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Montana State University sets spring record, University of Montana ups enrollment

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Montana State University sets spring record, University of Montana ups enrollment

Feb 15, 2024 | 5:44 pm ET
By Keila Szpaller
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Montana State University sets spring record, University of Montana ups enrollment
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Montana State University. (Provided by MSU.)

Montana State University reported a record number of students enrolled this spring semester — a 3% increase over last spring — and the University of Montana reported a 2.4% increase in the same period.

In a news release this week, MSU said its 16,110 students represent an all-time spring enrollment record for the Bozeman flagship and the first time the spring headcount exceeded 16,000. 

“We are immensely proud of this spring enrollment because it shows how hard students are working to pursue higher education, stay enrolled and make progress toward their college degree from Montana State University,” said MSU President Waded Cruzado in a statement.

The Missoula flagship reported 10,349 students enrolled this spring, the most in spring semester since 2019. Census data shows increases in students who are veterans, have disabilities, are Native American, and are first in their family to attend college.

“Not only are more students choosing UM, but they are persevering towards graduation at a record rate,” said UM President Seth Bodnar in a statement. “As a result of these efforts, we are seeing benefits to our students beyond consecutive years of enrollment and revenue growth. These impactful strides are leading to improved graduation rates, increased scholarly impact and expanded job opportunities for our graduates.”

The universities’ successes in enrollment come as they address separate challenges.

Since last fall, MSU has received at least three separate notices it is under investigation from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. OCR is investigating allegations MSU discriminated against female students, Jewish people and members of a club that supports the LGBTQ+ community.

The UM administration recently released an “Academic Affairs playbook” that said the institution has continued to experience “financial strain.” It said UM has a balanced budget and growing enrollment for the first time in a decade, but needs to look ahead to avoid financial shortfalls.

In its news release, UM said its year-over-year growth in enrollment is driven by a 3.4% increase in undergraduate student enrollment compared to last spring – including an 86.8% retention rate of undergraduate students from the fall to spring semester. 

The number of full-time equivalent students (or ones taking a full course load, equal to 15 credits) at UM this spring increased by 2.4% — including a 4.6% increase at Missoula College, UM said.

UM also highlighted the following:

  • 84 first-time entering freshmen, a 20% increase compared to 2023.
  • 142 incoming transfer students, a 34% increase compared to 2023.
  • 255 law school students, a 4.5% increase compared to 2023.
  • 6,704 Montana resident students enrolled, a 3.2% increase compared to 2023.
  • Missoula College, UM’s two-year affiliate, welcomed 1,092 “early admit and dual enrollment students” from primarily Missoula-area high schools. These students are full-time high school students who enroll in Missoula College courses to begin earning higher education credit.
  • In December, more than 800 students graduated from UM in the fall 2023 semester.

MSU said its new total represents 3% more students than last spring, or 393 students. MSU also said its spring record comes following an all-time record in the fall of 16,978 and noted spring enrollment is typically smaller than the fall count.

MSU census data shows increases in minority students, including those who are African American, Native American, Asian and Hispanic.

Additionally, MSU said Gallatin College MSU, which offers programs in career technical education and vocational training, saw its highest spring enrollment as well at 644, up 8% since the prior spring. Gallatin College MSU has been the university’s fastest growing college for years, MSU said.

MSU also highlighted the following in its news release:

  • Undergraduate students exceeded 14,000 for the first time at 14,127. And MSU’s total full-time equivalent students also hit a high of 14,216.
  • Dual enrollment headcount hit 689, a new spring record.
  • First-time students who remained for a second semester of classes remained steady this spring at 90.2%.
  • The retention rate is 92.8% for all students who could have enrolled in spring classes (minus those who graduated in December, for example), or up by nearly a percentage point compared to the prior spring.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct a typo in one piece of data incorrectly provided to the Daily Montanan.