The University of Montana’s fall census after the first 15 days of instruction was exactly 10,962 students, a drop of 7.6 percent from last fall’s enrollment of 11,865.

Vice President for Enrollment Cathy Cole said the decrease in enrollment is disappointing, but was expected.

“We had a large number of graduates in the spring and over the summer, and there were early indicators in the spring that we just didn’t have as many applications coming in as we thought,” said Cole. “There are some bright spots, however. “We are up in the graduate school. The law school is up 3.7 percent, and one of the biggest gains in our international students.”

Cole said a big factor in the 21 percent reduction in Missoula College students – and accounting for roughly 200 of the 903 fewer students counted in the census – is dual enrollment students.

“Last fall, we counted 280 dual enrollment students in the fall census,” she said. “This year it’s 80, because moving forward those students will generally be counted for the spring semester. It’s a change from previous years, and that alone accounts for a 200-student difference in the fall enrollment number.”

Cole believes that the new “One, Two, Free” statewide initiative providing two free courses for high school students will bring an even greater number of participants to the program.

Cole was asked about what is being done and what plans are being made to start the enrollment on an upward trend in future semesters.

“As you know, I was brought in to fix this,” she said. “We’re really reaching out of state for students who love being out of doors, where we know the in-state tuition is actually higher than our out-of-state tuition so that we can really bring highly qualified students to the University of Montana and give them the Big Sky experience. So, we’re really aggressively going after some markets where we’ve never been before.”