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Associated Press

DILLON (AP) - Incoming freshmen next fall will concentrate on one class exclusively over an 18-day period as part of a new study program, University of Montana-Western officials said Wednesday.

All freshmen pursuing a four-year degree will take their classes one at a time a year from now, and a year after that, the "Experience One" program will involve all students, they said.

Much talk about new system

This week's decision followed months of debate over the potential effects the new system of delivering classes could have on the campus and the community.

University officials hope Experience One will create a niche for the Dillon school that will help it compete with other schools in recruiting from a shrinking pool of college-age students.

Western is in its third year of a three-year $400,000 grant from the federal Fund for the Improvement of Post Secondary Education to explore the potential of that type of class scheduling in a public school.

For the past two years, the college recruited groups of 75 students to try the program. School officials initially considered implementing the program campuswide at the beginning of the 2004 school year.

Karl Ulrich, Western's interim chancellor, said officials decided to move more slowly to give both current students and faculty time to adjust. Plans now call for fully implementing the program campuswide in the fall of 2005, he said.

The delay should lessen the impact for students already enrolled in traditional scheduling, Ulrich said.

No switch next fall

Likewise, new freshmen entering the program next fall will not have to switch to traditional scheduling after the completion of their first year.

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Students who transfer to Western and those freshmen with previous course work will be enrolled under traditional scheduling next fall.

Ulrich said that department heads have completed the scheduling for next year and it appears there won't be a need for additional staff.

Enrollment numbers increased about 1 percent to 971 full-time equivalent students this fall, Ulrich said.

"We'd like to see it in the near term increase to around 1,500 students," he said. "That would give our institution some economies of scale that we can't fully take advantage of now."

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