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Fall enrollment stable at Northern

Despite a larger-than-usual graduating class last year, the preliminary enrollment figures for Montana State University-Northern show the student population staying about the same as last year.

Registrar Steve Jamruszka said Northern graduated 425 students in the last academic year, compared with 371 in the 2001-2002 year. But a combination of increases in the freshman class, transfers and returning students has offset that.

"It appears at this point to be close to even to last year," he said.

The preliminary figures show about 1,525 people enrolled as full- or part-time students, compared with 1,531 last year, he said.

The numbers will not be finalized until next week, but Jamruszka said he doesn't expect any major change.

Chancellor Alex Capdeville could not be reached for comment this morning.

Bill Lanier, director of student life at Northern, said the number of students in the university's residence halls is up, but not because of new students on campus. More students have returned to the dorms than usual, continuing a trend of more students living on campus for the last three years, he said.

"We have pretty much all the rooms filled, but for bed spaces we could go with more," he said.

The halls have 190 students this fall, up 24 from last fall and up 50 from last spring.

The residence halls can hold up to 260 students.

The university offers private rooms at a higher charge, Lanier said, with priority given to students returning to the residence halls.

Lanier credits upgrading MacKenzie Hall for some of the higher return. The university wired the hall last year, offering phone service, Internet service and cable television to the students. The hall did not offer those amenities before.

Lanier said he plans to eventually have Morgan Hall wired too, although he doesn't know when that will be.

Another reason for the residence hall increase is coach David Ray's recruitment for the wrestling team, Lanier said. More wrestlers seem to stay in the halls than students in any other sport.

Jamruszka said the specific reason the student count stayed up, whether it's more freshmen, more transfers, or higher retention, hasn't been determined. The final counts will be sent to the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education from all of Montana's campuses next week, and it may be clearer by then, he said.

The univerity has aggresively marketed itself to Montana students over the past three years, including taking faculty and staff on trips in the spring to visit Montana high schools and attract their students.

Capdeville has said the key to recruiting students includes improving campus life, citing projects like wiring the dorms.

Jamruszka said Northern can now offer spaces in some education programs at reduced tuition rates for students, including Canadians, which may show results in the future.

The program was approved last spring, so it may be too early to judge its effect, Jamruszka said. The enrollment at this point does show a slight increase in Canadian students, he said.


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