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UM enrollment down, more budget cuts expected

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The University of Montana is seeing a small two-percent increase of incoming freshman for the 2017-2018 school year, but total enrollment is still in a downward slump. UM's preliminary fall enrollment is 11,845 students, representing a 4.5-percent decrease in enrollment. 

University officials say they expected this

On a positive note for the school, graduate enrollment grew 10-percent and the admissions office has seen an increase in Native American students and first-generation students.

The growth in the freshman class is where UM is setting its sights. Tom Crady, UM vice president for enrollment management and student affairs, says this is promising for building the university up to higher overall numbers.

“Stabilizing the incoming freshman class is the critical first step to reversing the overall enrollment decline,” Crady said. “It indicates that the new strategies we’re deploying are beginning to yield more students.”

To support this, the University says they expected 11,465 students for 2017-2018 so while their total enrollment declined, this year's numbers are higher than predicted. 

Predicted or not, Missoula's other campus saw a more substantial decrease in students. 

The drop in Missoula College attendees was rationalized by UM staff as a downturn in dual enrollment, creating a 15-percent decline. But the cause for lower dual enrollment is not clear Crady said. In their press release, UM didn't state how they plan to address this unanswered question. 

With enrollment down, the conversation often turns to the university's concerning financial situation. Rosi Keller, UM interim vice president for administration and finance says the budget can't be forgotten. 

“We have encouraging enrollment numbers, but we need to understand the mix of resident and nonresident, the full-time students and other factors that will ultimately determine our tuition revenue,” Keller said. “Our current enrollment number includes students who are waiting on late financial aid or, for other reasons, have not finalized their payment. It will be a little later in the term before we have final revenue numbers.”

The Montana University System is waiting for news of expected budget cuts, which are required to address the state's budget. This means, among UM's current financial predicament, more cuts for the school are impending. 

Hoping to bring the University back to its former glory, UM is interviewing four presidential candidates who all were asked to address the value of the school's education.

Read the UM census report: HERE

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