Many colleges in Montana include online and distance education programs as a part of their core offerings. Montana’s system of higher education has recently undergone changes designed to help rebuild the state’s workforce. Online education, in particular, has played a role in Montana’s push for producing more college graduates with career-oriented degrees. As of 2012, 20 percent of the state’s students were enrolled online, with a total of 90 online degrees available between all of Montana’s online schools.
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Of the online colleges in Montana, Great Falls College Montana State University, a 4-year research university, offers the most number of programs online. The school offers 27 online programs.
Montana has experienced growth in employment numbers in the last decade. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 445,000 people employed in nonfarm occupations in Montana in 2012, the highest figure recorded in more than 5 previous years. The three biggest industries in the state are:
The average wage of Montana employees is less than the average wage for employees across the country. In the US, workers earn about $42,871 annually. However, in Montana, workers earn about $36,060 annually. The median income for employees is $29,030 per year. But, the top 10 percent of the state’s employees earn over $62,710 per year, while the bottom 10 percent earn under $16,870.
Tuition for online college courses varies based on factors including the type and location of the institution as well as the program. Public four-year colleges and universities in Montana charged students an average of $3,926 per year. Tuition at public community and technical colleges was $2,791 per year on average. Private accredited online college tuition ranged from $4,932 to $17,856 per year.
College students in Montana received an estimated $2,147,921,881 worth of financial aid each year to help offset tuition. Approximately 32.01% of this aid was in the form of scholarships and grants. The remainder was in the form of loans that had to be paid back. Institutional grants account for a reported 89.5 percent of the scholarships and grants.
The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) is the main accrediting agency for colleges and universities in the Montana University System. The NWCCU is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a legitimate accrediting agency for the Northwest region of the United States, which includes school accreditation in Montana. The accredited degrees offered online at Montana schools have received accreditation from either the NWCCU or through a smaller institutional accrediting agency.
Named from the Spanish word “montana” meaning “mountain”, Montana is located in the Northern Rockies and Plains region of the United States. The 4th largest state in the nation, it has an area of 147,040 square miles. Approximately 47°F is Montana’s average annual temperature.
Montana has the 8th smallest population in the nation. The state has 57 counties and 989,415 residents residing in these counties. Approximately 39 percent of Montana’s population is under the age of 30. Also, it has one of the least diverse populations in the country. An estimated 12 percent of the state’s population identifies itself as belonging to a racial or ethnic minority group.
Although Montana’s capital city is Helena, the largest city in the state is Billings, with a population of 104,170 residents. An estimated 9.5 percent of the state’s residents live in the Billings metropolitan area. Other large cities in the state include Missoula, Great Falls, Bozeman, and Butte.
As compared to residents in other states around the country, Montana residents typically have a higher than average level of education. According to the 2010 Census, an estimated 20.3 percent of the state’s residents over the age of 25 have finished high school, 3.5 percent have at least an associates degree, 2.8 percent have degrees at the bachelor’s level or higher, and 1 percent hold a graduate level degree.