Most of Montana's brightest high-schoolers head to MSU, out of state

2010-08-26T05:15:00Z 2010-08-26T09:26:41Z Most of Montana's brightest high-schoolers head to MSU, out of stateBy CHELSI MOY of the Missoulian missoulian.com
August 26, 2010 5:15 am  • 

Classes begin next week on Montana's college campuses, but less than half of the brightest students coming out of Montana's high schools last spring will be sitting in those classrooms.

For those top-tier high school graduates who do stay in Montana, a majority go to Montana State University.

"Of course, we want Montana to get more than its fair share of its best and brightest students," said Sheila Stearns, Montana commissioner of higher education. "We also recognize that students come in all stripes and flavors. They often want to try different places and we are in favor for whatever is the best fit for these students."

Montana's public universities and colleges capture around 38 percent of the state's graduating high school students who decide to seek college degrees. A vast majority take the ACT to gain admittance.

An analysis of ACT scores shows that in 2009, 5,960 Montana high school seniors took the standardized exam. Six percent, or 365 students, earned a cumulative score of 30 or higher. (A perfect score is 36.)

Montana's public colleges and universities attract less than half of those top-tier students. Of those who do decide Montana is a good fit, 60 percent go to Montana State University and 24 percent attend the University of Montana.

In fact, last year, Montana had four high school students earn perfect scores on the ACT. Two of them enrolled at MSU this fall.

***

Research shows that the high-schoolers who receive high scores on standardized tests also generally do well in math and science. These students are often drawn to fields like engineering, technology and science, which are areas that in Montana are considered strong academic programs at MSU. University officials at both schools agree that it boils down to the programs offered by the two flagship campuses.

"Montana State University's strong engineering presence over the decades has left many students to conclude that they may have a stronger academic undergraduate experience there," Stearns said. "I would say that's not factual, but it's an impression. It's a matter of picking the right major and you'll have an outstanding experience no matter where you go."

Standardized tests, however, are not the only measurement of Montana's best and brightest students, said James McKusick, dean of UM's Davidson Honors College. Those tests don't measure artistic flair. Some of UM's top students excel in dance, art and creative writing, he said.

"They may or may not fare well on the ACT, but we sure want them at the University of Montana," McKusick said.

And even though Montana loses more than half of its brightest high school graduates to out-of-state universities and colleges, it also gains other state's brightest students. The Davidson Honors College has a higher percentage of out-of-state students in its program than does the university as a whole, McKusick said.

Still, UM's 2010 presidential scholarships - which go to the brightest honors students at the university regardless of geographic location - went to 18 Montana students and six from other states.

***

Montana has made a push to attract more of the state's top students.

Eight years ago, the Montana Board of Regents beefed up its statewide scholarship program. The Montana University System honors scholarships are offered annually to around 250 Montana high school students. They are based on a combination of class rank and standardized test scores.

The benchmarks for the scholarships are high - unless a student earns a 4.0 grade point average in high school and scores higher than a 27 on the ACT, it is unlikely students will receive the four-year scholarship, which covers all of a student's tuition and fees.

Around 200 incoming freshman chose to take advantage of this scholarship opportunity. This year, 122 of those students picked MSU and 57 students are attending UM.

Both UM and MSU try to recruit these top students. That doesn't mean attending high school science fairs and tapping kids on the shoulder. But there is a concerted effort to get their message out about what the university offers.

"MSU has a reputation of providing students opportunities to conduct hands-on research with our top professors and in our best laboratories," said Tracy Ellig, MSU spokesperson. "We are consciously promoting hands-on research for undergraduates."

While Montana would love for more of its top high-schoolers to stay in state, putting all of their efforts into this small fraction of students goes against the university system's mission. They'll leave that to the Ivy League schools.

Rather, Montana's universities and colleges want to attract a diverse student body, Stearns said. That means students from all parts of the state, who excel in music, athletics and academics, and even students who received poor grades in high school but who have a desire to go to college.

The Montana University System's mission is as much about serving students as it is serving Montana communities and the economy, she said.

"It is important for our state university system to have a comprehensive approach," she said.

Reporter Chelsi Moy can be reached at 523-5260 or at chelsi.moy@missoulian.com.

 

Copyright 2015 missoulian.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

No Comments Posted.

Missoulian Civil Dialogue Policy

Civil Dialogue Policy for Commenting on Missoulian.com

We provide this community forum for readers to exchange ideas and opinions on the news of the day. Passionate views, pointed criticism and critical thinking are welcome. Comments can only be submitted by registered users. By posting comments on our site, you are agreeing to the following terms:

Commentary and photos submitted to the Missoulian (Missoulian.com) may be published or distributed in print, electronically or other forms. Opinions expressed in Missoulian.com's comments reflect the opinions of the author, and are not necessarily the opinions of the Missoulian or its parent company. See the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy for more information.

Our guidelines prohibit the solicitation of products or services, the impersonation of another site user, threatening or harassing postings and the use of vulgar, abusive, obscene or sexually oriented language, defamatory or illegal material. You may not post content that degrades others on the basis of gender, race, class, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability or other classification. It's fine to criticize ideas, but ad hominem attacks on other site users are prohibited. Users who violate those standards may lose their privileges on missoulian.com.

You may not post copyrighted material from another publication. (Link to it instead, using a headline or very brief excerpt.)

No short policy such as this can spell out all possible instances of material or behavior that we might deem to be a violation of our publishing standards, and we reserve the right to remove any material posted to the site.

Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Martin Kidston presents the latest news you need to know about today's headlines in abo…

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian digital director Emily Foster presents the latest news you need to know about tod…

Visual note-taking at Asia-Montana Energy Summit

Visual note-taking at Asia-Montana Energy Summit

Watch visual note-taker Alece Birnbach record a 90-minute seminar on global energy in 21 sec…

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Kate Haake presents the latest news you need to know about today's headl…

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian digital director Emily Foster presents the latest news you need to know about tod…

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian digital director Emily Foster presents the latest news you need to know about tod…

Montana from the Air

Montana from the Air

Skyworks filmed over 45 hours of Montana aerial video footage 2012. Using a specially equipp…

Press conference: Kirsten Pabst

Press conference: Kirsten Pabst

April 22 press conference with Kirsten Pabst at the Missoula County Courthouse

Les Schwab

loading...

Search our events calendar