Let's talk Bozeman - Montana State University

MSU is getting noticed for their research. There are a few things we were naive about when we chose Bozeman. (Our student is now a 3rd year at MSU). It is not the sleepy town budget college one might assume.

There is a massive homeless problem for a city this size. Yes, some are working folks priced out of housing and living in campers. But there is also a large number that are also drug addicted. So far, the number and size of encampments has only grown in the 2+ years we’ve been there. The area up near Walmart is questionable, as are some area parks. Meth is a problem in Bozeman. (google all of this. Also search NFL Dane Fletcher’s recent rant)

Housing. It is more expensive than you probably think for Montana. Students will have to live off campus 2nd year and should budget $800-$1100/month just for rent and utilities. No doubt it can be stressful finding housing, especially within walking distance to campus, which means students will need a car and parking pass at $155-$375/yr, and they sell out.
I have heard that the number of Grad students admitted far exceeds Grad housing available.

Visitor Housing aka AirBnBs. In a feeble attempt to help alleviate the housing crisis, the City Council will phase out almost all AirBnBs (except rented rooms in owner occupied homes). Hotels and short-term rentals are already expensive in Bozeman, so get ready for visiting parents to pay even more in the future.

Crime and Safety. In general my student feels safe there. However there is a local bar and a fraternity that are known for spiking drinks with date rape drugs (google it).

The football team is doing well, and tickets sell out quickly and many students are disappointed they are unable to attend.

Politics. This one is interesting. Bozeman votes liberal Democrat. However, there are threads of good ol boy vibes, and students with out of state plates (esp CA) do get nasty and sometimes threatening notes left on their vehicles. There are no cameras in the MSU parking lots so reporting incidents is moot.

In summary, Bozeman is a city experiencing massive growing pains and seems to be in react mode. The fishing, outdoors, and beauty of Montana are being marketed to the world, and MSU keeps marketing and admitting more and more students. Unfortunately, the city is having a hard time handling all this marketing success. What do the locals say? “Don’t come to Bozeman. It’s full.”


A girl I work with lives there. She says Bozeman is for billionaires and Missoula for millionaires.

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The locals call it the Yellowstone effect. They blame the show for attracting Californians who want to change the landscape and politics of the area and driving up prices. I’ve heard it can get much worse than notes on cars. A friend told me of cars being run off the road. When she goes to visit her son at MSU she insists the rental car does not have CA plates.

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My husband is 3rd generation (that’s how you prove you’re “cred” here) and said they have been saying that his whole life. Now they attribute it to “Yellowstone” but it’s been that way forever. We’re in Billings.

The nastiness is real. I met dh when he lived in Chicago. When we moved here 9 years ago, someone was yelling at him about the out of state plates at a stop light, and what terrible drivers “you of staters” are, and continued to yell at him at the next one.
I was in the hospital fighting for my life while he was busy with our 4 kids under 11 and he just wasn’t having it and yelled back, “Give me a break! Don’t give me crap about the out of state plates, I grew up here!”
So the guy asked where, and dh told him. This conversation went on over several stoplights.
Then he asked if he knew so and so and dh said yeah.
It was like a comedy of this guy all ticked off at an out of stater and by the 3rd or 4th light they were comparing who they both knew. It was messed up.

Dang - where I live they hate that what was a relaxed life now isn’t - and the growth has taken the small time charm away - but harrasing people at red lights - that’s nuts!!

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Even 20 years ago, spouse and I ruled out relocating to Bozeman because of how expensive housing was at that time. Our friends who had studied there clued us in.

20 years ago, we still considered Missoula because it wasn’t super expensive, but we ended up elsewhere. When we were again looking to relocate 10 years ago, Missoula was struck from our list due to the huge increase in housing prices.

I spent a couple years in the Missoula area as a young adult, so I still know quite a few people there and in far northern Idaho. In the last 5 years especially, the cultural climate has become something that is less attractive to us anyway.


