UM Enrollment Drops Again

Sep 22, 2014

UM fall semester enrollment has dropped by 573 students.
Credit Josh Burnham

Another enrollment drop at the University of Montana.

A total of 13,952 students enrolled at UM this fall semester. That's 573 fewer than a year ago.

This time last year, UM recorded over 400 fewer students than the prior year.

UM spokeswoman, Peggy Kuhr, says this semester's enrollment drop was not a surprise:

"There are two big reasons: one is the last two years we've had really big graduating classes. So we've had large graduating classes, large numbers of students leaving and we've had smaller than expected incoming freshman classes. And when you have those incoming freshman, it's a pipeline issue. Those small numbers are going to make their way through the system. A lot outgoing/smaller incoming makes for the total overall enrollment being down."

Kuhr adds the concluded NCAA and Justice Department investigations into allegations of sexual assault at UM, as well as the cost of a college education could also affect enrollment.

"So we know that financial aid and some changes at the federal level were a factor in declining enrollment. We also know that...negative headlines - I mean, the challenges, frankly that the university faced, we know that was a factor. We can't say it was the only factor."

Montana State University in Bozeman set a new enrollment record this fall with 15,421 students. Kuhr chalks that up, in part, to popular majors offered to students.

"And one that is popular right now and being pushed - really from the national level, with President Obama on down has been engineering. That is a program offered at Montana Tech, it's a program for our sister university, Montana State. We look at all the other sciences that we focus on."

Fall enrollment for graduate students at UM is 2,260, or 11 fewer than last fall.

Missoula College enrollment declined 9% from this time last year

"When the economy turns around and there are jobs at both the state and national levels, what you see especially in two year programs is that the numbers tend to go back down again. People have jobs, they're getting jobs, you don't have as much work force training going on."

Kuhr adds there's simply more demand for popular classes at Missoula College, than the school has capacity to fill. That will be addressed with construction of a brand new facility.

She says UM is doubling down on its overall recruiting efforts and points out the school posted a 6.4% increase in freshman students this semester. UM also saw an increase in the average high school GPA for new freshman. That average is 3.31 compared with 3.27 for last fall.