University of Montana Interim President Sheila Stearns delivered her first State of the University speech on Thursday, January 19. She began by praising staff and students for their achievements and discussed what the slogan “We Are Montana” means.

"What it really means, to me anyway, is the University of Montana is proud of our heritage," said Stearns in a preview to the speech. "We are particularly proud of our students and alumni, we are really resilient, I'm finding, in the face of these current challenges, we are skeptical, rightly so, about quick fixes and we are fundamentally confident about our future."

The University of Montana has had some difficult years, with declining enrollment and bitter debates over budget cuts. Stearns says that projections for student population will not be as high as in the past.

"That means being more conservative than we have been in the past, Stearn's said. "We're budgeting for, give or take, 11,000 students for the next two or three years, which is not near our peak, but it's better than budgeting for 12 or 13,000 and hoping for that many, and then having to adjust at the last minute."

Fall 2016 enrollment was around 12,400 students, so a budget set at 11,000 students is very conservative. That being said, the school is expecting a thousand more students to graduate in 2017 than are expected in the incoming class.  Stearns says that a lot of long-term planning efforts are going into better student relations, outreach, and retention.

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