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UM Freshman Class Growing, But Enrollment Still Down Overall

The University of Montana campus, Missoula, MT.
Josh Burnham
Montana Public Radio
Freshman class enrollment is slightly larger than last year at the University of Montana.


The University of Montana released its fall enrollment numbers Wednesday, and the incoming freshman class is bigger than last year's at this time - by 24 students.

The incoming freshman class of just under 1,300 students is bigger by two percent than last year’s class.


That may not sound like a lot, but according to UM spokeswoman Paula Short, it’s in line with expectations, and a start for a university that’s faced years of flagging enrollment.


“The key to growing UM’s enrollment is to first stabilize the downturn that we’ve had," she says.


Enrollment has steadily declined at UM since its all-time high of over 15,000 in the spring of 2011.


This fall there are just shy of 12,000 total students, which is down more than four percent compared to last year.


“The fact that we are up in freshman and down overall is due largely because last spring we conferred about 3,000 degrees," Short said. "We had a big class moving out and the only way to get big classes in the pipeline is to build them in. They can come in at any level, but the freshman class is a big indicator.”


UM Vice President of Enrollment and Student Affairs, Tom Crady, has made it his mission to attract new students, including Native Americans and what are called "first generation" students - those who are the first in their family to attend a four-year university.


Missoula College has 315 fewer students enrolled this semester. That’s a 15 percent downturn from last year.


UM spokeswoman Paula Short describes that as "concerning." But, she explained, "if you take a look at the place where Missoula College saw the decline, it was in dual enrollment. Those are high school students taking classes also for college credit. That’s where the reduction has been. We have about 55 percent fewer high school students enrolling at Missoula College for dual enrollment courses."


There are bright spots in the report. The headcount for graduate students, for instance, grew by 10 percent.


Here's UM’s full census report

Edward O’Brien first landed at Montana Public Radio three decades ago as a news intern while attending the UM School of Journalism. He covers a wide range of stories from around the state.  
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