While Montana State University enrollment rises, enrollment at University of Montana is down

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MISSOULA, Montana — While Montana State University enrollment numbers have increased this fall, enrollment at the University of Montana is down 4.3 percent.

Preliminary figures released Friday counted 13,358 students at UM now.

"In my State of the University address, I identified enrollment as an ongoing challenge," UM President Royce Engstrom said in a statement. "A number of factors affect enrollment. For UM, they include the sharp rise in two-year enrollment at Missoula College during the recession and a decline as the economy improved."

UM cited numerous reasons for the decline in enrollment, including a decreasing number of Montana high school graduates and student loan debt.

It also noted economic difficulties in countries that have traditionally sent many students to UM.

Those include Brazil and Japan, both of which are experiencing economic difficulties, according to Peggy Kuhr, vice president of integrated communications. Officials at UM had anticipated that fewer students would be coming from those countries.

It's "an example of how international conditions have an impact on enrollment," Kuhr said.

Last week, MSU announced a record enrollment of 15,688 students, an increase of 1.7 percent.

"I came to Montana State University for the engineering program," said MSU student Nathaniel Hemingway.

MSU's School of Engineering has grown by 57 percent since 2010.

UM does not offer an engineering program.

"We are the university that offers very strong liberal arts, sciences and humanities, plus a research education," Kuhr said. "We want all our students to have broad-based knowledge about the world."

UM is working to reverse the declining enrollment by increasing the number of ways it reaches out to potential students. Those include letters and brochures and digital avenues such as a new website and social media, and some new initiatives Kuhr said will be rolled out.

They've also increased "personal outreach": Sending faculty members and not just recruiting staff to talk in high schools around Montana.

Kuhr said UM also is examining ways to increase health and science programs.

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