By TIM STOVER and MICHELLE BURGER/Montana State News
The University of Montana student population has been on the decline since the 2011-2012 academic year.
The student population was 15,669 including both undergraduate and graduate as of 2012. However, graduate student population hasn’t suffered in the same way that undergraduate population has.
The graduate student population has fluctuated about 5 percent whereas the undergraduate student population has lost almost 20 percent to date. This 20 percent loss comes from losing roughly 3,000 students from the 2011-2012 academic year to the most recently reported 2015-2016 years.
During the same time period , MSU has grown a total of 12 percent, in undergraduate population. The graduate population at MSU has stayed around a 1 percent margin within the same time period.
Why has the undergraduate program at of U of M declined so much when compared to their counterparts at MSU?
According to Colleges Startclass, U of M has 40 more majors than MSU, with 115 and 75 respectively. At U of M, it includes three degrees of “academic distinction”: creative writing, organismal biology, ecology and evolution and wildlife biology, while MSU has “filmmaking, graphic design, equine science, business and engineering, to name a few.”
Both universities have a mix artistic and scientific programs that could potentially entice people into the university.
Accordingly, the cost to attend MSU for in state students is substantially greater than the cost to attend U of M, yet enrollment increases for MSU.
The question still stands as to why would in state-students choose MSU over U of M?
To get into the finer details about MSU and U of M, MSU is harder to get into with an 82 percent acceptance rate, U of M maintains a 93 percent acceptance rate.
A major draw for MSU students is that on a median level they make about $8,000 more yearly than their counterparts who graduate from U of M, according to Colleges Startclass. Graduates from MSU earn, on the median, $48,000 yearly while U of M graduates earn about $36,000 a year.
While U of M is cheaper, easier to get into and has more options for study, many students are choosing MSU over U of M. An advantage MSU does have over U of M is a book, written by Massachusetts native Jon Krakauer about negative events occurring at U of M.
In 2015 Jon Krakauer wrote and released a book entitled “Montana: Rape and the Justice System in College Town” about the University of Montana regarding rape allegations from the city and university from 2008 to 2012.
From that point on, many questions arose after the book by Krakauer.
Krakauer’s book wasn’t the first draw of national media attention to the controversy in Missoula. Huffington Post wrote six articles about the rape allegations taking place at the U of M in 2012 alone.
The first article, posted in May of 2012, two days after the Justice Department announced its intention to investigate the university upon the allegations made.
Subsequently, the university population declined the following year and has been on the decline since.
Huffington Post wasn’t the only media attention to come from the rape allegations and Justice Department’s announcement. The New York Times wrote an article “Montana Football Team at Center of Inquiry into Sexual Assaults” three weeks after the Justice Department’s announcement.
The media attention surrounding this topic didn’t stop in 2012. It continued through 2016.
The negative media attention didn’t stop at the national level either. The Daily Mail, which is based in the United Kingdom, also ran stories about the university.
According to U of M’s website and their timeline of discrimination and harassment prevention efforts, there were only 14 “prevention efforts” reports from 1972 to 2010. Starting in 2011 the listed efforts rose to three in a year. 2012 had seven items on the list.
Even after all the reports, it wasn’t until December of 2013 that the University of Montana hired a sexual assault prevention coordinator.
As a result of the loss of students from academic year 2011 onward, then President Royce Engstrom said in November 2015 that the university had to cut 201 jobs in order to hit their budget constraints for academic years 2016 and 2017.
Certainly the decreasing student numbers can’t all be attributed to the sexual assault and the media frenzy surrounding the events, but it all can’t be coincidental.