HELENA – Two universities in Montana have reported declines in student enrollment, attributing the drop to shifted student plans during the pandemic as debates continued over remote learning or in-person instruction.
The University of Montana in Missoula reported a 4.5% decline in student enrollment, while Montana State University in Bozeman reported a 3% decline.
Data from the University of Montana shows 10,015 students enrolled for the fall semester compared to 10,487 this time last year, the Missoulian reported. However, the data also showed an increase in student retention from 71% to 75%.
The retention rate is the percentage of first-year students who return for a second year.
“Due to many student hardships created by COVID-19, UM is exercising a Board of Regents procedure that allows Montana universities additional time to work with students to finalize their registration status,” the university said in a statement.
Enrollment at Montana State University was reported at 16,249 students this fall compared to a record-high enrollment of 16,902 in 2018, officials said. The count includes students taking classes in-person, online or a combination of the two.
“Our enrollment this fall is remarkable given some of the dire predictions that were being made about American higher education in the spring and compared to the rest of the state,” university spokesperson Michael Becker told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.
Montana State University also reported its retention rate hit a 30-year high of just over 78%.