GREAT FALLS — The decline in college enrollment is spreading throughout the country. A report released by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center (NSCRC) showed that total postsecondary enrollment for both undergraduate and graduate students decreased by 4.1% in spring 2022 compared to spring 2021.
MTN checked in with the University of Providence and Great Falls College-MSU to see how enrollment has been since the start of the academic year. While we were unable to get official numbers from both colleges, they said they are pleased with how enrollment has gone overall.
For University of Providence, VP for Enrollment Management, Mackenzie Stick said it's dependent on the programs.
Stick said, "Our School of Liberal Arts and Sciences had a pretty big increase last year, about a six percent increase year-over-year, and this year, we're finding that same trend continue, so I would say enrollment has been pretty stable.
She added that in the School of Health Professions, there has been some obstacles, many of them stemming from online learning.
"Many of those programs are all online and designed for working professionals," Stick said. "That poses a different unique set of challenges because these folks are already caregivers. They're trying to juggle work, family, and basically adding school on top of that makes everything a challenge. We're starting to see a pinch there, but we're starting to see glimmers of hope of interest and those programs are certainly doing better than they were, and we hope that by next year, they are going to be back to where they should be."
Ever since the Covid pandemic, virtual learning has become the norm for many institutions, but that's not the case for University of Providence.
Stick said that for the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the ratio of those taking courses on campus is 81 to 19 percent online.
"We're starting to see actually a lot more energy here on campus," Stick said. "Students are wanting to partake in that full-campus experience again.
When asked about what to expect long-term, Stick said "We have a lot of energy on campus. We're developing new programs, we're working on creating new community partnerships and working with the Chamber in terms of what we can do to help workforce needs here in the Great Falls area, so I think we're going to get better in terms of enrollment.
When speaking with Great Falls College-MSU, they said they have also noticed a pattern in more people resorting to the on-campus experience.
"About 70 percent of our students take a variety of modalities. We have everything from face-to-face, to online, to blended courses, meaning a little bit of online and face-to-face ... Strictly online students, there's about 42 percent of our students that are doing that and 18 percent of our students are face-to-face only. So, we got a lot of students that want to be here in-person, and we've seen an uptick in our classrooms showing that. I think they're ready for that face-to-face connection following the pandemic, and we're excited to have a lot of opportunities to serve them.
Great Falls College-MSU said they’ve noticed a dramatic increase in their dental hygiene program as well as their respiratory therapy and practical nursing program. The 2-year Public Institution is currently at 973 students, in what they say is a slight increase from last year.
Great Falls College-MSU Dean Stephanie Erdmann said, "It's exciting to see after several years of declining enrollments, there's an actual uptick. While the final numbers aren't in yet, and won't be until after our second 8 weeks, we are expecting enrollments to be increased by three and five percent this year."
When speaking with both institutions, both said while it may be too early to tell, they are both pleased with how enrollment has been so far, and they are expecting to continue this uptrend based on the resources and opportunity offered to students as well as collaboration amongst community members across Great Falls.
Tuition and Fees (not including room & board and book & supplies):
- University of Providence - $27,256
- Great Falls College-MSU - $3,532
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