The University of Montana highlighted Monday its jump in freshman enrollment – a 6.4 percent increase on the main campus for fall semester 2014.

“It’s the best in three years, and we feel good about that,” said Peggy Kuhr, UM vice president for integrated communications.

Overall, however, UM enrollment dropped 3.9 percent compared to last fall. Kuhr said the dip was expected, given the larger graduating classes and the smaller incoming classes.

Now, the smaller classes must move through the system, and in the meantime, UM is focused on recruiting new incoming freshmen – and keeping them. To boost its freshman enrollment, UM is increasing the number of contacts it has with potential students – and upping its outreach and financial assistance.

“The university has worked hard these past two years to increase the scholarships we offer students and to improve our outreach to prospective high school students in Montana and across the country,” said UM President Royce Engstrom in a written statement.

In Bozeman, Montana State University reported a record total enrollment of 15,421, which represents 1 percent more than last year and 5 percent more than the past two years. It also noted this year is the eighth in the past nine that MSU has set an enrollment record.

“The statistics also show that we are doing very well in supporting our students and helping them succeed,” said MSU President Waded Cruzado in a news release.

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The total at UM is 13,952 students, or 573 fewer than one year ago. UM released the total and other enrollment numbers for the Mountain Campus as well as Missoula College, including the following figures:

• New freshmen on the Mountain Campus: 1,597, or 96 more than last year.

• Total unofficial full-time equivalent is 11,651; an FTE represents 15 • Total new freshmen on the Mountain Campus and Missoula College: 2,002, or 59 more than last year.

• Entering freshmen GPA: 3.31 compared with 3.27 the previous fall. “Students come in with a higher GPA, which means they’re better prepared,” Kuhr said.

• Incoming resident freshmen on the Mountain Campus increased 4.5 percent from last year.

• Nonresident freshmen increased 9.7 percent from last year.

• Graduate student enrollment is 2,260 compared with the previous fall enrollment of 2,271.

In its report, UM also noted Missoula College enrollment declined 9 percent, to 2,245. However, Kuhr said some classes are so popular, students are unable to enroll because class size is limited.

“The demand is there,” Kuhr said.

The new Missoula College will have the capacity for those students, she said. She also said vocational colleges follow the general economy, and when the economy is doing better, people have jobs and don’t need as much workforce training.

Last month, Missoula College broke ground on a new building along East Broadway and the Clark Fork River. Engstrom said he anticipates the new location will be a draw.

“We are confident that the new building will be attractive to future students and to future employers in Missoula and our region,” Engstrom said.

Reach the Missoulian newsroom at @missoulian, at newsdesk@missoulian.com or at (406) 523-5240

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Reporter for the Missoulian