From the Great Plains to the Rocky Mountains, from prairies to badlands, Montana is as varied as it is inspiring.

The state ranks 48th in the nation for population density and 4th for land area, meaning that Montana is a perfect choice for students who thrive on wide open spaces and endless possibilities. Cities like Billings, Helena, and Bozeman are hubs of warm Montana culture, and even city-dwellers are never far from the spectacular landscapes and unbeatable recreational opportunities of Montana’s great outdoors.

Montana’s economy is based primarily on agriculture, ranching, mining, and lumber. Health services and government jobs are another major component of the state’s economy. Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, Glacier National Park, and Yellowstone National Park are some of the biggest draws for Montana’s fastest growing sector: tourism.

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Both graduate and undergraduate students who are interested in earning their degrees in Montana have an abundance of strong choices, including the five public institutions of the Montana University System, seven tribal colleges, and three private, nonprofit colleges (including Carroll College, Rocky Mountain College, and the University of Providence).

Best Colleges in Montana Badge

What are the best colleges in Montana?

We’ve carefully assessed the colleges and universities in Montana to bring you the following list of the best higher education institutions in the Treasure State. To provide an accurate ranking, we look at two primary factors: institutional excellence and student success. The institutional excellence rank is assigned based on graduation rate, endowment size, incoming student test scores, student-to-faculty ratio, institutional reputation, and other important data points. Student success is measured through average student indebtedness after graduation, the projected early career salary for graduates, the amount of financial aid available, and typical tuition costs. Data is drawn from reputable sources including the National Center for Education Statistics’ IPEDS database, individual college websites, PayScale, and U.S. News & World Report.

Rankings

See our rankings methodology page.

  1. Carroll College
    Location

    Helena, MT

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    A liberal arts institution with Roman Catholic roots, Carroll College emphasizes the importance of social justice, faith, and service, providing an ideal college environment for students who want more than a purely academic experience. Located in beautiful Helena, Carroll College was designated as a 2017 Military Friendly School by Victory Media, as well as number one Regional College in the West for Veterans by U.S. News World Report.

    Features

    Carroll College has earned regional and national acclaim for its academic programs, particularly the nursing and pre-med (including pre-optometry, pre-dentistry, and pre-pharmacy) majors. In addition to over 40 available undergraduate degree programs, Carroll also offers numerous enriching programs, like the Social Media Certificate program, the Honors Scholars Program, and the Field Ecology in the Rockies summer program. Top majors at Carroll include:

    • Health Professions and Related Programs
    • Biological and Biomedical Sciences
    • Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support Services

    Details

    The picturesque setting of Carroll College means that students have access to extensive outdoor opportunities, including 75 miles of hiking trails just five minutes away from campus. Students can also participate in the Carroll Adventure Mountaineering Program or enjoy discounted day passes at the nearby Great Divide Ski Area. The student body at Carroll is comprised of 55% out-of-state students, indicating that Carrolls reputation for excellence draws in students not just from the local region but also from diverse areas of the country.

  2. Montana Tech of the University of Montana
    Location

    Butte, MT

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Founded in 1900 as the Montana State School of Mines, Montana Tech has since expanded to include a College of Letters, Sciences Professional Studies, while staying true to its heritage with an extensive School of Mines and Engineering. A Graduate School also provides opportunities for students to advance their careers. The 3,000 students of Montana Tech benefit from the schools excellent job placement rate for graduates, low tuition costs, and opportunities for personalized learning.

    Features

    Over 60 degree programs are available for students of Montana Tech in a variety of professional, technical, and vocational fields, including Certificates of Applied Science in Aerospace Welding Technology, Construction Technology/Carpentry, and a Pre-Apprenticeship Line Program. Health sciences programs are also available leading to an Associates in Applied Science for Radiologic Technology, Surgical Technology, and other fields. Some of the most popular majors include:

    • Petroleum Engineering
    • General Engineering
    • Business/Commerce
    • Mining and Mineral Engineering

    Details

    Montana Tech provides individualized, interactive academic experiences, with 62% of classes having 20 students or fewer and a student-faculty ratio of 15:1. The School of Mines and Engineering boasts an impressive 98% placement for its graduates. Students can pursue their interests through an Undergraduate Research Program (URP) that is funded by the university, industry partners, and the National Science Foundation. Undergraduates who conduct their own research can even earn a stipend for their work.

  3. Montana State University
    Location

    Bozeman, MT

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    With over 225 academic programs, including undergraduate degrees, graduate degrees, minors, and specialized programs, Montana State University has something to offer every student. The states largest university and the primary campus of the extensive Montana State University System is located in Bozeman, Montana, on 1,780 acres surrounded by beautiful mountain landscapes.

    Features

    In addition to an array of traditional academic programs across nine distinct colleges, MSU also accommodates non-traditional students, career changers, and students with family commitments through a series of online degree programs. Among MSUs 14,400 undergraduate and 2,040 graduate students, some of the most popular fields of study include the following:

    • Business/Commerce
    • Registered Nursing
    • Mechanical Engineering
    • Psychology
    • Elementary Education and Teaching

    Details

    More than 72 countries are represented among Montana States international student community. In the 2016 fiscal year, the faculty of MSU was awarded $118.3 million for their research and creative projects, which not only indicates that MSU professors are leading figures in their fields, but also represents extensive research opportunities for students. Montana State is home to numerous unique institutes and programs, including the Museum of the Rockies, which features an extensive collection of dinosaur fossils, as well as the Center for Bison and Wildlife Health.

  4. University of Montana
    Location

    Missoula, MT

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    The 13,000 students at the University of Montana pursue passions in a diverse range of academic fields. While the flagship campus is located in the stunning natural landscape of Missoula, the University of Montana is also closely affiliated with three other institutions: University of Montana Western located in Dillon, Montana Tech in Butte, and Helena College of the University of Montana. This network of schools enables students to access exceptional opportunities to prepare for their futures.

