MISSOULA, Mont. -

University of Montana administrators worry fewer students could lead to millions in budget cuts.

NBC Montana asked the university for minutes from athletic department head meetings.

We dug through them and found in March, then Athletic Director Jim O'Day gave a report to his staffers from the President's Cabinet Meeting.

That report showed enrollment for spring semester is down from a year ago which "creates some financial concerns."

Montana State University on the other hand saw an increase in enrollment numbers for spring.

It's all about the numbers, or it can be when it comes to state funding for campuses in the Montana University System. Money allocated by the state legislature is distributed based on enrollment numbers; more students means more money.

Montana University System administrators say from fiscal year 2009 to fiscal year 2011 enrollment numbers increased at colleges and universities across the state, and the University of Montana was at the top of that list.

But a report from the President's Cabinet meeting in March indicates that's not the case anymore. Spring session numbers at UM are down 5% from last year and a little less than half of that is Montana resident students.

The Board of Regents said that UM isn't alone.

?We've are seeing a slightly downward tick at the majority of campuses this year,? said Associate Commissioner of Higher Education Kevin McRae

But MSU was not one of them. That school reports an increase of more than 3% for spring semester.

?When they come here they're going to stay here and they're going to get that degree,? said MSU Spokesperson Tracy Ellig.

McRae says the decrease at UM and other campuses was anticipated, and it's due to the economy. ?As the economy starts to recover we start to anticipate that a lot of people opt to enter the work force instead of enrolling.?

While potential students might be more interested in earning money without a degree, the universities need those people to enroll. The Cabinet Meeting minutes call it "critical that fall enrollment shift back in UM's direction or there would be a significant change" in millions of dollars of funding.

But McRae says it's still too soon to tell and there's no reason for alarm just yet.

?It's hard to draw concrete conclusions or predictions, but what we're seeing is not out of line with what we had expected,? he said.

University officials say they can't predict the numbers for fall semester just yet. They won't have any figures until close to the middle of September.