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UM expecting uptick in new student enrollment, but overall numbers still down

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University of Montana students are back in the classroom and according to UM President Sheila Stearns, the numbers of new student enrollment has stabilized or even gone up. That means the downward trend in recent years is on the mend.

Its not a big spike, but Stearns says even this is a huge goal and she feels good about that.

The exact numbers of students on campus won't be available for a few weeks, but Stearns says every sign is very positive including orientation and residence hall numbers with more people having moved in by now than usual at this point.

Stearns says enrollment overall will be down this year by a few percent due to a large class that graduated in May, but that was predicted.

"It may be, not just this year, it could even be next year that enrollment quote unquote only drops by 3%. We have to bring that percentage down slowly...I suspect. That's just the reality of numbers flowing through a system," says Stearns.

UM is currently hitting the 11,000  student target they budgeted for, but Stearns says they are still spending too much on personnel.

Forty-one tenured or tenure-track faculty decided to take buyouts or other departures this year. Even with less faculty on campus, over 80 percent of the budget is being spent on personnel.

Stearns says that percentage should be down in the 70's. To help get to that number, Stearns has some ideas for re-organizing budgetary needs.

"It means you're under-investing in recruitment, or retention or technology of perhaps even deferred maintenance, so we need a certain portion that we have to work at and we will and we are."

In the mean time, the search for UM's next president is nearing its end.

Stearns says finalists will likely be interviewed later this month, with the board of regents offering a contract hopefully by late October.

The school is asking for students to participate in picking the next leader by attending student and public interview sessions. 

There is no official date of when a new president will move into position. Stearns says that depends on when they would be available to detach from their current situation, but she is willing to remain in place during the transition. 

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