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University enrollment climbs

WSU’s campuses post record number of students; EWU sees 18 percent increase in transfer enrollees

Donna Gordon Blankinship Associated Press

SEATTLE – Enrollment is up at Washington’s public universities this fall, with most of the increase coming from students who decided to stay in school rather than seek their fortunes elsewhere in a down economy.

The University of Washington in Seattle, Western Washington University and Evergreen State College are reporting only slight increases in their student count. Washington State University, UW Bothell, Eastern Washington University and Central Washington University all report record enrollment increases.

College admissions directors said they could have enrolled many more students this year to meet increased demand from Washington high school graduates, but state budget cuts put a stop to any expansion plans.

Fall enrollment at the six public universities totalled about 113,000 after the tenth day of classes on the different campuses.

The UW has about 700 more students at its Seattle campus this year compared to fall 2008, with a total student population of 42,094. Most of the increase is in graduate students. Freshman enrollment is down several hundred and transfer numbers remain about the same.

“Interestingly enough, the percentage of our resident students we admitted was down from an all-time high last year. That surprised us a bit,” said UW Admissions Director Philip A. Ballinger.

Ballinger shared a few other facts about UW students this year: Newport High School in Bellevue sent the most new students to the university this year, the No. 1 out-of-state feeder school was President Barack Obama’s alma mater: Punahou High School in Honolulu, six freshmen earned perfect scores on the SAT, and the Seattle campus’ six-year graduation rate is 80.7 percent.

Enrollment at UW’s Bothell campus totals 2,801 this fall, with an increase of more than 500 students. Enrollment at UW Tacoma won’t be available until later this week, but they expected enrollment to be higher than 2008. Last year’s fall enrollment in Tacoma was 2,965, which was a 12 percent growth from the previous year.

Enrollment at the four campuses of WSU totals 25,965 this fall, an increase of 830 students from 2008, when another record enrollment was recorded. The university’s fastest growing campus is WSU Tri-Cities, where enrollment is up by 133 students or 9.7 percent.

“In many ways, this year has presented some of the most difficult circumstances I have faced during my years in enrollment management. However, we have achieved our enrollment goals while increasing our enrollment of students from traditionally underserved groups, so we are happy with the outcome,” said John Fraire, WSU vice president for enrollment management.

WWU has 13,785 student on campus this fall – a record enrollment by eight students. Freshman numbers are about the same as they were in 2008, but more students are staying in school.

“As we were making our projections in the spring, we were thinking that retention could go up,” said admissions director Karen Copetas.

So the university made a strategic decision to hold freshman enrollment down and accept fewer community college transfer students who hadn’t yet earned an associate’s degree, she said.

Evergreen enrolled about 200 more people this fall, with a total student population of 4,831.

The number is attributable to an increase in the number of students continuing their studies at Evergreen, said Steve Hunter, associate vice president for enrollment management.

He said the economy is putting a strain on Evergreen, the state higher education system and students. Evergreen will restrict enrollment this winter and possibly in the spring.

EWU welcomed its largest student body this fall, with about 10,504 students, or 379 more than in fall 2008. The previous record was set in 2006, when enrollment totaled 10,288.

EWU President Rodolfo Arevalo said more demand from transfer students – enrollment of transfer students went up 18 percent this year – and a surge in returning students both contributed to record fall enrollment.

He said those extra students will experience legislative budget cuts in their larger classes.

CWU enrolled 633 more people this year, for a total student head count of 10,187.

“This large increase stretches us to the limit,” said CWU President Jim Gaudino. “It’s a balancing act – providing access to higher education while also meeting the demands placed on faculty and staff, but CWU is up to the challenge.”

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