Montana State University

Montanans choose Montana State University in record numbers

September 23, 2016 -- From MSU News Service

Montana State University students collaborate in a classroom on the MSU campus. MSU photo by Kelly Gorham.

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Tel: (406) 994-4571

BOZEMAN – Montana residents have enrolled in Montana State University in record-high numbers this fall, helping the university to a new enrollment record of 16,440 students.

The number of Montana residents, both entering as freshmen and across all classes, is the highest in the university’s 123-year history, with 1,784 Montanans entering as freshmen and 10,122 Montanans attending overall.

“To have more Montanans come to MSU is not easy given that the number of high school students graduating each year has been fairly flat due to the state’s demographics,” said MSU President Waded Cruzado. “Those same demographics may make this a high water mark for the number of Montana high school students entering as freshmen.”

Students come from all 56 of Montana’s counties, with the highest number of students from Gallatin County, with 2,381.

With this fall’s enrollment, MSU has set an enrollment record in 12 out of the last 14 years, with continuous enrollment growth since 2008.

Additionally, MSU is attracting Montanan’s best and brightest students in record numbers. This year, 71 percent – or 144 out of 203 – of all Montana high school seniors who received the Montana University System honors scholarship chose to enroll at MSU. Last fall, 66 percent of all the scholarship recipients chose MSU. The scholarship gives students a full tuition waiver to the Montana college or university of their choice.

The test scores of the university’s overall entering freshman class are among the highest in the past 27 years of record keeping. The average high school grade point average is 3.47, a record. The average ACT score is 25.3, which is among the highest on record.

“Pairing enrollment growth with record-setting academic quality in our freshman class is a very difficult thing to accomplish and it is totally a credit to our dedicated faculty,” Cruzado said. “Word is out that MSU’s faculty provide a superb education and the best and brightest students are beating a path to our door.”

Cruzado pointed out university advances in several key areas.


This fall's enrollment is also the most diverse, with record numbers of students identifying as American Indian, African American, Asian, Native Hawaiian, and Hispanic, as well as an increase in international students. Montana State has a record 650 American Indian students enrolled, an increase of 12 percent.


To address its growth, MSU has made significant investments in faculty and infrastructure. Since 2012, MSU has increased annual base expenditures on faculty salaries by $11.6 million and has invested $51.7 million in one-time investments for the recruitment, retention and advancement of faculty.  This emphasis has enriched MSU’s research enterprise as well as instruction, evidenced by record level research expenditures of $118 million this last year.

In terms of investments in infrastructure, this fall MSU opened the $35 million, 440-bed Yellowstone Residence Hall. The project contains no state taxpayer dollars and is funded with student housing fees. In 2013, MSU opened the 72-bed, Gallatin Residence Hall, also funded with student housing fees.  In all, MSU’s Residence Life accommodated 945 more students this fall than in 2011.

Thanks to a $25 million donation from MSU alumnus Jake Jabs, the university opened Jabs Hall in 2015, the new home of the Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship. And this week, MSU broke ground on Norm Asbjornson Hall, made possible by a $50 million donation from MSU alumnus Norm Asbjornson and an additional $20 million in matching funds from hundreds of donors. The building will be home to MSU’s College of Engineering and Honors College.

MSU is still in need of classroom space for its students and will seek, for the third consecutive time in six years, $28 million from the Montana Legislature for the renovation of Romney Hall, a 1922 building in the heart of campus that is largely unusable or only marginally usable. The university plans to convert the building into classrooms, a math and writing center, and a veterans’ center.  

“MSU attracts students from every corner of Montana and Romney Hall is a state-wide investment that will benefit the entire state,” Cruzado said.


Cruzado said this fall’s data shows another remarkable increase: The number of entering freshmen taking 15 or more credits has reached 70 percent, a whopping 20 percent more since the fall of 2011. After the fall of 2011, Cruzado launched a marketing campaign to encourage students to take 15 or more credits per semester. Playing off the weight freshman sometimes gain when they come to college, the “Freshman 15” campaign urged students to add academic weight as well.

In Montana, there is no added tuition cost for any course credit beyond the first 12. Students can save thousands, to tens of thousands, of dollars over their college career by taking 15 or more credits per semester.

“When students take 15 or more credits per semester, they are on track to graduate in four years. Shortening the time to graduation to four years dramatically reduces the cost of education and the amount of debt a student and their family may have,” Cruzado said. “There is also some indication that students who take more credits are also more likely to stay in college and complete their degrees.”

MSU’s “Freshman 15” program is currently one of five national finalists for the 2016 Project Degree Completion Award, which recognizes institutions that employ innovative approaches to help more students stay in school and complete their degrees.

The award is a joint initiative that the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, or APLU, and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities developed in which nearly 500 public colleges and universities have pledged to collectively award 3.8 million more degrees by 2025.

“We take the cost of education very seriously and are doing some of the most innovative work in the country to help keep a high quality college education affordable for students and their families,” Cruzado said.

Last fall, MSU captured national attention when Brendan Greeley, a senior correspondent at Bloomberg News, highlighted the MSU “Know Your Debt” program to make students more aware of their debt load and what they need to do to keep expenses under control. His segment on the MSU program aired nationally on the Bloomberg Markets show.

Greeley detailed the MSU “Know Your Debt” program, where a letter is sent to MSU students who have higher than average debt levels. The letter notifies students of the amount of their current student loan debt and notifies them that in order to receive more loans, they will have to pass 67 percent of their classes. The letter also tells students that at MSU, any credit load above 12 credits are tuition free.

Greeley highlighted research by MSU economics professors Christiana Stoddard and Carly Urban and an economist with the Federal Reserve Board that found that students receiving “Know Your Debt” letters reduced their debt loads in the subsequent semester by about 1/3 or ($1,360), took more credits, and had higher GPAs in the subsequent semester.

“At MSU, we want to open our doors to as many students as possible who seek to better their lives through education while also doing everything in our power to keep that education as affordable as possible,” Cruzado said.

Contact: Tracy Ellig, or 406-994-5607

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