The University of Montana is experiencing an “enrollment problem” and has taken several steps to reverse the trend, the school’s president told the Montana Board of Regents on Wednesday.

Chancellors and presidents of Montana’s public universities went before the board in Butte during their monthly meeting to present enrollment, spending and other trends that impact each school’s overall budget.

“We do have a problem within the UM affiliation,” UM President Royce Engstrom told regents. “We have an enrollment problem.”

UM saw its enrollment peak in 2011 at 15,669 students, and has steadily decreased by an estimated 1,100 students over the past two years, carrying broad implications for the school’s budget.

At the same time, Montana State University expects its enrollment numbers to top 15,000 for the first time in school history, marking a 21 percent increase since 2010.

The decline anticipated this year at UM pertains only to the Missoula campus, Engstrom noted. The other three UM-affiliated schools remain on track with past enrollment figures.

Engstrom named a variety of factors for the recent decline, including the economy, competition from other schools – both in state and out – and changing demographics in Montana.

“The enrollment decline we’re experiencing at UM is in the resident undergraduate population,” he said. “The enrollment picture is the thing that keeps me awake at night. We have five key actions we’re putting into motion to address enrollment, and resident undergraduates are the target.”

Shifting enrollment impacts the amount of money spent per student and per program. It also brings rapid adjustments to the ratio of students to faculty, administrators and classified employees.

The budget presented by Engstrom included a perceived increase in the number of contract administrators to students. In 2012, the ratio stood at 88.8 students for every administrator. This year, however, it’s projected to hit just 64.6 students per administrator.

“That 24 percent increase in student spending speaks to the tyranny of fixed costs,” said Regent Jeffrey Krauss. “When you build buildings in the good times, you’re stuck with them in the bad times, too. What’s the driving factor in the denominator?”

Engstrom cautioned regents not to fixate on a single year’s enrollment number and the figures that come with it – a statement confirmed by other regents. Numbers rise and fall on any given year, they agreed, regardless of the school.

***

But several regents weren’t entirely satisfied with UM’s limited ability to retract its expenditures with its decreasing enrollment, no matter how short the timeframe.

The result sparked a philosophical debate among regents over how to bring elasticity to university budgets, allowing for growth when it comes while leaving room for retraction when times are lean.

“There’s going to be times when budgetary challenges arise,” said Regent Todd Buchanan. “Somewhere in this conversation, we need to start asking if there are alternative ways to address the growth issues we’re facing, both in the short and longer term.”

While MSU is currently enjoying an upward trend in enrollment – adding more than 2,400 students since 2010 – several regents noted that UM had enjoyed the same climb until two years ago.

“We’re growing one campus (MSU) and adding lots of infrastructure – the things that will need to be paid for, even in bad times,” Buchanan said. “What’s the long-term guidance we as a system should be offering?

Regents suggested the topic of budgetary flexibility would remain an issue worth revisiting in the months ahead.

Engstrom noted five steps UM is taking to reboot its enrollment numbers.

Among them, he named more focused recruiting, a review of financial aid and how it compares to other schools, and a more “consumer friendly” atmosphere that realizes students have choices.

“I’d appreciate if you’d bring those updates to us as you move forward,” said Regent Major Robinson. “We’re as concerned as you are. We realize there’s been a drop in enrollment for a number of reasons, and with this plan in place, we’d expect to see that change.”

MSU President Waded Cruzado presented a different picture for the Bozeman-based school, one that’s enjoying a resurgence in popularity among in-state students and freshmen.

Cruzado said the school has focused on recruiting more freshmen, more Native Americans and more military veterans. It also has reached out to 144,000 students who attended MSU but failed to earn their degree for whatever reason.

She called the program Return to Learn, and the results have driven up the school’s headcount.

“We’re deliberately approaching those students,” she said. “We’re calling them at their home, asking what they need to graduate.”

Reporter Martin Kidston can be reached at 523-5260, or at martin.kidston@missoulian.com.

