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Breaking: Enrollment decline slowing, still on the downfall

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The number of students enrolled in the spring semester at UM is down again, but at a slower rate than the past few years. This is the eighth year in a row that spring enrollment has been ticking downward. 

The number of students enrolled at UM decreased 3.5% from last spring to just over 8,500 students, according to UM’s spring 2020 census report. This is a 33% decline in spring enrollment since 2011. 

University of Montana spokesperson Paula Short said this slowing rate was the result of the University’s efforts to recruit new students to campus and increase retention. 

“We’re trending in the right direction,” Short said. “The campus-wide investments from the Provost are starting to bear fruit.”

Overall enrollment at both UM and Missoula College also decreased 2.3% from the fall 2019 headcount of nearly 10,500 students. Short pointed out that this is the lowest rate of decline for UM in a decade. 

“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, according to a press release. “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.”

Undergraduate enrollment decreased 6.6% from last spring to just under 6,000 students. 

Missoula College enrollment faced a 4.7% decrease as enrollment dropped to under 1,500 students. However, some of the lone increases in the report include first-time and transfer freshman at Missoula college, up 5.9% and 27.8%, respectively.

The University of Montana also recruited one additional first-time freshman student than the previous year, combining totals of UM and Missoula college. 

Graduate student enrollment increased 3.3% from last spring, but is nearly 250 students less than the fall’s headcount of 2,773. 

The report could be a good sign for increasing diversity at both campuses. 

At UM, there are more veteran students (1.3%), Native American students (2.1%) and students with disabilities (10%). There are 3.4% less first-generation students this spring. 

Missoula college showed significant growth for students with disabilities (14.8%) and Native American students (76.3%). Veteran and first-generation student counts are both over 12% lower from last spring. 

View the full enrollment report here.