MISSOULA, Mont. - University of Montana President Royce Engstrom addressed the community Friday, about the upcoming school year.
Engstrom's speech was optimistic, though he acknowledged what he said is the biggest challenge -- enrollment.
"Right now over the course of the next several weeks that will be one of the key things that we're keeping our eye on," Engstrom said in a press conference after the address.
"There always is some uncertainty with respect to enrollment figures. The last few years have had a greater uncertainty associated them perhaps than we're used to."
That's because both 2010 and 2011 were record setting years while last year's enrollment was down. In 2010, 15,642 students enrolled for fall semester, the highest ever. 2011 topped that with 15,669 students. But for 2012 numbers were down about 700 students.
UM officials said a variety of things could have played into the decrease, including investigations into how UM handled sexual assault, the economy, financial aid packages available to students, and competition from other colleges and universities.
2013 numbers are still up in the air. An official count won't be released until mid to late September.
"We'll just have to wait and see what the final numbers look like," Engstrom said.
But that hasn't stopped the University from coming up with a plan. They've hired Ruffalo Cody, a company that specializes in enrollment management.
UM is shelling out close to $700,000 to attract more students to campus. The goal of the plan is to focus on potential students who are in high school. Part of that includes contacting them earlier and more frequently to get more interest in UM and ultimately more applicants.
"Most institutions have made investments in recruiting, advertising and marketing and so on," said Engstrom. "We need to make those same kinds of investments. Other states around us are increasingly looking to recruit our students to their states. So we have to invest more heavily in our recruiting efforts and we're doing exactly that."