I can’t assume what cultural climate you are aiming for, but I can envision Bozeman as a mini Portland if leaders and voters are not thoughtful in how to proceed. Environmentalists want city leaders to be more obstructing with commercial builders to preserve native woodlands and dwindling green space. Meanwhile, the “houseless” are dumping human waste and trash into streets and fields, which drains to the fragile watershed. Homeless advocates and Tenants United demand (see fist pounding at the City Council meeting) more low-cost housing be built immediately. The locals opine for the culture of past generations, while the college wants to import more diverse students. Not sure where this culture clash will land.

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Oh for sure, all of that is a big problem and I agree. Affordable housing is crucial if there’s any hope of ameliorating that. We nixed Portland and Seattle from our places to live for the same reasons.

I really like Missoula and Bozeman and would happily live in either place if it were more affordable. I was referring more to the cultural climate once you get outside of the university bubble. I have friends all over the country. My friends and acquaintances in the western Montana and northern Idaho area mostly aren’t university-affiliated and most don’t live right near the universities. Most are great people. I think I’ve only unfriended <5 people on social media ever because they expressed such cruel and inhumane statements that I couldn’t bear to stay “friends”. Some of those folks are among them. So, I might be biased because of that, but that’s what I’m basing it on for myself. The stuff I like about those areas isn’t “worth it” enough for me to want to live there compared to the drawbacks (including affordability).

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My wife and I took a road trip through Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota and Montana two years ago. It was half holiday, half checking out real estate. We were sitting on the benches around Old Faithful waiting for it to erupt and got into a conversation with several couples sitting near us. Turns out we were all from California, and all doing the same thing - half holiday, half checking out real estate.

We did spend a few nights in Bozeman and thought what few houses were available were overpriced. One thing that surprised me about MSU was that there wasn’t any kind of collegiate commercial strip with things like bars, fast food joints and bookstores right next to the university. They were all downtown, a mile or two away. Can’t say I was really crazy about either Bozeman or Missoula, although the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman may have been the best dinosaur museum I’ve ever been to. I don’t recall seeing any homeless, tents and druggies on the streets like you see in San Francisco, which we live just south of.


I am not a fan of posts in which the poster appears to have created an account solely to disparage one particular college and its town.

One can find scary or negative things to say about any college town in the country. It’s fine to post about MSU but it’s not fine to post repeatedly about Bozeman. Trip Advisor is a good place for that. Further photos and videos of the town itself will be removed if the main intent is to sensationalize.

P.S. Homeless people shouldn’t be demonized. I doubt the encampments are people just looking for a cheap way to have a vacation.


The student population of MSU makes up 1/3 of the entire population of Bozeman. The city’s problems ARE MSU’s problems. Knowing what we know now, would absolutely have impacted our college choice. That youtube flyover video had no commentary on it so it was hardly “sensational”. Let parents and students be informed, and decide for themselves what is and isn’t a priority or concern.

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Your point is clear. There is no need to provide photographic evidence, which is sensationalistic in nature.

“They blame the show for attracting Californians who want to change the landscape and politics of the area and driving up prices.”

This strikes me as backwards, since (a) the influx of out-of-staters driving up housing prices and changing the town’s demographics started decades ago, and (b) the show consistently villainizes and caricatures outsider city folk. It’s the inspiration for the basic economic development vs. conservation debate that underlies the entire premise of the show, which dramatizes a conflict that’s been going on for a long time. The scenery may inspire continued migration to the area, but as others have mentioned upthread, Bozeman in particular had the attention of Californians long before Taylor Sheridan turned his sights there. I wouldn’t be surprised, actually, if the show’s glorification of fighting back against gentrification, through legal means or not, has actually led to an increase in some of the aggressive local behavior alluded to by other posters.

I think the takeaway might be left as: Montana State has a rising reputation academically, and people should visit if interested, paying attention to the town and gown relationship because it’s perhaps not as dreamy as it might be, due to rapidly changing demographics in the area (and state). Which, frankly, we could probably say about any public university west of Denver and outside of California.

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If you think Bozeman is expensive, try Whitefish. Wooowee! Love Montana.

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