The University of Montana reported a 4.5% decrease in student enrollment Wednesday, attributing the drop to the coronavirus pandemic that shifted student plans after high school.
In total, UM reported 10,015 students enrolled for the fall 2020 semester, compared to 10,487 in fall 2019. The decrease in overall enrollment can be attributed almost exclusively to a smaller freshman class, said Dave Kuntz, UM director of strategic communications.
Prior to the pandemic, UM was seeing an increase in both overall applications and out-of-state applications for fall semester, Kuntz said.
“When we looked at applications leading into the fall 2020 semester, our overall applications were up nearly 7%, and our out-of-state applications were up nearly 15%, and that was prior to the COVID pandemic arrival,” he said.
After the pandemic hit in the spring, little movement took place, and Kuntz said the number of students, especially out of state, who followed through on those applications and enrolled didn’t end up reflecting that 7% increase.
“We know that a lot of these students, especially out-of-state students, decided to stay closer to home during the pandemic, so we weren’t able to yield as large of a freshman class as we had hoped prior to COVID,” he said.
He added many of those decisions were made last minute in the weeks leading up to the first day.