Is this a graduate or undergraduate program?

This is a graduate program. An undergraduate diploma is required before a student can enter the program.

How many credits are required for the CFP® preparation courses?

We offer six three-credit courses (18 credits in all) to fulfill the education requirement to take the exam to become a Certified Financial Planner™.

The courses are:

  • Investing for the Family’s Future
  • Retirement Planning
  • Personal Income Taxation
  • Insurance Planning for Families
  • Estate Planning for Families
  • Financial Planning Case Studies

Is this a resident or distance-delivered program?

The courses are offered entirely at a distance, making this an ideal program for busy professionals. The only requirement is that you have a computer and access to the internet. While some students reside in Bozeman, Montana or nearby, residence is not an issue in applying for this program.

What is required for entry to the program?

  • Bachelor's degree in any field
  • Admission to the MSU Graduate School

Learn more about how to apply.

What about having to take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE)?

The GRE is not required for admission.

What does the program cost?

The program costs the same at all participating schools. The cost of tuition per credit is $565. Textbook costs are additional and vary with each course.

Family Financial Planning is a self-supporting program and as such is not eligible for faculty and staff fee waivers.

Is there a difference between resident and non-resident tuition?

There is no difference between tuition for resident and non-resident students. Students all pay the same tuition regardless of which home institution they choose to enroll through.

How long does it take to get through the program?

Most students who are working find that they cannot take more than one course at a time. However, students who have supportive employers sometimes can complete two courses each semester. The courses are offered in fall, spring and summer semesters, so students can continue through the program throughout the year. If a student takes one course per semester, it will take 12 semesters to finish the master's program. If the student enrolls in three semesters per year, it will take four years to complete the program. However, if the first six courses are the CFP® preparation courses, a student could have the CFP® by the end of the second year with one course taken each semester. A master's program must be completed in six years. After the six years, the earliest courses completed must be retaken.

Is financial aid available for this program?

Currently, students may qualify for financial aid. Please contact the Financial Aid Office for further information.

Family Financial Planning is a self-supporting program and as such is not eligible for faculty and staff fee waivers.

What is the background of this program?

The Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance (GP-IDEA) developed the online family financial planning curriculum. This consortium of eight land grant universities allowed all the participating institutions to join forces to create a rigorous and complete set of course offerings using the expertise of over nine Ph.D.-prepared professors. No single institution in the United States can offer students the intellectual resources of this consortium. Students must choose which of the eight institutions will be their “home” institution, or the one in which the student is officially enrolled as a graduate student. However, the coursework and program does not vary by institution. The cost also does not vary by institution. Students enroll for the courses at their home institutions but then will take each course from one of the seven institutions. Students will take approximately two courses from each of the institutions. The student’s advisor will be a faculty member at their home institution.

Can I get credit for courses previously taken?

This is a question that must be answered individually. The GP-IDEA consortium discourages including previous courses because it puts students at a disadvantage when taking the CFP® exam. The exam covers the most current theoretical and factual information, including law and marketplace offerings. Therefore, students must be up to date on each topic in the CFP® series. Given that, however, many students are currently working in one or more of the areas of the CFP® areas of expertise, so an advisor at the student’s home institution can make course substitutions based on the student’s background, work experience and needs. If previous courses were taken from an accredited institution and at a graduate level, then courses will likely be approved for inclusion in the Family Financial Planning Master. If the student has not taken courses at the graduate level and/or from an accredited institution, the student is allowed to challenge up to six credits of the program. The challenge consists of a written test that covers the material in the course to be challenged. Challenge exams must be written individually by the course instructor to cover current material. In order to pass a challenge exam, the exam score must be at 70% or above.

Who should write letters of recommendation?

The letters of recommendation should be from employers, former professors, or perhaps a leader in a professional or service organization. They should speak to your initiative, your tenacity to stick to a difficult goal, your ability to do master's level work, your ability to work with others, and your aptitude in financial planning. (Not all letters have to address all these questions--these are just ideas.) Please don't have relatives or personal friends write the letters.

What are common student problems with this program?

The most difficult and most common student problem is time. Most of the students are living busy lives with large work and family responsibilities. Adding on a master's degree, even though it is distance, is a major commitment of about eight to twelve hours per week of homework and other course assignments. The semesters last about fifteen weeks with a three to four week break between semesters. Some students are fortunate to have employers who allow time for working on the courses during work hours. These students typically have fewer problems juggling work, family and school.

Do I have to be online with courses during a particular time of the day or week?

No, this is an asynchronous program, meaning that certain assignments are required during the week and have a due date during the week, but the student is not required to be online at a specific time during the week.

What is the professor’s role in an online course?

The professor’s role can vary greatly, but generally the professor does the following:

  • Determines the course content (aided by the requirements for content coverage demanded by the Board of the Standards for the Certified Financial Planning™)
  • Chooses a book
  • Sets up a D2L (Desire To Learn) or Blackboard site (D2L and Blackboard are software packages specifically designed to deliver distance courses on the World Wide Web)
  • Devises a weekly set of readings, assignments and discussion questions
  • Prepares and delivers additional materials such as cases, video presentations, readings, and so forth
  • Answers student e-mails and questions
  • Possibly phones students once or twice during the semester, especially in response to emergencies
  • Grades homework
  • Prepares, posts and grades exams (all exams are conducted through the distance delivery software online)
  • Assesses student performance through homework, case studies, papers, discussions, presentations, and exams and then calculates a final grade

What is the student’s role in an online course?

  • Enroll in the course on time
  • Purchase the book on time
  • Allocate eight to twelve hours per week for the course
  • Come online at the beginning of each week and then as needed to prepare the week’s assignment
  • Submit assignments through online drop boxes by the due date set by the professor
  • Ask questions as needed to adequately prepare the course material
  • Discuss the course through formal discussion venues and through informal e-mail or possibly phone calls with other students
  • Take online exams by the due date set by the professor
  • Take responsibility for alerting the professor to personal issues or course delivery problems that arise
  • Check grades throughout the semester to be sure assignments are received by the professor, graded and accurately recorded in the online grade book
  • Take responsibility for learning material for the long-term so the student can perform well on the CFP® exam or in course-related work responsibilities (cramming for exams does not lead to long-term retention of course materials)
  • Conduct all work in an ethical and honest manner

What are the required courses and when will they be offered each year?

For More Information

Contact Janine Hansen, Program Manager, at jhansen@montana.edu or (406) 994-5240.

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