Montana State University

MSU sets new enrollment record with 15,688 students

September 25, 2015 -- MSU News Service

Montana State University students attend a lecture in Jabs Hall, the new home of the MSU Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship that was funded by a $25 million private gift from MSU alumnus Jake Jabs. University officials announced a new enrollment record today, with 15,688 students attending classes. The colleges of engineering, agriculture and business were the university's three fastest-growing colleges. MSU photo by Kelly Gorham.

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Montana State University officials announced today that 15,688 students are attending classes at MSU this fall, which is a new enrollment record for the university.

MSU’s fall census indicates that the 2015 MSU headcount is up 267 students, or 1.7 percent, from last year’s record of 15,421 students. It is the ninth time in the last 10 years that MSU has set an enrollment record. MSU is the largest, fastest-growing university in Montana.

The university’s colleges of engineering, agriculture and business were the three fastest-growing colleges. MSU’s College of Engineering has grown a remarkable 57 percent, or 1,311 students, since the fall of 2010. The college’s current enrollment is 3,611 – the second largest on campus after the College of Letters and Science.

“Students in Montana and across the nation have recognized that Montana State is a leader in science and engineering,” said MSU President Waded Cruzado. “We are the state’s largest research enterprise and the only university in a four-state region to be recognized as having very high research activity by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and one of only 108 universities in the nation.”

Cruzado praised the university’s faculty and staff for making Montana State the university of choice for students.

“From our faculty who work so hard to inspire our students, to our many staff who do everything they can to help our students succeed and feel welcome, MSU truly has a great team of people,” Cruzado said. “As president, it is the people of this university that make me most proud.”

MSU’s 2015 freshman class is the university’s largest ever with 3,026 students, an increase of 3 percent over last year’s count of 2,943.

Additionally, this year’s freshman class is the most accomplished, with the highest average  SAT, ACT and high school grade point averages of incoming students in 26 years of keeping records. The average SAT score for freshmen enrolled full-time at the university is 1722, the average ACT score 25.4, and the average high school grade point average 3.45.

In addition, MSU continues to be the school of choice for Montana’s best and brightest students: This year, 66 percent – or 134 out of 204 -- of Montana high school seniors who received Montana University System honors scholarships chose to enroll at MSU.

“To grow enrollment while also seeing the quality of our students increase is a position any university would envy,” Cruzado. “It is a testament to the hard work and excellence of our faculty that we are attracting such outstanding students.”

Since last year, the colleges of engineering, agriculture and the Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship grew at 9 percent, 8 percent and 4 percent respectively. 

“It is gratifying to see our colleges of engineering and agriculture grow as their missions were specifically spelled out in the federal legislation that created public, land-grant universities 153 years ago through the Morrill Act,” Cruzado said.

MSU has taken steps to deal with its growth both in terms of instruction and physical space.

MSU spent $90.8 million on instruction in its most recent academic year, compared to the previous academic years of 2013-2014 of $84.5 million, $80.7 million in 2012-2013 and $70.5 million in 2011-2012.

MSU has also taken numerous steps to address the space needs of its growing enrollment.

In the fall of 2013, MSU opened Gallatin Hall, a new, self-funded, 72-bed residence hall. The university currently is constructing a $35 million, 400-bed freshmen residence hall set to open in the fall of 2016 that is also self-funded through student housing fees. This fall, the university opened its renovated Miller Dining Hall, MSU’s largest dining facility, remodeled to increase seating and greatly expand serving capacity.  No taxpayer or tuition dollars were used in any of the projects.

Thanks to generous donors, MSU has been able to address some of its classroom needs as well.

This fall is the first that students have been able to use the newly opened Jabs Hall, which is the new home of the MSU Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship. The building was funded by a $25 million private gift from Jabs, a Montana native and Montana State College alumnus, who announced the gift in 2011. The gift is also being used for new scholarships and new academic programs in entrepreneurship, professional skills development and fostering cooperative work between business students and students in other disciplines.

“The opening of Jabs Hall has helped address a shortage of space as we have grown 26 percent since the fall of 2010,” said Kregg Aytes, dean of the Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship. “We’re so grateful to Jake Jabs for helping us address this important need.”  

Additionally, in March of 2014, MSU alumnus Norm Asbjornson, the founder and president of AAON, an international heating ventilation and air conditioning business based in Tulsa, Okla., committed to give the university $50 million for the MSU College of Engineering. The gift is the largest donation in the history of higher education in Montana, and it will make possible another engineering facility – the Norm Asbjornson Innovation Center. Planning and design of the structure is underway.

And last week, the university announced a $4 million estate gift from the late Bill Wurst, a 1959 alumnus in electrical engineering. The gift will be used as matching funds for the Norm Asbjornson Innovation Center.

“The gifts of Mr. Asbjornson and Mr. Wurst are invaluable to the College of Engineering for the new space they will provide. They could not have come at a better time,” said Brett Gunnink, dean of the College of Engineering. “Our success has made us crowded with students. Currently, the college has the least amount of space per student in 40 years – possibly the least amount of space since the 1920s.”

MSU hopes to break ground on the Norm Asbjornson Innovation Center in the spring of 2016, with construction completed two years later.

The gifts from Asbjornson and Jabs count toward a $300 million fundraising goal the university also announced today. The “What It Takes” campaign for Montana State seeks to raise funds for a wide range of student support from scholarships to tutoring, mentoring, internships and other programs; to funds to help the university recruit and retain the best faculty to teach its students; and funds for facility improvements.  

“Thanks to our generous donors, we have had incredible assistance with addressing our growth, but we are still in need of more classroom and academic support space for our students,” Cruzado said. “We are hopeful that the Montana Legislature will join as a partner in providing a quality campus for our students.” 

For the past four years, the university has sought funds from the Montana Legislature for the renovation of Romney Hall for classrooms, writing and math learning centers and expanded veterans’ and disability service centers.  Currently, the building is partially unusable and nearly completely non-compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.    

Contact: Tracy Ellig, executive director, University Communications, (406) 994-5607 or tellig@montana.edu