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Montana State University reported its largest incoming class this fall, with 3,871 freshman undergraduates.

The university’s full student enrollment — which includes undergraduates, graduates and Gallatin College MSU students — was at its second highest with 16,841 students, a 4% increase from last fall.

The previous freshman enrollment record was set in 2016 at 3,459 students. The university’s all-time student enrollment record was 16,902 set in 2018.

“We know the power of higher education to transform lives, and the fact that so many students and their families trust MSU to help them toward their futures is a humbling reminder of our mission,” said MSU President Waded Cruzado in a news release.

Out of state students — which both MSU and the university system rely heavily on — continued to be a large portion of enrollment. Forty-seven percent of MSU’s 16,841 students are nonresident students while 64% of the freshman undergraduates were nonresident students.

Both overall undergraduate and graduate enrollment increased from last year. Undergraduate students were at 14,668 — a 3% bump from last year. Graduate students increased by 8% last year to 2,173 students — a new record for the university.

There were 740 first-year graduate students at the fall enrollment count, which is taken on the 15th day of classes. Increasing graduate enrollment is one of the goals identified in the university’s strategic plan.

“This record shows that more students seeking advanced degrees are recognizing the cutting-edge opportunities for research and creative activities available at MSU,” Dean of the Graduate School Craig Ogilvie said in the news release.

Out of the freshman undergraduate enrollment, there were 181 degree- or certificate-seeking Gallatin College students.

Gallatin College’s career and technical workforce programs and associate programs have high demand. Six of the programs are at full enrollment — the associate of arts/associate of science program, interior design, small business management, drafting, IT networking and phlebotomy.

Five programs also have waitlists: aviation, culinary arts, welding, medical assisting and CNC machining.

MSU’s Jake Jabs College of Business reported one of the strongest enrollments with an increase of 15%, while the College of Nursing was up 10% and the College of Arts and Architecture was up 5%.

The university also reported year-to-year growth across its race and ethnicity self-identifications. MSU set records with American Indian/Alaska Native student enrollment at 811, African American enrollment at 273, Asian student enrollment at 674 and Hispanic/Latino enrollment at 876.

The enrollment numbers reflect the early estimates from the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education, which earlier this month said enrollment for the university system as a whole looked up.

In the news release, Cruzado said the enrollment was a sign of the importance of in-person learning.

“I think this is evidence of students and their families seeing the enormous benefit of an in-person education,” Cruzado said.

This story has been updated to correct the number of American Indian/Alaska Native students enrolled.

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Liz Weber can be reached at or 582-2633.

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