The student population is growing, but few know the numbers behind it. Montana State University’s fall 2019 census report shows strong enrollment rates and all-time-high graduation rates. The new numbers are record worthy for MSU. 

According to the census report, MSU boasts a total of 16,766 students. This year’s number is the second highest in university history, landing shy of the 2018 enrollment number of 16,902 students. Retention rates at MSU are also remaining high this year. The rate of first year students who returned to MSU for a second year is roughly 76.5 percent. This is one of the highest rates seen in decades.

In addition to higher enrollment rates, graduation rates also increased. Bobcats are graduating in a shorter time span than any time before in the university’s history. The four-year graduation rate has increased from 19.6 percent in 2012 to 29.7 percent in 2019. Additionally, the five-year graduation rate has increased from 41.5 percent in 2012 to 50.4 percent currently. The six-year graduation rate has also shown an increase from 2012 to 2019, from 48.9 percent to 56.1 percent. These rates are the highest ever seen at MSU.

MSU also set a new record of how many students graduated in the past academic year. Last year, a total of 3,362 students graduated from MSU, a 4 percent increase from the year prior. The university has seen a 17 percent total increase in graduates since 2014. 

The increase in quicker graduation rates are great for the university but also impact the total enrollment. With more students graduating and leaving the university, the enrollment numbers decrease. The larger graduating class of the past year is directly responsible for the slightly lower enrollment numbers for 2019. 

The increase in four and five-year graduation rates can be attributed to the Freshman 15 program. Launched in 2011, the program encourages students to take 15 credits per semester in order to stay on track for graduation in four years. The program also allows students to take 15 credits while only paying tuition for twelve. A four-year graduation helps students save money on tuition and room and board while also giving students the opportunity to join the workforce earlier. 

Since the implementation of the Freshman 15 program, the number of freshmen enrolled in 15 or more credits has increased from 50 percent to a record 78 percent. Of all undergraduate students, 60 percent are currently taking 15 or more credits. The median student credit load is at an all-time high of 16 credits per semester.

The census records show that the 2019 freshman class has set academic records for the university. The average ACT score of the Class of 2023 is a lofty 25 while the SAT score of 1,234 and high school GPA of 3.57 are the highest ever seen at MSU. 

Additionally, 143 freshmen have been awarded the Montana University System Honor Scholarship, which pays for four years of tuition at any public Montana university. The amount of students awarded with the prestigious scholarship and who are enrolled at MSU versus the University of Montana stands at 72 percent. MSU also welcomed eight National Merit Scholarship finalists this fall. 

Of the total enrolled students this year, 9,911 are from Montana. The in-state student population makes up 59 percent of the student body. The out-of-state totals are as follows: Washington (1,285), California (1,111), Colorado (1,083), Minnesota (518), Oregon (401) and Idaho (388).

As campus fills with more Bobcats, the world becomes a better place. 

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