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(54) comments

dsrobins

The U of M doesn't have an enrollment problem. It has an Engstrom problem. His two year reign has been an unmitigated disaster and has brought national shame and disgrace upon our state. I'll admit that all these problems didn't begin under Engstrom. They have been festering for years under his predecessor, George Dennison, and the lack of concern and oversight from our sadly Republican dominated legislatures and governors. Way back in 1958, when I was about to graduate from high school in Havre, I went to both the U of M and MSU high school weeks in the spring. Missoula immediately struck me as a party and sports place with little real concern about academics. Bozeman was quite different. Even as a naive high schooler, it seemed a far more serious and productive place. I would have been happy to go to MSU, but got luckier. I won a scholarship to Dartmouth and it forever changed and improved my life. Nothing will change in Missoula until the board of regents fires Engstrom.

idiot state

Years ago the University of Montana was referred to as "a poor man's Berkeley." No truer words were ever said. If you want your college kids to enroll in a drug infested, prescription pill pushing, pathologically progressive joke of "higher learning" then, well, Montana's university is the place! Montana's a beautiful state, but poorly run (check the stats) so a better choice would be...well, any other college in any other state in the region!

TrueAmerican

dear idiot, there are many other universities in Montana, including MSU, a Land Grant college, and its' satellite campuses, that are highly regarded research universities. U of M is hardly "Montana's university".

johnny Dollar

As many of us see........the city and state have place all bets on the university to salvage the economy of Missoula. It has not worked, and their plans have not delivered. Once they are done spending your tax dollars on new buildings, roundabouts, bike paths and "Super Alex" the Apostle of Education........we will be stuck here with local taxes that have doubled in the past 10yrs, far too many cops and no jobs.

johnny Dollar

whoops.....Engstrom that is......they seem to be cut from the same lineral fabric, I get confused.....

johnny Dollar

The U of M doesn't have a recruitment problem Mr. Engstrom.....YOU have a recruitment problem. Just like the pumpkin head James Grunke.......YOU HAVE NOT PRODUCED AN INCREASE ......THEREFORE, YOU MUST GO.

I said this last year.......when stickboy flubbed the phony rape charge issue against star quarterback Jordon.........Engstrom showed a profound lack of leadership and accepted NO responsibility for his failures.

As we have a mayoral election coming.....it WOULD DO VOTERS WELL TO REMEMBER WHAT A FAILURE ENGEN WAS AS WELL........intimidating cops, not accepting responsibility for the lack of progress by the police......and for failing to get rid of Chief Muir, who seems to have coached his officers to shoot unarmed people.

THE PRIVATE SECTOR HOLDS IT'S COLLECTIVE BREATH AND EAGERLY AWAITS YOU MR. ENGEN. AND SO NOT LEAVE ANY OF THE FLUNKIES BEHIND THAT YOU BROUGHT TO THE UNIVERSITY.

It is long past time to ferret out the derelict regents that seem to be more interested in political favoritism than performance.

M

Given my dealings with your enrollment and financial department personnel, I would posit that your issue is less an "enrollment" problem and more a "you have rude personnel who don't do their jobs well or in a reasonable timeframe" problem.

TrueAmerican

Right on. Comfortably ensconced in their ivory tower, the inbred royalty UM administration feels entitled to try to push their elitist attitude down every paying customer's (aka student's) throat from the initial contact. I attended U of M for 3 years and transferred to MSU when I realized that it was an inflated joke and the same degree from MSU would be worth more in the Real World. I graduated with Highest Honors from MSU and went right to work three years ago. I attempted to apply for grad school at MSU this year and never got past a snotty know-all receptionist, no calls returned, no consideration of my academic achievements (didn't even ask me) including being published in a scholarly journal as an undergrad. So I applied and was immediately accepted by the MSU Graduate Program. Evidently, UM does not know they have local competition in that you can live in Missoula and be an MSU student online now. But get this, I just received a letter from the UofM Director of Financial Aid informing me that I have taken too long to complete my program and my grades were insufficient to allow me to be eligible for UM financial aid!!! Sorry to be so crass (kind of), but UM is an overrated cluster**** of a university. I know from my own experience.

dep

“The enrollment decline we’re experiencing at UM is in the resident undergraduate population,” he said. “The enrollment picture is the thing that keeps me awake at night. We have five key actions we’re putting into motion to address enrollment, and resident undergraduates are the target.”

