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MSU BILLINGS NEWS — MSU Billings has released its fall 2020 enrollment data which showed an increase in retention and graduate student enrollment, specifically in all mental and behavioral health programs at the undergraduate and graduate level. At its official 15th class-day count, 4,000 students were enrolled with 2,500 at University Campus and 1,500 at City College. This is a decrease of 416 students (9.4%) from fall 2019. Given the uncertainty and financial impact of COVID-19, this enrollment decrease was expected to be greater and is anticipated to be better than the nationwide higher education enrollment forecasts.

Moving the fall semester start date up three weeks impacted a number of students’ ability to enroll for fall classes, especially for those who rely heavily on summer jobs and could not afford to conclude their jobs early to start fall classes. Dual enrollment numbers were also affected since School District 2 and other partner schools started their fall semester later than MSUB, making it challenging for many high school students to enroll.

Interim Chancellor Rolf Groseth noted that many MSUB students also have increased family responsibilities as a result of COVID-19, some having to navigate their children’s remote learning and their own remote jobs, or job loss, creating additional enrollment challenges.

“We want our students to know that we are here to support them through these tough times and remind them that they can still apply for CARES Act funds that can provide some financial relief,” said Groseth.

Notable areas of growth for MSU Billings’ fall 2020 semester enrollment included:

  • Increase in one-year overall freshmen retention by 4%
  • City College one-year freshmen retention increased by 13.7%
  • Overall graduate student enrollment increased by 6.2%
  • New graduate student enrollment increased by 44.2%
  • Programs with significant enrollment growth included: Human Services 36.8%, Special Education Advanced Studies 36.4%, Psychology 18.2%, RN to BSN 14.8%, Clinical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling, MS 10.1%, and School Counseling, MS 8.5%

“Over the summer, numerous faculty and staff conducted a robust outreach campaign to our current students to check in on them, see how we could support them, and encourage them to enroll for fall classes,” said Kim Hayworth, vice chancellor for Student Access and Success. “Our increased retention speaks to the importance of maintaining a personal connection with our students and aligns with our mission of putting students first.”

MSUB’s tutoring, advising, counseling, and mentoring services also expanded online to accommodate the rapid transition to remote learning this past spring. These services have remained available online, resulting in more students taking advantage of them, which is believed to be a large factor in higher retention.

Programs in mental health and the RN to BSN nursing program, experienced significant enrollment increases.

Provost Melinda Arnold notes that MSUB’s proximity to the medical corridor, strong relationships with the regional medical community, and the current landscape demonstrates that MSUB’s program offerings are in alignment with student, workforce, and regional demands.

The Montana University System will present comprehensive enrollment information for all institutions at the Board of Regents meeting on September 16, 2020.

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