Summer enrollment up at local colleges
Enrollment numbers for summer classes are up from this time last year, officials from Montana State University-Northern and Stone Child College say.
Stone Child has experienced the most dramatic increase. So far 250 people have enrolled for summer classes that begin June 9, Stone Child registrar Shelley Viall said Monday. That is an increase of about 100 students over last summer, she said.
Viall attributed the increase to the college's new campus, its open-door policy, stronger agreements between Stone Child and four-year institutions that allow students to transfer from Stone Child to other programs, and greater public awareness of the college's accreditation.
"Our enrollment has been growing steadily over the past three years," she said.
Viall said she did not know how the increase would affect the college financially.
MSU-N registrar Steve Jamruszka said the number of full-time equivalent students registered for the summer sessions at the university this year was about 370 as of Friday, an increase of 10 to 15 students from May 31 last year.
"I expect that the summer session should at least meet last year's levels, and if trends continue we should see a small increase," Jamruszka said. He said that would be in line with increases over the last two summers as a result of the introduction of three new programs in 2001, including the bachelor of science and nursing degree.
Jamruszka said he did not foresee an enrollment decline this summer as a result of widely publicized student criticism of Northern's nursing program last week, although he conceded there would be a smaller pool of summer nursing students because of the unusually high failure rate this year. Nineteen of 49 students failed to graduate from the two-year program.
The Board of Regents has ordered an investigation of the students' complaints.
He estimated that about half of the students taking summer courses every year are education students and about one-fourth of them are nursing students.
The number of preregistered students so far seems to bear out Jamruszka's prediction, but he cautioned that not all of the preregistered students may end up taking classes.
"Whether they turn into a paid student is a whole different thing," he said.
About 70 more students must register by July 15 - the beginning of the second summer session - if the school is to match last year's total of 445 full-time equivalent students last summer.
Full-time equivalent students are undergraduate students taking 12 credits and graduate students taking 15 credits.
If the numbers continue, it could mean more money for university programs, Jamruszka said, because the extra students are not registering for the most expensive programs.
"That's going to help the institution," as long as the increase holds, Jamruszka said. He said it is still too early to know for sure, especially after the Board of Regents approved three new fees on Thursday, which will go on top of the $138-per-semester tuition surcharge that began last fall and expires at the end of this summer.
The fees approved were a $45 fee to help replace computers and electronic infrastructure, a $36 academic facilities fee, and a $10 library fee.
Janice Brady, director of the Extended University department that runs the summer session, said students who are preregistered for classes this summer will be receiving their registration confirmations - including tuition amounts - by mail this week, and that could influence their decisions.
"When students get letters with tuition (amounts), this year's increase may have an effect," she said.
Jamruszka said the increase from last summer would probably be about $200.
"We're all watching this next week here real close," he said.
MSU-N controller Carrie Molitor said she did not expect the new fees to have an effect on enrollment.
"When you're looking at a bill of $1,700, $90 isn't that big of an increase," Molitor said.
She said total costs for a full-time student this summer will be about $1,750, which includes all fees and surcharges. The total for spring was $1,661.
In the fall the tuition surcharge will be removed, but that decrease will be offset by a 12 percent increase approved by the Board of Regents on Thursday, Molitor said. The change in tuition will be negligible: $6.50 less per semester for full-time lower division students, and about $27 more per semester for full-time upper division students, she said.
With the additional fees, Molitor said, students will pay an average of 5.7 percent more next year.
The increase may not mean lower enrollment next year, Jamruszka said, but it could eventually if the increases continue.
"There's going to be a point where it's going to drive people off," he said.
MSU-N statistician Matt DeLong said total enrollment this spring was down about 50 students to 1,491, a decline he said is not very significant, and falls in line with regular fluctuations in enrollment.
Stone Child's tuition will stay the same this year at about $620 per six-credit semester, Viall said.