Key Coverage

Students Have an Uphill Battle to Degrees, But Montana Educators Push for Success

At Helena College, a 26-year-old student raising her daughter alone schedules class around her job at a grocery store. Stephanie Heitman’s paychecks were going toward unpaid medical bills until her small college helped with a grant.

When Tristin Bullshoe landed at the University of Montana after growing up in Browning, he struggled to pursue his dream of being a doctor. He landed in a college lecture hall with 300 people after graduating high school with a class of 12, and the Blackfeet student faced culture shock.

Trinity Valyent applied and found scholarships to attend Montana State University with help from Bozeman High School. The first-generation college student who helps care for her siblings and works full time is worried academics will be the least of her obstacles to a degree. 

In the United States, and for roughly 191,000 students seeking public education in Montana, a degree has been a steppingstone to the American Dream, an opportunity for security and prosperity. But from elementary school to college, the path forward for Heitman, Bullshoe, Valyent and others is steep.