    Features

    The University of Montana offers an array of academic tracks that can be easily customized to suit all learners, including student veterans as well as non-traditional, home school, and returning students. Several programs are nationally distinguished, including Creative Writing; Organismal Biology, Ecology and Evolution; and Wildlife Biology. Most popular majors by graduation rate include:

    • Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support Services
    • Social Sciences
    • Education

    Details

    UM integrates a number of experiential learning opportunities into its programs; many students work and study in labs both on and off campus, in the wilderness areas surrounding the university, and in a myriad of partner institutions overseas. Small class size is an important emphasis at UM, with 76% of undergraduate classes having fewer than 30 students. The Four Bear Program guarantees that students will graduate within four years, providing peace of mind for students who are worried about receiving the academic support they need to succeed.

  5. Rocky Mountain College
    Location

    Billings, MT

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    A private institution founded in 1878, Rocky Mountain College has a long history of transformational learning, encouraging informed citizenship, and promoting a culture of stewardship and shared responsibility. The college is located in Montanas biggest city, Billings, just 90 minutes away from Yellowstone National Park. The culture of Billings and the surrounding natural beauty make RMC a top choice for students in the region.

    Features

    Rocky Mountain College offers 52 courses of study for undergraduate students, including one of the most renowned aviation programs in the country. Additionally, graduate studies can pursue masters degrees in physician assistant studies, accountancy, and educational leadership. Some of the most popular degree programs for RMC undergraduates are the following:

    • Business Administration and Management
    • Biological Sciences
    • Kinesiology and Exercise Science
    • Airline/Commercial/Professional Pilot and Flight Crew

    Details

    Ninety-nine percentof Rocky Mountain students receive a financial aid package, with an average award amount of $24,000. The total enrollment as of the 2015-2016 academic year was 1,035 students, with 48percent of students living on campus and 52% commuting. Many students who prefer the atmosphere of a close-knit community will enjoy the relatively small student body and highly personalized attention from professors, thanks to RMCs 12:1 student-faculty ratio.

  6. University of Providence
    Location

    Great Falls, MT

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    The University of Providence (formerly University of Great Falls) is a Roman Catholic liberal arts university based in Great Falls, a town with a population of just over 59,000. As a private institution founded in 1932, the university offers a 44-acre campus for its 1,074 students. AtProvidence students will be welcomed into a flourishing community of peers and faculty that will help them prepare for a successful career as well as a fulfilling life.

    Features

    Providence provides a variety of opportunities for students at every level of their academic careers, with 40 undergraduate degrees, eight graduate degrees, and four Distance Learning degrees, which utilize Blackboard or Moodle to deliver course content for students who prefer not to attend in-person classes. Top majors at U of P include:

    • Health Professions and Related Programs
    • Education
    • Biological and Biomedical Sciences
    • Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support Services

    Details

    The 12:1 student-faculty ratio at U of P helps encourage close collaboration between the universitys acclaimed faculty and its students. All freshmen at Providence will participate in the Corps of Discovery experience, a program that emphasizes the universitys values of holistic learning and engagement for the whole person. 96 percent of students at Providence receive financial aid, while 46 percent receive Pell Grants. Extensive opportunities are available for work-study, volunteer work, and student employment.

  7. The University of Montana Western
    Location

    Dillon, MT

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    The University of Montana Western is a public institution founded in 1893 that boasts a number of impressive rankings: its been named #8 in Best Value Schools, #8 in Regional Colleges West, and #3 in Top Public Schools in the Western region by U.S. News World Report. One of the most unique aspects of the University of Montana Western is the Experience One program, an innovative class scheduling system that allows students to take on a single class at a time.

    Features

    The ten fields of academic study at UMW include Biology, Business and Technology, Environmental Studies, Education, English, Equine Studies, Fine Arts, Mathematics, and History, Philosophy, Health and Human Performance, and Social Studies. An Honors program is also available. Some of the most popular majors among the University of Montana Westerns 1,469 students are the following:

    • Education
    • Business/Commerce
    • Biology and Biological Sciences

    Details

    Students at the University of Montana Western will enjoy a tight-knit community atmosphere where they can work closely with peers and professors alike, with a 15:1 student-faculty ratio and a large proportion (71%) of undergraduate classes having fewer than 20 students. This rural, 20-acre campus is an excellent choice for students to take advantage of the experiential learning offered by the Experience One program, where they can build on critical and creative thinking skills to solve real-world problems.

  8. Montana State University Billings
    Location

    Billings, MT

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Montana State University-Billings was founded in 1927 and has kept pace over the past 90 years to remain an institution of academic excellence; it now offers more online courses than any other higher education institution in the state of Montana, with 24 fully online degree programs. The 110-acre urban campus serves just shy of 4,500 students and has the third largest campus population in the Montana State University System.

    Features

    The five colleges at Montana State University-Billings include the Allied Health Professions, Arts and Sciences, Business, Education, and City College, which covers a variety of vocational and technical academic programs, including Diesel Technology, Process Plant Technology, and Welding for Energy Technology. A few of the degree programs with the highest enrollment at MSU-Billings include:

    • Business
    • Education
    • Liberal Arts and Sciences
    • Psychology
    • Homeland Security, Law Enforcement, Firefighting and Related Protective Services

    Details

    Just 11% of the total student body of MSU-Billings lives on campus, while 89% reside off-campus. The school offers Army ROTC and extensive opportunities for service learning and community engagement, including a Service Saturdays initiative and a Volunteer Incentive Program. The on-campus Diversity Center runs a Peer Mentor Program to help students feel comfortable as part of the MSU-Billings community.

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