But his recent focus been on recruiting International Students to create a Global University and higher out of state tuition.

Nikki's Niece

President Engstrom--The issue is not only the enrollment problem but a leadership problem. You have been president of the university for two years and during these two years the university has experienced declining enrollment, loss of excellent staff, recruitment and hiring of fourth-rate, highly paid bureaucrats, all of whom have been hand picked by you through fake “national searches.” All this has resulted in a complete lack of confidence in the university’s institutional leadership. And now, after throwing your athletic director and football coach under the bus, you are demanding that your faculty take a “tutorial,” the content of which violates the U.S. Constitution. The solutions to reverse this two-year trend are rather simple; First, the university needs a new president; 2) the university needs a new provost; 3) the university does not need a vice-president for integrated communications; 4) the university needs a new and competent legal counsel; 5) the university needs an enrollment office director who knows how to recruit students locally, nationally, and internationally. Problem solved. P.S,. on another note: The president of that other university has eaten you alive; she has taken you to the river and back, and while she undoubtedly views you as an abysmal failure, you apparently continue to view her as a buddy and a friend.

Bittersweet
Bittersweet

Very well said.

TrueAmerican

what she said

McLagman

Maybe there are fewer people who want to borrow student loan money and go into debt so they can transfer it to a union teacher democrat voting block and get a degree that can't land them a job that can pay back all the money they borrowed.

Dubs

I really don't thing the rape issue is the cause of declining enrollment. I come in contact with a lot of people that live in rural areas and to a person, they ridicule the graduates that come out of the U as being over the top with their liberal views and come off as experts in game management, forest stewardship, and any environmental issues. They are smart young people but have been severely tainted with ideological ideas that do not relate to the real world problems. The ones I have talked to are very polite and will listen and are always surprised when they converse with people that have been "on the ground" and have witnessed the devastation of our rural communities as a result of an oppressive and anti business oriented county government. I would not want any of my children attending the U even though I do support the GRIZ and go to all their home games but can't wait to get out of town after a game. Missoula is last in economic growth for a reason, and it can all be traced back to county regulations that have stopped growth. Bozeman has turned the corner and encourages entrepreneurship and figured out that a healthy economy spills over to the university and attracts better students that want to learn and prosper in the future.

Hi

let's see... one university and town advocates hard work, industriousness, self reliance and technical degrees which lead to real jobs, the other university and town advocates left wing ideals, granola culture, endless taxation and regulation. One town grows its university and businesses, the other grows its government and homeless shelter. The downward Missoula spiral continues... thank you New Party / Progressives.

dave ajou
dave ajou

I believe you and Dubs have nailed the major factors here. Missoula, the town of empty storefronts, crumled infrastructure, and the New Party cabal that have run the town into the ground are the face the university wears. Engstrom has managed to keep digging the hole deeper. Maybe instead of a wasted effort on "rebranding", the money, time and effort could have been spent in outreach to potential students, and as another poster said, reaching out to former students and alumni. Nah, we'll just put in more bike lanes and require students to take an online tutorial and call it a day. At least the parking situation has been somewhat alleviated. Four more years of Engen and Royce and we'll be pleading to be in the frontier conference, or just be a glorified JUCO.

johnny Dollar

In other words......the skilled middle class is gone and has been replaced by progressives......well said Dave!

MT Libertarian

Cost?
On-line course availability? (including law)
Maybe they should inquire with one of their Economics 101 professors and ask about how the economy works (cost vs. demand)
It's not rocket science folks!

D

Good points...especially the law school...NO online course, NO part-time students allowed, NO night class. ONLY one law school in the State. How many Law School grads actually STAY in Montana and serve the population......?

