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Best Colleges and Universities in Montana List for 2020 Published


November 13, 2019

The Bobcat and Grizzly rivalry has quite a following in Blaine County, and now rivals will have yet another reason for bragging rights. Montana State University–Bozeman was recently named the number one school in Montana for 2020. With 2.4 fewer points than MSU–Bozeman, the University of Montana–Missoula ranked seventh on the list, and Aaniiih Nakoda College–Harlem made the Top Ten, coming in at ninth.

Published last week, a list of the Best Colleges and Universities in Montana for 2020 was compiled by a Utah-based company called EDsmart. A privately held corporation, EDsmart operates an education and media online business.

Gathering their data from the U.S. Department of Education websites College Scorecard and College Navigator, EDsmart assessed colleges in Montana based on data that covers four main areas:

• Cost (average net price)

• Academic quality (graduation rate)

• Student satisfaction (retention rate)

• Salary After Attending (the median earnings of former students who received federal financial aid, at ten years after entering the school)

These rankings aim to help students assess the affordability and value of top colleges in Montana so they can make informed decisions about which college to attend.

“Because of the state’s culture and topography, Montana boasts innovative degree programs in agriculture and wildlife studies at its colleges and universities. The state has a high Native American Population, so Montana also has a few tribal colleges specifically tailored to the needs of Native American Students,” EDsmart wrote.

To win its seat at number one, MSU–Bozeman boasted these statistics:

• Average Net Price: $17,754

• Retention Rate: 76%

• Graduation Rate: 54%

• Salary After Attending: $43,200

Although Carroll College also scored a perfect 100 points, edging out MSU–Bozeman in all other categories, its average net price is $26,297. Its remarkably higher tuition costs led to its second place status on the list.

Earning 97.6 points, UM–Missoula posted this scorecard:

• Average Net Price: $15,006

• Retention Rate: 69%

• Graduation Rate: 45%

• Salary After Attending: $35,500

Not far behind, Aaniiih Nakoda College scored 96.2, landing it in ninth place with this distribution:

• Average Net Price: $8,311

• Retention Rate: 63%

• Graduation Rate: 30%

• Salary After Attending: $20,300

Montana State University-Northern in Havre found itself at number fourteen with 95.8 points. With a 60% retention rate and a 29% graduation rate, its average net price is $12,898, and the median annual earnings of former students who received federal financial aid, at ten years after entering the school is $37,100.

Blaine County graduates in 2020 can access lists like this for assistance in determining their post-secondary school plans. Naturally, many factors besides the areas used by EDsmart will play into that decision. Montana students should also be aware of savings programs like the Montana State University Matched Education Savings Account (MESA). MESA helps eligible, hardworking students with limited incomes to save for college expenses. For those who qualify, this savings program adds $3 to the participant’s account for every $1 saved, up to $1,500. For qualification restrictions and for information about MESA, interested persons should visit the program’s web page at

Graduates wishing to attend a school out of state should also know that Montana participates in the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) program. The goal of this program is to help nonresident students to graduate with little to no debt. It offers nonresident tuition rates and discounts to students in sixteen western states, including Montana. A person can locate additional details about this program by visiting


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