The majority of students who graduate from Montana State University Billings stay in Montana, contributing to the state's economy and the MSU Billings, according to alumni data.

During the past four-years, an average of 1,000 students earned a diploma. Roughly 80 percent of four-year degree seekers and more than 85 percent of two-year degree seekers stay in Montana, according to surveyed alumni.

University officials attribute the record graduating classes to transfer students choosing to attend the university, The university started fall classes with 434 new transfer students, up nearly 3 percent when compared to last year, according to Aaron Clingingsmith, director of University Relations and Communications.

“Transfer students have certainly shown an affinity for MSU Billings,” Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Joe Oravecz said in a prepared statement. “Opportunities for internships and real-world experience, while attaining a degree, are extremely attractive attributes that you simply can’t find at many other institutions.”

With the success of graduates and stability in transfer students, the campus as a whole is looking at how it can improve retention, according to Clingingsmith.  The fall-to-fall retention of first-time freshmen – those returning for a second year – is one area where the university can make some reasonable gains.

In fall 2014, Chancellor Mark Nook formed a 14-member Student Success Committee, chaired by Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, Matt Redinger.  The committee was asked to review and assess a broad range of student-centered programs nationally demonstrated to be best practices for assuring that students are able to meet their goals.

“It was readily apparent that we have a retention and persistence issue with our students,” said Redinger. “What was born out of this nearly year-long review was an outline to help our students persist from year-to-year and ultimately attain a degree.”

MSU Billings is the third largest institution in Montana.

Started 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.