This year, the Montana Higher Education Student Assistance Corporation launched the Reach Higher Montana Portal as an initiative to help Montana students enter the Montana University System. The portal helps students apply to colleges and universities in Montana, offers financial aid information, guides students through career options, and provides resources to support students as they navigate the higher education process. Karen Ogden, the Communications Director of the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education, spoke to KGVO News about the portal and its exciting new features.

“Students today can go to that site and explore financial aid options, and they can learn about careers and what type of coursework they would need to pursue those careers," Ogden stated. "There’s already just a wealth of information there for students and their parents.”

While the portal is currently active, its streamlined Montana University System application system will be coming online in the fall of 2020.

“[This component] will allow students to apply to college within the University System in one place, and so that will really help streamline that process,” Ogden said. “Students will be able to provide their vaccination records to one place, provide their transcripts to one place, and it will just really simplify the process.”

The portal also has a feature where students can compare salaries for different careers as part of a collaboration with the Montana Department of Labor and Industry.

Additionally, Ogden spoke about the scope of the Reach Higher Montana Portal in helping students through the admission process.

“The portal is really about leveling the playing field for all Montanans to access our Montana University System,” Ogden told KGVO news. “In academia, sometimes you’ll hear the process of starting college referred to as the hidden curriculum, and that’s all of those hurdles that you need to go through to get to your first day of classes.”

According to Ogden, these hurdles include supplying vaccination records, applying for financial aid, submitting transcripts, registering for classes, and finding housing, all of which can make the process even more difficult for first-generation college students or students without parent help. Part of the purpose of the portal is to help students find and access information to overcome these hurdles.

The portal will be at the center of the 2020 College Access Week, when high school seniors are encouraged to submit applications during the school day. 2019's College Access Week was a record-breaking year, with 4,753 applications from 174 high schools in Montana.

Ogden encourages students and parents to visit the site here to learn about the portal and its resources.