Best Community Colleges in Montana
Two-year college institutions in Montana come in three types: standard community colleges, tribal colleges and schools that are directly affiliated with Montana universities. Each of the types of college can deliver a quality education, as you'll see, although there may be subtle differences between them to consider when choosing where to earn your degree.
All of the public two-year schools in Montana, regardless of which type they are, belong to the Montana University System. The System also encompasses the primary and secondary campuses of Montana State University and the University of Montana, the state's two large public universities. We crunched the numbers to find out which ones among them were the best community colleges in Montana -- check out the list below.
Dawson Community College (Glendive)
Montana is a state with a lot more land than people, so several of the best Montana community colleges have relatively small numbers of students on their attendance rolls. Dawson Community College is one of those close-knit institutions, educating around 400 learners each year.
The ratio of students to faculty members is generally a good measure for how much time professors will have available to provide personalized help to students, and DCC stands strong in that department. The student-faculty ratio here was just 11:1 in 2017, around 30 percent better than the national university average.
The degree catalog at DCC contains around 35 associate degrees, including more than 20 plans for university transfer, and a small selection of vocational certificate programs. It's also one of the top online colleges in Montana, offering close to ten programs in the virtual classroom.
Miles Community College (Miles City)
Miles Community College began its life way back in 1939, offering classes for its first 20 years out of spare rooms at the local public high school. The Miles City school took on its current moniker in the 1960s and moved into its current campus building not long after.
Associate of Arts (A.A.) and Associate of Science (A.S.) degrees at MCC prepare you for a university transfer by offering study plans that fulfill the 30-credit Montana University System core. Career-focused students have around 30 vocational plans to choose from, including several specialized agricultural plans.
MCC set up an in-house network simulation in 1987 to help its instructors train for classes offered via interactive broadcast, making it something of a pioneer among online community colleges. Today, it offers close to 10 degree plans that only require online courses.
Great Falls College Montana State University (Great Falls)
Founded as an independent vocational technical center in 1969, Great Falls College Montana State University joined the MSU system in 1994. More than 50 degree and certificate programs are available here, including an Associate of Science in Nursing (A.S.N.) degree with clinical sections in local hospitals.
The service area of GFC MSU covers ten Montana counties, giving it a large area from which to draw the roughly 1,700 students that attend classes here each year. Nontraditional students returning to school after some time away should feel comfortable here -- more than 43 percent of students at GFC MSU are over the age of 25.
Great Falls is the third-largest city in Montana, with a 2017 population of close to 59,000 residents. Several museums, a performing arts center and beautiful natural features give students plenty to keep them busy in their downtime.
Flathead Valley Community College (Kalispell)
Located just 30 miles from majestic Glacier National Park and about 60 miles from the U.S.-Canada border, Flathead Valley Community College maintains two campuses in northwest Montana. FVCC is the largest institution among the top Montana community colleges, welcoming more than 2,300 students each year.
More than 90 degree and certificate programs are available here, including vocational and transfer programs in health care and over a dozen study plans in math and science. FVCC also stands tall among online community colleges in the state, offering close to 100 online courses.
As you might expect from the area around Glacier National Park, the town of Kalispell is in close proximity to some truly breathtaking landscapes and playscapes. Residents have access to top-notch camping, skiing, hiking, boating, canoeing, rafting, hunting, rock climbing and more.
Helena College University of Montana (Helena)
The average class size at Helena College University of Montana was just 13 students in 2017, and that's not the only indication that the learning environment here is an intimate one. The student-faculty ratio was a tidy 13:1 the same year, and the number of full-time students enrolled was fewer than 550.
Vocational and occupational students at HC have over 30 degree and certificate plans to choose from. A.A. and A.S. programs are also available for students looking to transfer to a university after finishing the first few semesters of their core coursework.
Numerous online and hybrid courses are available for HC students, as well as a decidedly unique approach to distance learning. Students may schedule time to guide a multimedia-enabled mobile robot around campus buildings and interact remotely with classmates and faculty through its camera and microphone.
Stone Child College (Box Elder)
Stone Child College is a tribally chartered institution that was established in 1984 and dedicates itself to educating members of its community and preserving the Chippewa Cree language, culture and history. Close to 20 associate degrees and 10 vocational certificates were available here in 2017-18.
Affordability was one of the bright spots at this institution just east of Box Elder. One year's courseload of anywhere between 14 and 20 credit hours per semester comes to around $2,650 -- nearly $900 less for the year than the nationwide average figure.
For students who may still need help paying for school, SCC features a range of scholarships for which enrolled students can apply. Those with a GPA over 3.0 can apply for the Margaret "Peggy" Nagel Memorial Scholarship Fund, and subject-specific awards exist for students in Native American studies and the fine arts.
Chief Dull Knife College (Lame Deer)
Located on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation in southeastern Montana, Chief Dull Knife College is one of the smallest institutions among the best community colleges in Montana. Total enrollment topped out under 200 students in 2017, and the maximum capacity of classrooms on the Lame Deer campus is 300 learners.