Bluehawk

Don't worry, Engstrom. Just go out and hire more out of state thugs to play for your football program. There are plenty of other good schools that will take those who are interested in getting an education.

jus wundrin
jus wundrin

Get rid of the worthless disciplines, their departments, and the profs who teach them. Then focus on the degrees that are in demand, and are needed for a vibrant economy. This will drive down costs, and attract a more engaged student. What does one do with a masters in eco-feminism anyway?

College has become a joke.

TrueAmerican

UM could try having the elusive professors actually teach their courses instead of enjoying the luxury of having all their courses taught by snotty immature grad students and TA's. At UM, you may never meet many of your professors, much less have them deign to communicate with you, but you will be at the mercy of a bunch of inexperienced weirdos for your grades. At MSU, there are many Heads of Departments who teach their 100 survey courses, and some of them are world reknowned as THE experts in their fields, world wide.

MT_Mama

Amazing, Engstrom finally uses the "p" word, problem. Yet no one in any leadership position at UM in the last few years has ever admitted any problems with the climate that overlooked sexual assaults and rapes and which glorified sports above all else. He blames the economy and demographics for the dropping enrollment yet of course in the same article, MSU's enrollment is reported as going up. Last time I checked, MSU operated in the same economy and with the same Montana demographics.

MTGuy

I've got twins who will be graduating high school this spring. Colleges began sending them information their junior year. They have received 15 different pieces of recruiting information from MSU over the last 14 months - almost one per month. Each piece of informaiton describes different qualities of MSU (educational opportunities, campus life and activities, activities the Bozeman community offers, etc). They have recevied exactly one 3 X 5 postcard from UM. My kids will both be attending MSU. They said it was because it has a lot to offer and they seemed interested in them. I am a UM alum and have always supported UM anyway I can via donation, volunteer, etc. UM is getting exactly what they deserve through their lack of recruiting efforts in terms of my kids going to MSU and UM not getting my tuition money. It seems as though Engstrom doesn't give a d*mn. He can blame the economy and demographics, but it is due to a lack of effort on UM's part to recruit students. The school should be ashamed - and so should Engrstrom.

MT_Mama

Yours is the best post I've read on any subject on this web site in ages. Really nails the problem. P.S. Best of luck to your kids in their college careers!

sportscaster

A big amen to this post. When our children were going up, same thing, all kinds of information coming from every school imaginable EXCEPT UM. Sounds like the approach hasn't changed. The television ads are cool and probably do something to help garner interest in UM, but they need to be supplemented with other approaches as well. Also, how many times have we heard regents talk about the funding issue that comes with up-and-down enrollments, yet no reasonable or working plan ever seems to come of it. It's like listening to Congress talk about updating the tax code: lots of talk and no results. Thanks, MTGuy, for bringing the contact with prospective students issue to light - AGAIN! - Bill Schwanke

TrueAmerican

You are so right, and it seems as though you have taught your twins well-they are smart consumers. UM forgets about its consumers.

5inchheels

Engstrom says "enrollment started dropping two years ago". I agree with the comments here that point out that Engstrom became President of UM two years ago....and things have gone down hill ever since. I don't think you can blame the economy or any other extraneous issue otherwise MSU would also have a drop in enrollment and they don't. The reason fewer students are enrolling at UM is directly correlated to the lack of leadership being provided by Engstrom; poor decisions he has made and tried unsuccessfully to cover up; lack of support for Engstrom by the faculty and students; hiring of way too many administrators to cover up the fact that Engstrom is out of his element and doesn't know what he's doing; Engstrom showing his incompetence by firing coaches without cause and Engstroms condescending demeanor with anyone who doesn't have a Doctorate or work in the sciences. The Regents need to fire Engstrom and hire someone qualified to do the job. An old Italian saying is 'The fish stinks from the head'....I think it's applicable here.

Glacier X

I know there is a problem with Uof M, when I have watched the last two televised Griz football games on the T.V! During both of these two broadcasts there were 4-5 MSU ads. However; I did not see ONE Uof M ad during the same broadcasts. To me, thats almost a backhand by the adminstration, not taking a little time to showcase the academics during the game. Alot of people I know, have mentioned the same thing.

johnny Dollar

It's not the advertising......it is the content (i.e. we have a smooth, handsome president that has no leadership skills nor any true principles to moor his ship too).

