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University of Montana

University Hall at the University of Montana

The University of Montana released enrollment numbers for spring, and it posted another overall decline of 3.1 percent.

This time, the drop in the equivalent of full time students was steeper than it has been since UM started losing students around 2011: UM lost 9.1 percent.

The Montana Kaimin highlighted the number of losses in undergraduates, 13 percent.

On the other hand, the number of graduate students continues to increase.

This spring, the number of graduate students rose 6.5 percent, from 2,298 to 2,448. Scott Whittenburg, dean of the graduate school, previously has said he believes that increase is due for a leveling off.

The law school is up as well, some 5.8 percent. The big bump is dual enrollment, which went from 188 to 601, or 219.7 percent.

The big downers are under-served populations on the Mountain Campus. Native American students dropped 15.2 percent, for instance. I had this story in the summer about UM having fewer support staff to serve Native American students, and I wonder if we're seeing part of the outcome in these numbers.

UM focused on a couple of silver linings. Cathy Cole, vice president for enrollment, said persistence, the measure of students who continue from fall to spring, is up 1.7 percent compared to last year. In other words, she said UM lost fewer students, and she said that bodes well for future enrollment.

A big one, though, is the budget. UM officials noted they have pulled in more money than they projected they would for spring.

Hallelujah. The campus has been cutting and cutting because enrollment has been falling and falling, and if it's finally getting dollars in the door. From the story:

Vice president of finance Paul Lasiter said budgeted tuition revenue was $32.8 million, and actual tuition through Feb. 11 was $34.7 million. That's $1.8 million more, or 5.5 percent.

We'll have more on some of these numbers this weekend.

This weekend, the UM Black Student Union and the University Center Student Involvement Network host the second annual Black Solidarity Summit. The full schedule is posted here. 

From UM:

The  summit will bring together representatives from black student unions, African student associations and black studies programs around the Northwest to address issues of racial discrimination, political disenfranchisement, social organization, black academic enrollment and retention.

The event serves as a platform for black students and their allies to support one another and engage in discourse about vital issues impacting black students. The summit is three days of presentations by UM faculty, staff, students and Missoula community members. Representatives from Montana State University, Boise State University and Alma College also will present.

In other news, the asbestos contamination and hurried closures and relocations at UM haven't prompted a wider review of management plans through the Montana University System.

That story here. In it, Kevin McRae, spokesman for the Montana Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education, pledged zero financial support for UM as it handles the asbestos emergency.

"UM is going to have to prioritize and manage its facilities within existing budgets," McRae said. " ... When any public sector or private sector entity that is in the business of serving the public has a facility need, they don't go to the Commissioner of Higher Education or the state saying 'fix it.'"

Ouch. The state does have grants for pricey infrastructure projects, though. The Treasure State Endowment Program helps local governments with costs of things like sewer systems and bridges. I don't know if the university system or UM would be eligible, but state support for facility needs isn't unprecedented.

You probably saw UM moved another child care facility because of asbestos, this time from the Craighead apartments south of campus to the College of Education.

ICYMI, Richard Drake, chair in politics and history at UM, had an opinion piece with insights about the history of higher education and source of its strength. He points to the latter as the humanities and sciences, "partners of equal standing." It's a powerful analysis. He offers guidance for the campus as it moves ahead, but a reader might also wonder if UM already has steered a different way given some of the examples he offers.

In charting the way forward, UM might want to re-examine the humanistic tradition seriously and even to glory in it as our chief reason for being.

UM President Seth Bodnar has said the campus is spending 19 percent more per College of Humanities and Sciences student under his plan than it did from 2009 to 2013. He also has noted he himself is a product of a liberal arts education from West Point and believes in the value of such learning.

At the same time, last semester, the College of Humanities and Sciences took the largest cut in dollars and percent among UM's standalone schools and colleges. It was targeted to reduce by 20 percent its $19.7 million budget by 2021 (more details and numbers in the story linked above).

The Montana Kaimin also has this story about how the departure of libraries Dean Shali Zhang leaves UM with no permanent female deans. Women do serve as deans at UM, but they do so as interim appointments.

In other business, the U.S. Department of Education posted the settlement agreement regarding the Clery Act fines for misreporting or failing to report crimes. Basically, the only thing UM has to do in addition to paying the fine is to keep following the rules.

"UMT affirms that it will continue to take steps to comply with the requirement in the Clery Act, the HEA (Higher Education Act), and the Department's implementing regulations."

This is different than the agreement with the feds over sexual assaults, which had loads of requirements. That may be because in this case, UM itself identified the misreported crimes. The objective in all this is making sure people have the best information about campus safety.

UM can make monthly payments of $6,073.86 after an initial down payment of $39,500 through Jan. 30, 2024.

Also, you may recall a recent story with questions about the lack of oversight on the Greek system at UM and a grievance filed by a student who reported being raped by a fraternity member. A new lawsuit against Yale University makes the same arguments Jane Doe was making at UM, that the campus itself must supervise the Greek system and not abdicate oversight to private chapters. The Chronicle has the story.

Regardless of the suit’s outcome, the women’s fight against Yale cuts to the heart of an issue that’s top of mind for campus leaders: what responsibility colleges have to regulate the culture of their fraternities.

Last week, Montana State University officials in Bozeman announced seven fraternities had banned hard liquor. I didn't hear back from UM, but I'll follow up.

Also, UM received some sad news, as did family members and friends of Dusten Hollist, a reformed troublemaker who died at 46 after getting cancer, according to his obituary.

Dusten was asked to join the faculty of the University of Montana and rose to become the chair of the Sociology Department. He was a beloved teacher, a gifted researcher and the author of many published articles and a book on juvenile justice. He was able to combine analysis with a sincere and non-judgmental desire to help people in order to make the state of Montana and the world a better place to be.

Condolences to his friends, family and colleagues.

Straight from UM:

Thank you for reading. I'll be out of the newsroom next week; you'll get your next newsletter in two weeks.

- Keila Szpaller

Stay current on the University of Montana and other higher education news in Montana with the Missoulian's weekly email, Under the M. This newsletter will land in your email box on Tuesdays. Got a news tip? Want to hear more about something at UM? Missoula College? The Commissioner's Office? Shoot a note to Thank you for reading, and please sign up here if you'd like to subscribe. 

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