UM Notes Spring Progress Toward Stabilizing Enrollment

February 11, 2020

MISSOULA – The University of Montana maintained the number of enrolled students from the fall to spring semester at the highest rate in a decade, indicating continued progress toward stabilizing enrollment.

There are now 10,247 students enrolled for the spring semester – which indicates a decade-low 2.3% decline from the fall census date and an encouraging indicator for UM officials. Typically, some fall students do not return in the spring for several reasons, including fall graduation, transferring or simply a need to take a break from higher education.

“Last year, we had 3.0% fewer students in spring than fall; this year it’s 2.3%,” said Cathy Cole, UM’s vice president for enrollment management and strategic communications. “That may seem like a small change, but when you consider we were down 8.2% in 2018, 6.9% in 2017 and 9.1% in 2016, we are clearly moving in a very positive direction. This data affirms progress in our strategy of making incremental improvements in rebuilding enrollment.”

University officials are focused on two key areas in addressing enrollment growth: the number of new students attending and retention of existing students.

“The two ways we grow enrollment are to bring more students to UM and, equally important, to retain the students who are already here and support their progress to degree completion,” UM Provost Jon Harbor said.

UM’s first-semester retention for full-time freshmen who started at UM last fall is 89.4%, an increase of 1.9% from the previous year and the highest rate since 2016. Harbor noted that this is the first class who participated in UM’s redesigned orientation, which included a three-day experiential learning activity called the “Big Sky Experience.” UM initiated the program, along with investments in additional academic advisers and improvements to the elective freshman seminar course, to improve the retention rate of first-year freshmen.

“This encouraging retention data for spring suggests that we are on track to see increased retention of first-year students to their sophomore year and beyond,” Harbor said.

From a financial perspective, UM Vice President for Operations and Finance Paul Lasiter said fiscal 2020 tuition revenues appear to be materially in line with UM’s budget forecast.

“The numbers are encouraging at census, and we expect improvement as we move through the spring semester,” Lasiter said. “Since census, we already have a net increase of approximately 60 registered students.”

The positive news for enrollment comes a week after University leaders and UM’s admissions and financial aid teams completed a four-city recruiting tour in Billings, Bozeman, Helena and Great Falls.

“We met with students and families to talk about UM and answer questions, and we were joined by wonderful alumni and students who shared their UM experiences,” Cole said. “There’s a lot of enthusiasm for the University of Montana, and it’s an exciting time to join the UM Family.”

The spring enrollment report is available online at http://www.umt.edu/data.

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Contact: Cathy Cole, UM vice president for enrollment and strategic communications, 406-243-4023, cathy.cole@umontana.edu.