Is UM Enrollment the Problem, or a Symptom?
Royce Engstrom, president of the University of Montana, seems to be employing the following strategy: if you don’t talk about it, maybe it will just go away.
I’m talking of course about the “enrollment problem” Royce Engstrom is desperately trying to message for the regents:
UM saw its enrollment peak in 2011 at 15,669 students, and has steadily decreased by an estimated 1,100 students over the past two years, carrying broad implications for the school’s budget.
At the same time, Montana State University expects its enrollment numbers to top 15,000 for the first time in school history, marking a 21 percent increase since 2010.
The decline anticipated this year at UM pertains only to the Missoula campus, Engstrom noted. The other three UM-affiliated schools remain on track with past enrollment figures.
Engstrom named a variety of factors for the recent decline, including the economy, competition from other schools – both in state and out – and changing demographics in Montana.
“The enrollment decline we’re experiencing at UM is in the resident undergraduate population,” he said. “The enrollment picture is the thing that keeps me awake at night. We have five key actions we’re putting into motion to address enrollment, and resident undergraduates are the target.”
No doubt there are multiple factors in declining enrollment, but the one factor you won’t find mentioned in this article (which is surprising) is the rape scandal that UM couldn’t PR itself out of two years ago, triggering a trifecta of investigations.
From the beginning of his tenure, there have been critics. Engstrom is receiving a very generous salary with benefits because, we were told two years ago, that’s what is required to attract quality candidates:
The compensation package approved by the regents mirrored that of Montana State University President Waded Cruzado, who was hired a year ago. Engstrom’s annual salary will be $280,000.
In addition, he will receive a $500,000 deferred compensation package, which has never been offered before at UM.
The Montana University System was forced to get creative in terms of compensation for university presidents to attract high-quality candidates, said Kevin McRae, associate commissioner for communications and human resources.
Will UM finally pause its endless construction if it’s clear the university’s leadership can’t seduce more students to pay the always-increasing tuition and fees for their “higher” education?
And how long will Engstrom be allowed to lead the University? Obviously, the problems that blew up in Engstrom’s face were simmering long before he was hired. But that’s the (nicely compensated) job Engstrom was hired to do. Is it already time for a change?