Montana State University recently got a nice feather in its cap when it was revealed that the school is attracting more of the best and brightest state high school grads - by quite wide margin.

Of the very few students who scored 30 or more out of a possible 36 on the ACT college entrance test, 99 enrolled in MSU, more than the number who chose to attend all the other state school combined.

Of the four who scored a perfect 36, two chose MSU, while the other two - along with the majority of 30-plus scoring students - apparently got better offers out of state.

Another indication that the smart kids prefer MSU is the fact that, of the 200 scholarships the Montana University System awarded statewide, 122 chose MSU, more than the rest of the state schools combined and more than twice as many as the 57 who chose to enroll in MSU's archrival school, the University of Montana in Missoula.

Add to that the fact that applications to MSU's Honors Program is up to 312 this year, a sharp increase from last year's record 238. And all these numbers represent continuations of trends that have been established for years.

Public institutions of higher learning can be big bureaucracies that lose sight of their core goal of student academic success. MSU administrators are to be congratulated for maintaining a reputation of academic excellence that consistently attracts the best of Montana high school grads.

At most institutions of higher learning - including that rival school west of the divide - the hot debate tends about the balance between sports and academics. At MSU, however, the most heated discussions revolve around the balance between research and education resources.

That debate is a legitimate one and will not be settled anytime soon. But these latest numbers are evidence that the MSU must have at least some of its priorities straight.




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