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University of Montana Sees 2013 Enrollment Drop, Now Lower Than Montana State University

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For the first time in recent memory, Montana State University is declaring higher enrollment than the University of Montana. Due to various factors, the University of Montana is posting enrollment at 14,525, a net student loss of around 421 students compared to fall of 2012. In contrast, MSU is trumpeting record breaking enrollment of over 15,000 students.

After a federal investigation, new leadership, and a management shake-up of its beloved Montana Grizzly football team, the University of Montana is also dealing with social forces that are effecting universities across the U.S.

“One of the things that is very clear, that is happening nationwide, is that there is a resurgence of activity in engineering,” said University of Montana Provost Perry Brown. “We don’t have an engineering program, so many of those students are going elsewhere.”

The UM saw big drops in enrollment in 2012, and that small class has remained small. Most of UM’s hopes rest on attracting new students, but a major outreach campaign and new scholarship opportunities only netted the UM three more new students than it was able to get last year. Brown said the changes are expected to bear more fruit in the future.

“The efforts that we have going right now are really geared to have a major effect by fall of 2014,” Brown said. “We’ve had a little effect. We’ve essentially held our own, and increased a slight bit, and that’s good. But I think we expect the big effect from the changes we’ve made in our recruitment processes and things to really have an impact next fall.”

The loss of students at UM is partly a good thing. It means large groups of students are graduating.

“What’s happening here is that, of course, in the last couple years we’ve had very large graduating classes,” Brown said. “Then last fall, for a number of reasons, we had an enrollment decrease. Now, that smaller class is working its way through the system. So it remains a smaller class, and we’ve had high graduation. Well now we’re trying to fill that pipeline with the new students that are coming in, but you don’t fill that up in one year. We predicted a smaller number, but we exceeded that by about 45 students.”

MSU posted its enrollment numbers in mid-September, more than a full week before UM presented the public with its enrollment numbers. Both universities typically have their numbers available after the 15th day of school, but UM has waited nearly 30 days after the start of school to announce its numbers. According to Brown, the UM administration was taking its time with the numbers.

“We have been cleaning the numbers to make sure we had the right numbers, but I think we also did a more surgical analysis of what we had here, and what we were doing, and that slowed it down,” Brown said. “In addition, there have been some people out of town because of things that happened in their family that slowed things down as well.”

The 14,525 enrollment number includes the enrollment at Missoula College (2,467) and the enrollment of Missoula high school students in college level courses (441).

The total number of students going to school full time – which means 15 credits a semester for undergrad and 12 credits a semester for graduate students – is 11,964.

Perry Brown:

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