(Missoula Current) After a streak of declining enrollment, the University of Montana for the second year announced a growth in first-year students, marking the largest incoming class in six years.

It also saw its retention rate climb.

University officials on Monday said more than 1,351 first-year students enrolled this year, marking a 6% increase over last year's figures. Another 74 first-year students came to the university with some college credit.

This year's incoming class stands at 1,425 students.

“UM continues to show a strong enrollment trajectory,” UM President Seth Bodnar said in a statement. “With the number of first-year students increasing, the improved retention rate among our students since 2018 and continued growth on our main campus, UM is now firmly in a cycle of growth.”

Monday's figures mark the second consecutive year of growth among the incoming class. Bodner said the results have placed the university on a strong path forward and places several years where enrollment fell in the distant past.

The school's total student headcount stands just shy of 10,000 students – a figure that has boosted the school's financial picture. Fall tuition revenue stands at nearly $40 million, a lofty 12.4% increase over last year.

“UM is on sound financial footing,” said Paul Lasiter, the university's vice president for operations and finance. “We are well positioned to continue making critical investments in our students and our campus infrastructure for years to come.”

Despit the positive figures, the university noted a decline in the number of graduate students in the school's professional programs. Among them, the Physical Therapy partnership program lost 143 students.

Reed Humphrey, the dean of the College of Health, said the decline is a natural process.

“As the pool of physical therapists wishing to bridge to a doctoral degree naturally declines, the number of enrolled students in this program was expected to decrease,” Humphrey said. “Through the same academic partnership, UM is expanding its international reach and also launched this fall a similar bridge curriculum for occupational therapists. This expansion is expected to grow enrollment in the years ahead.”

Overall, the student retention rate this semester held steady at 74%, suggesting that most students continued to their second year at UM. Other highlights from the fall 2022 enrollment census at the UM main campus include:

  • 710 first-year Montana students, an 8.4% increase over 2021.
  • 610 Native American students, a 2.2% increase over 2021. This growth builds on the 23% Native American student growth at UM from 2018 to 2021.
  • 279 student veterans, a 6.5% increase over 2021.
  • 250 law school students, a 1.6% increase over 2021.
  • 192 early admit and dual-enrollment students, a 35% increase over 2021.