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UM Western sees enrollment spike with new strategy

By Donovan Hill, KTVM Reporter, dhill@ktvm.com
Published On: Mar 28 2013 06:00:45 PM MDT
Updated On: Mar 28 2013 06:30:12 PM MDT

Officials with U.M. Western tell NBC Montana that they credit their unique scheduling system for helping the school see a 32 percent increase in freshman enrollment alone.

DILLON, Mont. -

In Dillon, the University of Montana Western is experiencing a booming enrollment. This semester there are nearly 1,500 students on campus.

Officials with UM Western tell NBC Montana that they credit their unique scheduling system for helping the school see a 32-percent increase in freshman enrollment alone.

“My brother goes here and he told me about the block system and how much he loved it,” said Melody McCloud, a freshman.

Block scheduling puts students in one class for three weeks at a time. After those three weeks the students take their final and then move on to the next class.

McCloud tells us it's better than having to juggle five to seven classes over a semester.

“That’s how I learn, by focusing on one thing at a time,” added McCloud.

NBC Montana sat down with officials from UM Western to learn just what kind of enrollment they are seeing.

Officials also confirmed that because of the switch they've seen a near 100-percent increase in attendance, but they added it was quite the risk.

“Student success has gone up, student retention has gone up, attendance is almost 100 percent,” said Director of Enrollment Services Catherine Redhead.

But the scheduling switch is not for everyone.

“If you are going to one class everyday for three weeks, missing one day can be very detrimental and it doesn't just affect you as the learner it affects your classmates,” added Redhead.

But word of the block schedule is spreading -- freshman Connor Woodill told NBC Montana what his friends at other universities thought of his schedule.

"In the regular university system you've still got four or five classes you would have to take at one time, and balancing all of those finals gets kind of tough so it's definitely nice to only have to deal with one. They definitely feel a little envious," said Woodill.

University of Montana Western gained recognition last year as one of U.S. News' best regional colleges in the west. The report cited the school's nearly "three-quarter freshman retention rate" and its "17-to-one student-professor ratio."