A 30 percent increase in the incoming freshman class has boosted the University of Montana’s fall enrollment for the first time in over a decade.

Director of Strategic Communications Dave Kuntz provided details to KGVO.

“For the first time in 10 years, the university has a growing population, which is big news for us and for the community,” said Kuntz. “This growth is really powered by a new freshman class that's 30 percent larger than last year, and on top of that, a lot of work that President Bodnar and his team has been doing has risen our student retention rate up to nearly an all time high, which means more students are staying on track to graduate. So this combination of this big freshman class, and this continued improvement in retention really has the university Montana on a strong trajectory of growth right now.”

Recruiting students has been challenging for the past several years, as the school has gone through several enrollment specialists, but the school has found a way to bring more students to campus.

“We've really worked over the last couple of years to revamp how we recruit students, how we retain them once they get to this campus, and how we market our university to prospective students and their families,” he said. “We're really starting to see that bear bear. A lot of this credit goes to UM staff and faculty, who really made the call to put students at the center of all we do.”

Just as falling enrollment led to more losses over the past decade, Kuntz said the increase in enrollment now is leading to more interest in the school.

“The great thing about growth here is that growth can feed into continued growth,” he said. “This larger population of students we have right now also equates to an 8 percent budget increase, which gives us more resources to better serve our students to make critical infrastructure improvements to hire top end faculty from across the country, which then continues to feed into the cycle of growth and value as we recruit the next generation of Grizzlies.”

Kuntz said there are two particular colleges within the university that are drawing large numbers of new students.

“We have colleges growing on our campus, especially our college of health and college of forestry that are real gems here within the whole university system in Montana,” he said. “But really, we also think this speaks to the university's commitment to have in-person instruction this year. A lot of schools across the Pacific Northwest were late to make that decision, or even started out the year remotely. We continued to maintain that position the entire summer that we were going to have in person classes, and we think that students are really hungry to get back to that in person face to face, learning.”

Kuntz said the school recently tightened up the mask policy to including mandatory masking in all indoor spaces, as well as encouraging all students to be vaccinated against COVID 19, however, no statistics on vaccinations was available.

Here are the numbers provided in the University of Montana’s press release.

UM welcomed 649 transfer students this fall, which was a 13% increase over last year. 3,788 students from outside Montana are enrolled in UM this semester, a 10% increase over last year, and  UM’s full-time equivalent enrollment is 8,008, a 2.5% increase over last year.

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