University Relations and Communications

Joe Oravecz talking with students
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Dr. Joe Oravecz, addresses incoming students during summer orientation. 

October 6, 2016


Student Success Initiatives Pay Dividends as Enrollment Decline Stabilizes


MSUB realizes the smallest enrollment decrease in over four-years at 1.4%.

Intentional student success initiatives along with dual-credit growth help meet budget goals.




Aaron Clingingsmith, University Relations, 657-2269


MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — Montana State University Billings has commenced the 2016-17 academic year with 4,366 students.  At its official 15th class-day count, City College enrolled 1,405 students while the University campus had 2,961 students enrolled. 


One doesn’t need to delve too far into MSUB’s fall enrollment numbers to see that this summer’s High School Connections initiative – concurrent enrollment for high school students - has shown immediate impact.


Students at West, Senior, Skyview, Central and other schools involved in concurrent enrollment increased from 82 students in 2015 to 247 this fall.


“Students and parents have seen the value of getting a jump-start on a college degree,” commented provost and chief academic officer, Dr. Bob Hoar.  “We are excited to see growth in this area as high school teachers and MSUB faculty prepare students for the rigor of college. And, most importantly, we believe their experience will make the decision to choose MSUB an easy one.”


Attracting new students is only one part of the equation. During last fall’s budget and enrollment briefing the MSUB Student Success Committee, led by Vice Provost Dr. Matt Redinger recommended the following steps to help students already attending MSUB meet their academic goals:

  • Address high-risk, high-DFWI courses (courses where a high percentage of students earn grades of D, F, W, or I) through active faculty and staff participation in the John Gardner Institute’s Gateways to Completion program.
  • Enhance student success in developmental education by ramping up partnered courses while growing proven successful linked/co-requisite course pilots to create student learning communities.
  • Develop and implement a faculty-initiated, MSUB-tailored Early Alert System to improve communication between students, faculty and advisors.  This effort will create small, just-in-time adjustments to student classroom performance.
  • Strategically increase our efforts at maximizing the effectiveness of faculty and staff advisors through intensive professional development and training in state-of-the-art student curricular and career advising.

A year later, MSUB’s strategic efforts have paid dividends as the retention rate saw an increase for the first time in four-years.  Retained first-time full-time students were up from last fall’s mark of 52.7 percent to 54.5 percent.


“By no means are we ready to plant a flag in the ground and declare victory,” said Redinger. “There is a lot of work to be done to get ourselves in-line with our peers, but this is definitely a step in the right direction.”


Helping the campus take that step in the right direction was John N. Gardner himself.  Gardner spent two-days on campus this summer working with faculty and staff on myriad of topics; including best practices in student success and retention, the first-year experience, mentoring junior faculty and the vital importance of campus orientation.


“Gardner’s Gateway’s to Completion has been an invaluable experience,” remarked vice chancellor for student affairs, Dr. Joe Oravecz.  “This summer we took a hard look at orientation and enhanced many of our current efforts, while adding a few new elements to help our new students persist through the academic year.”


Oravecz and Redinger also led the charge in implementing a home-grown Early Alert System (EAS) to help identify potential academically at-risk students, even before they are aware. 


At present, the system is comprised of two components, the first is an academic alert system to help faculty address students who may be falling behind in class.  The second component is a new program called See Something, Say Something, taking aim at the students overall personal well-being.  Interim dean of students, Kathy Kotecki, and interim associate dean of students, Jeff Rosenberry oversee the program.


“I have truly been amazed at the volume of calls and walk-ins we have seen since the implementation of this program,” said Kotecki.  “As a student and former hall director I have always taken pride that MSUB is an open and inviting campus.  That said, See Something, Say Something takes a more intentional step to remind a new generation of students that we are here for them, regardless of the issue.”


One of those uncovered issues is hunger, which precipitated the opening of the Yellowjacket Emergency Pantry (YEP) earlier this fall. 


“Hunger is a tough issue for a student to deal with, especially as an enrolled college student” said Oravecz.  “We are slowly spreading the word around campus that the pantry is stocked with food and available for students in need.  It is all a part of helping our students persist and attain their degree.”


MUS graduates employed in MontanaAt the end of the day, those students who attain their degree make a difference in Montana.  A recent workforce study through the MUS Data Warehouse shows MSU Billings is tops in transitioning students into the workforce.  Just over 70 percent of City College students and 67 percent of university campus students go to work in Montana.


“We are about building a better Billings and a greater Montana,” commented MSUB foundation president and CEO, Bill Kennedy. “No institution means more to our region’s economy.”


The Board of Regents, along received much praise the past few weeks for helping MSUB continue the tradition of building a better Billings by approving a four-year nursing program, housed in the College of Allied Health professions.  The program will put more highly-trained nurses in our medical facilities while helping bolster MSUB’s enrollment and budget.


“In this our 90th year, we are creating some momentum, and it is exciting,” said Nook. “It is due in large part to our faculty, staff and the Billings community, as well as the ongoing support of President Cruzado and the MUS.”


However, Nook believes there is much more work to be done to make sure the foundation for MSUB’s next century is stable.  This year MSUB will not have to make any budget adjustments, but the biennial budgeting and the legislative process has begun and outcomes can certainly vary for the next two


“For MSUB it is about being prepared,” said Nook.  “We need to keep a watchful eye on our students’ persistence to graduation, while ensuring we recruit students who will continue to make a difference in Montana and our region.”


Other enrollment information shows:

  • Yellowstone County comprised 54.1 percent of the total student population with another 33.3 percent coming from other Montana counties.
  • The average age of students at the four-year university campus is 25.4 and at the City College is 26.6.
  • There are 1,697 part-time students this fall and 2,669 full-time students.
  • The majority of students continue to be women, 62.2 percent.
  • The overall campus-wide ethnic diversity increased by 3.6 percent to 634 students, currently 14.5 percent of the student population.
  • Hispanic students attending rose 5.5 percent when compared to the previous year.  The 210 students accounted for 4.8 percent of the student population

Begun in 1927 as a teachers’ college, MSU Billings has become a comprehensive regional urban university with about 100 academic programs in areas of Arts and Sciences, Allied Health Professions, Business, Education and Technology. In addition, students can choose from more than 200 classes offered in 21 online programs.


To find out more about MSU Billings academic offerings, go to or call 657-2888. 


»» MSU Billings Enrollment & Budget Briefing 10/6/16


»» MSU Billings Student Characteristics Fall Semester 2016