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Montana colleges, universities brace for dramatic enrollment plummet

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“Town Crier” newsletter – Briefs from the Region (1) – 5/26/20

According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Montana’s higher educational bodies could see a dramatic 15 percent drop in enrollment for the 2020-21 school year, now that COVID-19 has left many students and their families unable to foot the bill requisite of non-scholarship attendees. The phenomenon is not unique to Montana schools, with a national survey reporting one-in-six college students is uncertain if they will return to school in the fall, for health and financial reasons. “Somewhere between 10 percent and 20 percent may be in flux whether they’re going to return this fall,” Tyler Trevor, deputy commissioner of higher education for budget and planning for the Montana University System, said May 20 during the regents’ online meeting. MUS has already received $26 million from the CARES Act passed by Congress, but $13 million was automatically earmarked for emergency relief for students, leaving just half of the original sum for “overall budget to deficits for dorms and dining halls, athletics, campus events and more.” The Heroes Act passed by House Democrats last week will pump another $30 billion into the U.S. higher education system, but must first face wary Republicans in the senate, who maintain the effects of the first relief bills must be further analyzed and realized before passing an additional bill. Should the act pass the senate and sees a signature from President Donald Trump, the act permits “using the funds to ‘backfill’ holes in college budgets.”

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