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University Of Montana Reports 8 Percent Enrollment Drop

The University of Montana campus, Missoula, MT.
Josh Burnham
Montana Public Radio
The University of Montana campus, Missoula, MT.

The University of Montana has completed its fall-semester census and reports a steeper-than-expected enrollment decline.

Earlier this month UM anticipated a roughly 5 percent enrollment drop this fall compared to last. On Friday, it reported 10,962 students – a decline of almost 8 percent.

UM’s enrollment has dropped by almost 30 percent since 2010.

Enrollment is closely tied to budgeting.

The Missoulian reports UM is on track to close almost half of its $10 million budget shortfall by the end of this fiscal year.

“The exact ramifications for the enrollment numbers with the budget depend on a variety of things not fully known yet in terms of the mix of resident to non-resident students, how many of those students in the total head count are taking a full-time load," said UM spokesperson Paula Short. "There are a few more things that need to be looked at before we know for certain what the impacts to the budget will be beyond what has already been anticipated.” 

Short partially blames this semester’s enrollment decline on a large graduating class in the spring.

Another factor – dual enrollment students. These are high school students who are also enrolled at UM taking courses for college level credit.

"For instance, last fall we reported 280 students in our dual enrollment program and only 64 this year, for a difference of almost 240 students," Short said. "Those students are going to historically be counted in the spring semester, so it’s not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison in that specific category.”

Short adds UM saw troubling early enrollment indicators back in the spring.

“We were lagging in applications year to date at one point by several hundred, in fact close to 1,000 applications," she said. "We’ve been working on that. There had been a delay in some of our financial aid processing late last fall. That carried over early into the first of the year. Those are some things that we need to address and do better.”

UM reports some positive gains. Its international student population grew by 14 percent, or 89 students this semester over this time last year.

UM now hosts over 700 international students.

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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