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Enrollment Stories Very Different at University of Montana and Montana State University

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Enrollment is quite literally the lifeblood of a university system, and over the past year Montana’s two big public universities, Montana State University and The University of Montana have very different stories to tell when it comes to new enrollment.

Montana State University has about 400 more students this year than it did last year at spring enrollment.

“Students are looking at our programs and deciding they’re a good value,” said MSU Vice President for Student Success Jim Rimpau. “We had a record last fall. We were up about 500 students in the fall, and that kind of translates into being up 400 students in the spring. I think students look at your academic programs and they’re looking for a place they’ll fit in academically. We also have a reputation for high-quality programs here and I think that’s helping us right now.”

Of course, attracting students from in-state is always part of the story, but it’s one that has been losing more significance recently.

“In Montana, the number of high school graduates has been decreasing for the last few years, so that particular pie is shrinking,” Rimpau said. “We’ve been able to make that up by looking out-of-state and bringing out-of-state students here. We’re real lucky to be in a real attractive spot like Bozeman.”

Jim Rimpau:

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The story at The University of Montana is quite a bit different. Instead of a year-to-year increase, there was a decrease of about 505 students. Still, there is something positive to say about the spring numbers compared to the rough fall enrollment at the UM.

Vice President of Integrated Communications Peggy Kuhr explains that there is positive news in the numbers.

“What we learned was that the rate of decline last fall was 4.6 percent, our rate of decline from the previous spring to this current spring semester is 3.4 percent, and we see that as moving in the right direction,” Kuhr said.

The UM is taking on the challenge of decreased enrollment by making attendance there more attractive. Specifically, by offering more funds for new students.

“We have increased our efforts in several ways,” Kuhr said. “An important way is that we are able to offer more scholarship money this year than we could a year ago. We are offering more help with financial packages. We have also been doing more outreach in the form of phone calls directly to students who have applied.”

Peggy Kuhr:

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A total of 102 students have transferred from The University of Montana to Montana State University over the past year. Rimpau says that number is not abnormal compared to past years.

(Editor’s Note: At the time this article was written, the numbers of how many MSU students had joined the UM were not readily available, nor was the in-state/out-of-state percentage of students who had left UM over the past year.)

There is a hint of the popular rivalry between Grizzlies and Bobcats in the push for new enrollment.

“I’d like to say it’s a friendly rivalry,” Kuhr said.

Both university’s administrations reinforce that they are doing their best to make their schools more attractive to new students.

Lucius Robbi
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