Despite its small student population, Chief Dull Knife features a robust selection of academic amenities. The campus houses a cultural center, a technical skills center, a student lounge and an early childhood learning center, as well as specialized laboratory facilities for science and computing.
Prospective transfer students here can earn A.A. and A.S. degrees designed to shift their credits into bachelor's degree programs after completion. Students hoping to go straight into the workforce after graduating can choose 60-credit Associate in Applied Science (A.A.S.) degrees or 30- to 45-credit certificate programs.
Aaniiih Nakoda College (Harlem)
Aaniiih Nakoda College was founded in 1984 as Ft. Belknap College and has the closest-knit student community of any of the best Montana community colleges. Fewer than 150 students attend courses at the Harlem-based tribal institution each year, and the ratio of students to faculty members was a very comfortable 10:1 in 2017.
The catalog of academic programs at Aaniiih Nakoda College features A.A. and A.S. plans in a range of subjects that includes American Indian studies, business, education, health care, psychology and computer information systems. Certificates and A.A.S. programs are available as well, in fields such as carpentry and welding.
The campus also features sponsored programs that can help students make the most of their college experience. Initiatives stemming from these programs include KGVA radio, the first Native American radio station in Montana, and a USDA Extension Demonstration Farm.
Little Big Horn College (Crow Agency)
First chartered in 1980, Little Big Horn College has operated as an accredited institution of higher learning and vocational training for nearly 30 years. Student enrollment here averages around 300 students per term, and the student-faculty ratio is approximately 15:1.
The name of the college owes its origins to a story from ancient Crow tribal history. As the story goes, a young boy was rescued by a group of big horn rams and taught many lessons about life, which he brought to the Crow people upon reaching adulthood. The smallest ram among them, the Little Big Horn, taught the boy how to care well for children and ensure that his community grew strong.
Students here can choose among nearly 20 degree and certificate plans, including a pilot program leading to an A.S. in agriculture and livestock management.
Fort Peck Community College (Poplar)
Fort Peck Community College was chartered in 1978, when the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes convened to develop on-reservation options for higher education in their home area of northwestern Montana. The Poplar institution earned regional accreditation in 1991 and completed construction on a satellite campus facility in Wolf Point in 2003.
Around 350 students each year attend classes at FPCC, which offers close to ten one-year certificate programs and academic plans in over a dozen subjects for students seeking associate degrees. A.A. and A.S. degree plans can be awarded either as finished degrees or as transfer preparation to four-year university programs.
A.A.S. and certificate plans at FPCC are designed with the workforce-ready student in mind. Career-focused subjects of study include automotive technology, Web design, truck driving, welding, building, electrical line work and Native language instruction.
Initiatives for Transfer Students
If you're looking to transfer into a bachelor's degree program after finishing your first few semesters in community college, make sure to check the transfer agreements offered by your destination school. Here's a short list of public and private universities in Montana that may have subject-specific transfer agreements with your community college:
- Montana State University-Billings
- Montana State University-Northern
- Montana Tech of the University of Montana
- Highlands College of Montana Tech
- University of Providence
Some top Montana community colleges also have transfer agreements with out-of-state schools, in case you're hoping to travel to complete your degree. Institutions in Missouri, Idaho and the Canadian province of Alberta all have agreements with select Montana schools.
What's more, several of the community colleges in the Montana University System provide a simpler and less expensive transfer method for its students who have earned at least 12 college credits. By filling out a document known as the Transmittal Form, you can authorize your community college to send all records, including your official transcripts, to destination school within the System.
For more insight into education in the state, explore the top universities in Montana.
We ranked community colleges in Montana. The schools were ranked on multiple factors related to educational opportunity, student performance and student services.
Each school was scored on a 10-point scale, using the following six data points:
- The percentage of students enrolled in distance education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
- Cost of attendance, based on the average net price for students receiving scholarship and grant aid, and the total cost of tuition, fees, books and supplies, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
- Student-to-faculty ratio, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
- The graduation rate in 150% time, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
- The transfer-out rate in 150% time, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
- Flexibility, based on the following data points from the National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
a) Whether the school offers credit for life experiences
b) Whether the school offers programs of study that can be completed entirely in the evenings and on weekends
c) Whether the school offers on-campus day care for students' children
d) Whether the school offers any kind of alternative tuition plan.These may include, but aren't limited to, payment plans or guaranteed rates
- College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, accessed September 20-24, 2018, https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?s=MT&ct=1+2&ic=2
- Montana University System, accessed September 20, 2018: Montana Colleges and Universities, https://mus.edu/Universities/university_main.asp; Transfer Degrees, https://mus.edu/Transfer/TransferDegrees.asp;
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- Fun Facts, City of Great Falls Montana, accessed September 21, 2018, https://greatfallsmt.net/community/fun-facts
- Great Falls city, Montana, QuickFacts, U.S. Census Bureau, accessed September 21, 2018, https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/greatfallscitymontana/PST045217
- KGVA Radio Station, accessed September 24, 2018, http://kgvafm.org/
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds