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Main Hall, University of Montana file

Main Hall on the University of Montana campus.

Summer enrollment at the University of Montana increased 3% over last summer, reaching its highest level since 2014.

In a press release Monday, UM announced that 3,025 students had paid for their summer courses compared to 2,945 last year, which also represented an increase from the previous year. UM plans to release a final count at the end of August and anticipates higher total enrollment once all students have paid. 

Destiny Ditchtel, a senior at UM this fall, took an online, six-week business ethics course and an in-person, three-week public speaking course. She changed her major two years into her undergraduate career and took classes this summer to graduate by her target of spring 2021.

In summer sessions, the information isn't spread over the course of a fall or spring semester, so it's easier to remember. She also said professors offer a lot of help.

“Because the material is so heavy at once ... the professors are more understanding and give more one-on-one time if you need it," Ditchtel said. "If students have the time, I definitely recommend it.”

The public speaking class she took on campus had about eight students, she remembered, compared to the 20 or 30 that she’d heard normally take it.

“It definitely helped giving speeches, having a smaller class,” Ditchtel said.

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In the press release, UM Provost Jon Harbor and director of summer enrollment Grace Gardner said the university was working to expand its summer offerings. The news release did not note specific new courses.

While summer’s numbers were up, academic-year enrollment remains a weak spot for UM, having dropped 33.5% since 2011.

In an Aug. 18 Chronicle of Higher Education ranking of universities by enrollment growth, UM-Missoula placed 203rd out of 211 institutions. By comparison, Montana State University-Bozeman, which had a 32.3% enrollment increase from 2010 to 2018, placed 24th.

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Increasing enrollment has been a priority for the campus for several years. While university officials expect an overall drop again this fall, they say that initial metrics point to a larger freshman class than last year, and note that a continued increase in freshman classes will eventually yield higher enrollment.

Fall 2019 enrollment will become available sometime after UM takes an official student census, a count conducted on the 15th day of instruction.

Also in the news release, UM noted summer enrollment rose at its two-year Missoula College, with 274 students paying for summer courses so far this year compared to 259 last year. Summer offerings run from May through August in terms of three, six and 12 weeks.

The total number of degrees awarded in summer also increased, from 422 in 2018 to 489 this year.

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