BILLINGS (AP) — State higher education officials are working to remake the image of Montana's colleges of technology to draw more students.
Sheila Stearns said a $1.77 million grant from the Lumina Foundation is being used to transform them from schools that offer technical training specific to jobs to a community college model with core classes that would transfer to the university system's four-year schools.
Stearns and Mary Moe, the deputy commissioner for two-year education, spoke with The Billings Gazette editorial board Thursday.
Moe said many people think of the colleges of technology as "vo-tech" schools from which they evolved. By next summer, they may look more like community colleges and may even have new names as education officials seek to raise their profile.
Stearns said many state residents are surprised to learn that Montana has 18 two-year colleges that receive some kind of state funding, including community colleges in Miles City, Glendive and Kalispell. There are stand-alone colleges of technology in Helena and Great Falls, six colleges of technology attached to universities in Bozeman, Missoula, Billings, Butte, Havre and Dillon and seven tribal colleges.
A three-credit class at Montana State University-Billings costs nearly $792, while that same course costs $617 at the college of technology in Billings. Stearns said she would like to see that cost differential increase to make the two-year schools more attractive.
She would also like to change the public perception that the University of Montana or Montana State University are the only places for students to go after they graduate from high school.