Nov 30, 2012 8:37 AM by Dennis Bragg - KPAX News
MISSOULA- University of Montana administrators aren't sure whether enrolments will rebound next year after this fall's slump. But they are watching the projections closely, after being forced to chop millions of dollars from this year's budget.
UM had already expected student numbers to drop this year, but were surprised when enrollment fell by more than 700 students. Administrators see a variety of factors behind that drop, ranging from a loss of federal student aid packages to the bad publicity from last spring's sexual assault issues on campus.
However, some college leaders had been expecting enrollment declines since 2005, projecting a drop in the number of the Millennial Generation, or so-called "Echo Boomers" starting to finish their college careers.
The drop this year is forcing the university to fill a $5.7 million gap with a combination of cuts and reserve funds. While it's too soon to know what next year will bring, administrators say they are tracking the trends.
"We look at the trajectory over time, we look at the number of high school graduates. We also have an enrollment projection committee. So, they're really looking on a constant basis. Where are we heading, do we know, how's our recruiting coming along. I think things are looking good and of course the recruiting people are out there in force right now, looking at next fall's enrollment," UM Interim Vice President for Communications Peggy Kuhr explained.
UM officials will also be waiting for the Montana Legislature's spending decisions before knowing how much money will be available next year.