UMW News Bureau
The University of Montana Western is experiencing record-breaking enrollments, UMW Chancellor Richard Storey announced today.The University of Montana Western is experiencing record-breaking enrollments, UMW Chancellor Richard Storey announced today. The current count estimates put full-time equivalent (FTE) students at 1,188, the highest since the university began tracking the statistic in 1973 and about a 7.5 percent increase from last year. Storey said the current estimated number of enrolled students (headcount) is up about five percent from last year at 1,252, the highest fall enrollment at Montana Western since 1927. “Our steady and healthy rate of growth over the last five years is in accord with our strategic plan and should be sustainable,” Storey said. “The record-breaking numbers help demonstrate the university is carving a unique and successful niche in higher education. In a time when all Montana universities are facing increased competition as the number of state high school graduates decline, I believe Montana Western is staying competitive by providing a top-notch undergraduate education at an affordable price.” Storey also credited Experience One, the university’s unique single-class-at-a-time scheduling, for the growth. “Experience One is not only attracting first-time students, but is mentioned by a growing number of transfer students as a primary reason they come here,” Storey said. Montana Western also realized a surge in new transfer students, up about 24.5 percent over last year. Mitch Jessen, a Montana Western education major and former student representative to the Montana Board of Regents, transferred to UMW in the fall of 2006. He attributes the new transfer numbers to Experience One. “The boost in transfer enrollment is no surprise to me,” Jessen said. “Experience One’s block scheduling is the main reason I transferred to Montana Western. I have basically tried all types of higher education, large and small, but all of those pale in comparison to the experiences that I have had since coming to Montana Western. It is so important to be a part of a campus where the student and their education is the focus. I think kids are really starting to realize this, and I’m sure it is reflected in these numbers.” Following national trends, enrollment in internet classes is increasing at Montana Western as well. Storey said preliminary numbers include 90 internet-only students, up about 12 percent from 2008 and over 83 percent from 2007. In addition, 357 UMW students are taking one or more online classes, a 42 percent increase from 2008 and 56 percent above 2007. The decline in high school graduates remains a significant concern for state higher education institutions. According to the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, Montana will see an eight percent decrease in the number of high school graduates from now until 2020. By comparison, neighboring Idaho numbers are expected to jump 17 percent in the same period. “This all means Montana universities are facing an increasingly shrinking and competitive market," Storey said. “Our goal at Montana Western is to communicate our significant difference and unique value to new student markets across the state and throughout the region and nation. We have an excellent, integrated and comprehensive marketing and recruiting plan to do just that.” Montana Western Registrar Jason Karch said he is still in the process of finalizing the enrollment count but added that he was “comfortable with these numbers.”
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