The University of Montana’s president says UM continues to make steady, consistent progress in addressing its challenges.
When Seth Bodnar was hired to lead the University of Montana a year and a half ago, the school’s enrollment was declining, its budget deficit rising and overall morale in the tank.
"But over the course of the past year I’ve been so proud of the way this community has made steady, consistent headway in addressing our challenges. We’ve tackled head-on some long-standing challenges. We’ve reduced our structural budget deficit by over 60%, and we’ve cleared the way for new momentum," Bodnar said Tuesday as he presented the annual State of the University address; an opportunity to showcase UM’s successes and lay out goals for the upcoming school year.
He says UM has whittled its $10 million budget deficit down to an estimated $4 million. That deficit is directly tied to a years-long drop in enrollment; over 30-percent since 2011.
Bodnar says UM is aggressively moving to address long standing recruiting and admission concerns.
"Last year we uncovered ways that our infrastructure was simply not working. We had good, hard-working team members, but we’d under invested. The underlying software, the operational processes and infrastructure, they just weren't functioning, and we weren’t getting our story out there. Let me tell you, that’s changing. Over the course of the last year our recruitment practices have undergone a transformation that’s already resulting in positive growth."
Among other efforts, UM is now using market research to seek out prospective students in new markets, targeting parents, guidance counselors and teachers in addition to traditional high school and middle school students.
UM’s summer enrollment numbers have grown for two years in a row.
Campus officials expect overall enrollment to again show a decline when autumn numbers arrive in a month or two. But, they say initial indicators suggest this year’s freshman class will be bigger than last year. They’re banking on slow, incremental growth to bolster overall enrollment.
UM’s autumn semester classes start Monday.