MSU Wild

Montana State University students hang out in the grass on campus Oct. 4.

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The Montana University System saw increased applications in its inaugural year of its central application, which was free to state residents.

Staff from the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education presented an update on the central application and the Apply Montana portal during a joint session of the Board of Regents and the Legislature’s Education Interim Committee on Friday.

The Apply Montana central application — launched in September 2020 — is free for Montana residents to apply for all university system campuses through one application instead of completing individual, college-specific ones.

The university system saw a 29% increase in 2020-2021 applications from in-state students, said Scott Lemmon, director of admissions and enrollment strategy with the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education, on Friday.

Including out-of-state student applications, the university system saw a 39% increase in 2020-2021 applications.

Nonresidents are also able to apply through the central application portal, with a fee of $30 per campus. Residents can apply to as many campuses as they like for free.

The waived application fee has saved Montana families more than $500,000 to date, Lemmon said.

The university system also recorded matriculation rates — students who enroll in a college — increased by 4% through Apply Montana.

The central application was part of a larger push to create an accessible portal for all MUS students, allowing applicants to compare tuition costs and explore different programs.

The central application and Apply Montana portal are designed to increase the number of Montana residents enrolling in post-secondary education. Lemmon said roughly 40% of Montana’s high school graduates don’t go on to further education.

The university system has previously said it’s hopeful the central application and student portal will make campuses more accessible to students in the state.

The portal acts as a “one-stop shop,” Lemmon said, adding it also lets students explore different career pathways and provides centralized information for families and guidance counselors.

“A lot of students need information on what programs will get them to a career track they’re interested in,” he said.

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Liz Weber can be reached at lweber@dailychronicle.com or 582-2633.

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