Everyday person

My niece was considering UM-Missoula -- where I earned two graduate degrees. I told her to avoid UM and find a university that doesn't coddle predators and predator hostels. And... that's what she did. And... I'm giving the same advice to lots of other young people.

Bittersweet
Bittersweet

So you are saying statistically, the U of M is different from other similar Universities of the same size? Gwen painted a horrible picture many took for the truth. Now that all of the investigations are complete just what exactly was found that likely does not happen at other Universities? I'm not giving any crime a pass, I'm just curious as to how the U of M got be known as "Rape Nation?" From the recent news I would hesitate to send your daughter to Bozeman as well.

TrueAmerican

Good for you!

walter12

Maybe it the all the costs that a student incurrs. Maybe it is all the arch leftist professors and their indoctrination sessions. Maybe the students see the lousy job market ahead of them that your Obama created.

idiot state

Is it the fact that the University of Montana is a cesspool of drugs, prescription pill pushers, and liberal idiots? Beneath its façade, the University's a joke. Why go to that state when there're plenty of healthy, vibrant, intellectually challenging universities in the region? At any rate, any parent who'd send their kids to the U of Montana will come to wonder about the wisdom of their decision..the university can blame its problems on "the economy" but the truth lies elsewhere..

Roger
Roger

President problem.

montanamuralist
montanamuralist

I admire Montana State for their proactive role. I also believe that because they are the largest"science" school in the state graduates have a better chance at employment after college. The cost of a college education at UM for diminishing returns compared to when I attended UM years ago is mind boggling. I could not have attended college were the cost what it is today. I was paying $220 a quarter ( or $660 annually) for a full load as we used to call it. Books were about $150 a quarter depending on the classes you were taking of course. In an economy where conservatives want to tear down the government, private corporations are tearing apart the middle class with lower wages while the upper 1% gets richer, and we have idiots on here who feel that students should be working 40 a week jobs while going to school to learn and hope somehow that translates in to a meaningful career down the line...is just disaster. Montana State may be enjoying a resurgence right now but they have the same fate awaiting them. As middle class income shrinks, college is less of an option due to a lack of money. Businesses cry out for trained workers but understanding philosophy in the Greek era, while interesting, is not going to teach you to run a computer and deal with modern technology. Teachers are paid less and critics say they do nothing. My favorite people, Republicans ( not) keep cutting education budgets leaving our secondary students unprepared for college making the work of getting students up to standard very tough. Yes, I am speaking in general terms but education must evolve in to something that is useful for the consumer paying the institution. Meanwhile we have Engstrom, who I have been openly critical of in these comment pages many times. If you have an attitude that thinks it is ok to call a 7am meeting and fire your football coach and AD without warning in front of staff at the meeting, you are faced with an administrative style that is just incompetent and thoughtless of other people. As it turns out the NCAA investigation was basically a sham and there was nothing very serious that came out of that. My point is that that kind of overbearing administrative style is not an isolated incident and UM would do well to get rid of him, in a more polite way than he has shown others, and get someone in office who is going to work with people a little more effectively. The bottom line is until the economy improves and until costs of an education come down a little...many are not going to be able to attend a four year college. That is just the stark truth of it.

glacierdude

Your Democrats vs Republicans philosophy is interesting. In reality, .Democrats see themselves as the "elites", the "Plantation Lords", smart as whips, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound", etc. What you fail to say is HOW you look upon the Republicans. You see them as the "Plantation Slaves", the "worker bees" . I have to say that I have many times in my life been in deep discussion with voting Democrats who, truly, cannot admit to being liberal. If libs had their way, they would all be employed by the government, one arm or another, for the simple reason that your success is not measured by any yardstick, but by simply seeing how long you can hold onto your government job and your simply outrageous benefits and retirement packages. When the going gets rough and you are soon to be exposed you flee like rats off of a sinking ship; example: Max Baucus. Why did Max retire? Because he was the acknowledge-ed "author" of Obamacare which is being exposed for the cr ap legislation that it is, was and always will be. When Maxy is gone he won't ever have to answer to anyone. He can just blame it on whoever presents themselves as convenient at the moment. Thatbis just the stark truth of it.....as you say.

