The Montana Board of Regents approved a $1.8 billion operating budget for the Montana University System’s fiscal year 2023 at a meeting on Thursday.
The 10% overall increase was largely driven by increases in state appropriated funds, financial aid, inflation, expenditures as well as tuition revenue gains.
“A lot of that comes from a nonresident (student) increase and to be frank, a nonresident increase at Montana State University,” said Tyler Trevor, deputy commissioner for budget and planning. “What’s different this year than other years is the University of Montana is also increasing and so we’re seeing more of a compounded effect.”
Last fall, UM saw a 3% increase to its total enrollment from fall 2020, bringing it to 10,106 students. It was the first time overall enrollment grew at the university in a decade. Enrollment data for fall 2022 has not been released yet.
Overall enrollment at MSU this semester dipped slightly from fall 2021, according to reporting from the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. However, the university is reporting its second largest freshman class. Its total enrollment this fall is 16,688 students.
The increase in tuition revenue is projected to total $21 million due to tuition increases and enrollment growth, causing 8% growth in the MUS’ current unrestricted budget.
Nonresident tuition revenue is projected to be up by 15% this fiscal year. However the MUS is anticipating a 3.5% decline in students attending college in Montana through the Western Undergraduate Exchange program.
The Western Undergraduate Exchange program, also known as WUE, is a regional tuition savings agreement administered by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education. Through the program, students can attend universities in participating states for 150% of the campuses’ resident rate.
Todd Buchanan wondered if the WUE tuition in Montana is meeting the cost to educate those students as the MUS does not receive full-time-equivalent financial aid from the state to support them.
“It is not the model to pursue to increase our net tuition revenue, however it’s a compact that we’re in and there’s obligations associated with it,” Trevor said, adding that the MUS “peaked a year ago” with WUE participation in Montana.
Shauna Lyons, director of accounting and budget for the MUS, noted that some campuses in Montana are capping WUE opportunities to mitigate that issue, but are still offering discounted tuition to continue to attract out-of-state students.
“The reason that the net tuition revenue is so high is that we’re doing such a great job of recruiting nonresident students in this state, so it’s a feather in our cap,” Trevor said.
Of the MUS’ total budget, UM will receive $137.2 million for its total operating budget, which is about a 3% increase from the previous year. MSU in Bozeman will operate on a $255.2 million budget, an increase of 11% from the previous year.
Regents also voted to recognize Emma B. Lommasson’s impact on UM with a posthumous honorary doctorate of humane letters, which will be presented in December at fall commencement.
Lommasson spent 58 years at the university as a student, teacher, staff member and registrar. During her time at UM she met all but the first four of the university’s 19 presidents. She died in 2019 at age 107.
From Sand Coulee, Lommasson started at UM in 1929 and earned an undergraduate math degree with a minor in chemistry. She returned to the university and earned a master’s degree in education in 1939 and later began working at the university.
“Emma had a legendary career at the University of Montana, with an incredibly positive impact on generations of students,” UM President Seth Bodnar said. “There are so many stories about her grace and kindness, and her memory is an inspiration for us all. We couldn’t be more proud to present this icon with an honorary doctorate.”