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Montana Western continues to experience record enrollment

UMW News Bureau

campus view of Main Hall and the Roe HouseThe University of Montana Western is experiencing record enrollment for the second year in a row, Chancellor Richard Storey announced.

The current UMW count estimates put fall 2010 full-time equivalent (FTE) students at 1,290, the highest since the university began tracking the statistic in 1973 and about a nine percent increase from last year.

The FTE is a metric universities use to draw a more clear picture of enrollment by taking the total credit hours generated by students divided by 15. Montana Western’s current fall 2010 headcount estimate is 1,336, about a seven percent increase over last year.

“We’re very pleased with these numbers,” Chancellor Storey said. “While we continue to face challenges in higher education in Montana and indeed across the country, our innovation and hard work is retaining and recruiting more and more students every year.”

Montana Western will not release official numbers to the Montana Board of Regents until next week. Montana Western is the only public college in the country to deliver classes on a block schedule in which students take one class at a time during a “block” lasting 18 days. Students can earn the same amount of credits during a semester (four blocks) as students do in traditional scheduling systems.

Students can begin attending during any block of the semester, which offers students more flexibility but also provides the registrar challenges in dialing in final numbers.

“It is difficult to know what the final number will be because if, for example, a student who is a firefighter isn’t beginning class until the third block, we can’t make sure that student will have paid and be in class because the third block hasn’t started yet,” UMW Registrar Jason Karch explained. “I can state fairly certainly that we will be looking at close to a 10 percent increase over last year’s FTE numbers.”

The increased enrollment comes amid the backdrop of declining numbers of Montana high school graduates. Montana Western Director of University Relations Kent Ord said several factors are contributing to UMW’s higher numbers, including the niche block scheduling has carved in the market.

According to current data, Montana Western experienced a 9.6 percent increase in Montana resident students and a 13.4 percent increase in non-resident students. A transfer student increase is also continuing to help boost enrollment numbers, 11.2 percent over fall 2009.

“The fact is, with regard to Montana resident students, universities in this state are looking for a bigger piece of a shrinking pie,” Ord explained. “While we have been going to wider out-of-state markets, we are also still aggressively seeking in-state students. Our affordability and especially the value and quality of education associated with Experience One block scheduling makes us very competitive.”