Explore the Cost & Benefits of College

Some universities in the western region of the United States will offer in state tuition for students from Montana. Online tools allow you to compare rates from universities out-side of Montana. Many people have heard how expensive college is because they have heard how much ivy league schools cost, but schools in the Montana University System are affordable.

Location 2-Year 4-Year Graduate
Montana Schools $4,310-$6,377 $5,725-$7,431 $7,066-$8,456
Ivy League (average cost) unavailable $56,631 $47,573
Montana data obtained at 4/1/2020
Ivy League data obtained at 4/1/2020

College costs include things like housing, transportation, books, insurance, and food etc. Some families cut costs by having students start at a two-year college to take their general classes (at a cheaper cost) and then transfer to a four-year program to take their degree specific classes. When students live at home it also cut expenses.

A college education can be an investment in personal growth, critical thinking, and future income. Smart moves like taking dual enrollment classes while in high school, applying for scholarships and working while in college, lowers the overall cost. By taking steps to reduce expenses and choosing a program that is a good fit, one can increase their earning potential over their lifetime. A little research can help your student understand how more education can have a big impact on future income and job satisfaction.

Occupation Years of Post-Secondary Education Entry Level Income Job Growth
Medical Assistant 1-2 Associate’s Degree / Certification $29,470 High
Nurse 4 Bachelor’s Degree $57,180 High
Welder 2 Associate of Science Degree $34,710 High
Materials Engineer 4 Bachelor’s Degree $56,180 High
Graphic Designer  1-2 Associate’s Degree/Certificate $31,300   Low
Multimedia/Graphic Design  4 Bachelor’s Degree  $37,220  moderate

Data from April 2020

FAFSA & Financial Aid 

Filling Out the FAFSA Video 1

Filling Out the FAFSA Video 2

A Student's Guide to Your First Year of College - ICYMI Video series

Parent/Guardian Survey Center

Parent/Guardian Consent Form (Online) 

Parent/Guardian Consent Form (DOC)


Reach Higher Montana

Scholarship Coordinator:  Sheila Newlun  406-449-9168

Explore Types of Education after High School

The Montana Career Information System is a web-based portal provided by the Montana Department of Labor and Industry. Any Montanan can access the portal by providing their location and zip code. Students can take career assessments based on their interests and receive recommendations. The site allows you to do side by side comparisons of up to three post-secondary schools at one time. The career pathways part of the website allows students and parent/guardians to compare salaries based on level of education. Topics include occupations, apprenticeships, and paying for education. 

Learn How to Pay for College

Reach Higher Montana provides information for parent/guardians and students. It provides guidance on how to pay for college. With a little knowledge parent/guardians can encourage their children to take steps to reduce the need to borrow such as getting good grades, taking dual enrollment classes, and applying for scholarships.  Best of all, Reach Higher answers questions you may have like how long will college take, and how much will it cost. Starting in the fall of 2020 the Montana University System will host a central application for Montana’s post-secondary schools at

If you can save money, use google to research “matched savings accounts in Montana.” These savings accounts, through credit unions, are designed to help low- or moderate-income families. If you save $500 within a set amount of time, it will be matched by free money, up to three times as much as you save. Additionally, 529 plans are for longer-term, may be tax-deferred and can be withdrawn for qualifying educational costs without being taxed.  Financial advisors can provide personalized advice.

Preparing to Enter Montana’s Schools

The Montana University System (MUS) website helps parent/guardians understand what steps their student can take in high school to become college ready. MUS provides information on schools within the MUS system, helps you understand tuition costs, and provides information on scholarships and fee waivers.

Applying for Financial Aid

Once your child has applied to their school(s) of interest, the next step is completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA portal opens on October first and to get priority funding, it is best to apply soon after it opens. The Federal Student Aid Website provides information on the required documents, allows you to apply right there, and gives information on how to apply using a cell phone. The site’s glossary will help you to understand the language around financial aid. Within a short time of completing the FAFSA you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) to review for correctness. It will tell you what is available based on your financial circumstances and what is expected for the family’s contribution. The school(s) your child applied to will use information from the SAR to calculate a financial aid offer which may include funding other than loans.

Montana Colleges and Universities Resources & Student Supports

Apply Montana

Your student can apply to 16 colleges across Montana for FREE using this ONE application!


Download this useful map which shows all Montana colleges and universities, including Tribal insitutions.