In one of the most anticipated announcements all year, the fall enrollment numbers are in at the University of Montana, according to Vice President for Enrollment and Strategic Communications Cathy Cole.

“We do have some good news,” said Cole. “This morning we put out our census numbers and we announced that our entering class of freshmen has stabilized and that our retention is up by three percent. What that means is that we are attracting more students to the institution and the freshmen are in incoming class, and it means that we’re keeping the students that are already here through student success initiatives and through the family atmosphere we have on campus.”

Cole said the university is no longer simply counting heads and announcing how many students are on campus.

“Our paid freshmen numbers for the fall have gone up by 2.7 percent, which is a change,” she said. “We’re pretty excited about that number. It means that we have more students that are here, that have paid and are enrolled at the time of census than we did at this time last year. Our retention numbers went from 68.4 percent last year to 71.4 percent this year. To go up three points in any given year is a tremendous feat and that has been through the efforts of many, many people. We’re truly excited about that number, because it means that students really want to be with us and they’re enjoying the education that they’re getting while they’re here with us.”

Cole said President Bodnar tasked her with one very important initiative.

“President Bodnar had us all focusing on the five priorities for action, and the one that I was responsible for was proudly telling the UM story,” she said. “Everyone on campus took part, so not only were we fixing things in enrollment that had been broken, we had all of our employees and faculty members acting as ambassadors telling the UM story. We’re also now a member of the common application which is a nationwide app with over 800 member institutions so students fill out just one application and it can go to as many institutions as they like, so we’re now communicating with over half a million students.”

The number of international students increased 8.9%, reflecting an increase of 64 students. The number of Native American students also was up at both the mountain campus and Missoula College. The number of new freshmen coming to UM under WUE, the Western Undergraduate Exchange, also rose sharply – 287 students compared with 146 a year ago.

According to a chart provided by UM the total number of paid students is 9,979, compared to 10,104 in the fall semester of 2018.

Cole said everyone in Missoula had a part in this success.

“We’re headed in the right direction,” she said. “It’s really a credit to this campus and our whole community in Missoula, I think.”

The Associated Press reported on Tuesday that enrollment at both UM and MSU has declined from last fall's numbers. The UM announced a 4.3 percent overall decline in enrollment from 10.962 to 10,487, while undergraduate enrollment was down 8.5 percent, that's about 600 students in undergraduate enrollment.