TrueAmerican

your comment makes no sense at all. who have you been letting indoctrinate you?

Lamplighter

Zzzzzz... still wrong. Only three people were present on that spring Sunday morning. Minor point? Maybe, but it was just one of Engstrom's poorly considered procedural goofs that may yet come to haunt him if there is ever a need in court to cooroborate the propriety of the terminations.

bsfarm8

UM has a leadership problem. Until the regents understand that, things will continue to decline. Form a committee, look to out sourced advice, ignore continued impacts of multiple disastrous internal decisions, pretend everything is fine. These philosophical solutions are just a few of the reasons UM seems destined to a continued downward spiral. Change at the top is necessary.

Deanne
Deanne

Gee, could this be part of the problem? "Montana Football Team at Center Of Inquiry Into Sexual Assaults."
"It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently."
~Warren Buffett

Bittersweet
Bittersweet

No comment.

Sporketteni

This article should be rewritten with the title of "UM has 'a 'President problem,' Engstrom tells regents"

ms4n

Wow, who could have imagined that enrollment would drop at the U of M over the last few years! I wonder how many of the 1,100 drop are proportionally female or females who left? To add to this mega-mystery, MSU is gaining enrollment. It must be what Engstrom said, factors such as economy, demographics, and competition. I'm sure Engstrom "gets it" and couldn't possibly missing something... maybe things in the news... maybe events over the last two years... Boy, just can't put a finger on it.... What else could it possibly be, like stuff that was in the national news,... naw... that couldn't possibly be it. Well, hopefully they crime will figure rape it out and fearful rebuild.

Bass Whacker

UM has an Engstrom problem. His administration has botched every situation that has come down the pike. Through enrollment numbers the parents of college-age kids in Montana have given a no confidence vote in Engstrom that is undeniable. Fix that and enrollment will come back.

Alex Burreson

2 years of decline and 2 years with a new president. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to draw the parallel. Royce clearly has no idea what he is doing. UM should follow the private sector (Fire fast, hire slow). Get on it.

yougotitwrong22

No duh, really people dont want to be raped. not to mention people kids. i wont be sending my little girl there. ill send her to a division one school not I-AA.

glacierdude

Many moons ago a college education really meant something. Now, the difference in the earning power between an average high school graduate and an average college graduate is about 45 cents an hour. There are positions open right now at the U of M that require at least a bachelors degree and only pay $9.00 an hour. Wow, some incentive, huh?

TrueAmerican

true, but mostly if you are talking about a college education from UM. There are many schools that have really high rates of successful employment for grads, and programs in place to assist. If you want a comparison, go on each school's website and compare the UM Liberal Arts program to the MSU Liberal Studies program, just as one example.

trad man

2 years ago is about the time the rape center in MT showed up at this University, a no brainer, and from the latest news continues to roll along as if nothing happened, ( 2 more rapes reported) bet the decline continues till a new tough administration comes into light

sportscaster

Ignore the fact that two fraternities at MSU were just suspended because of rape allegations. Sexual assault, alcohol, and drugs are all interrelated and they are happening all across the country. To even suggest that this is something centered only at UM is ludicrous. - Bill Schwanke

M

No one suggested it was only at UM. But your suggestion that it happens elsewhere therefore it is NOT a problem at UM is disgusting. Congratulations--you're the problem.

TrueAmerican

Right on M. Who knows, maybe those rapist frat boys transferred from UM to MSU. The difference is that MSU is a Land Grant University that focuses on research and hard science, while the UofM is an elitist Liberal Arts school that rich people send their kids because they 1) are not accepted by really good universities and 2) have to bribe their entitled progeny to attend college so they let them pick the recreational wonderland and cultural fun-time melting pot that is Missoula.

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