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Three state universities see enrollment growth

Student population on rise at UW, WSU and EWU

University of Washington students walk on the campus between classes on Tuesday in Seattle. (Associated Press)
University of Washington students walk on the campus between classes on Tuesday in Seattle. (Associated Press)
Donna Gordon Blankinship Associated Press

SEATTLE – About a thousand more international students are enrolled at the University of Washington’s Seattle campus this fall, but school officials say that doesn’t mean they have cut back on the number of in-state students at the state’s most selective public university.

UW also found room for 250 more in-state freshmen this year, along with a few more Washington transfers. The extra tuition money UW gets from international and out-of-state students – they pay almost triple the tuition of in-state students – on top of four years of double-digit tuition increases for everyone, has made this expansion possible.

Enrollment is up at half of Washington’s four-year public universities this fall, with a total of 350 more students at Washington State University’s four campuses, almost 800 more students at UW’s three campuses and a jump of 450 at Eastern Washington University. Enrollment is about the same or down slightly at Evergreen State College, Central Washington University and Western Washington University.

WSU and Eastern stuck close to home for their increased enrollments. In the past few years, WSU started welcoming automatically any Washington high school graduate ranked in the top 10 percent of their graduating class or with a 3.5 GPA. In-state students make up about 89 percent of WSU’s student population.

UW currently gets 23 percent of its Seattle students from other states; another 12.9 percent come from other countries. The out-of-state percentage is about the same as last year, but the international group has increased from 11 percent in 2011. Less than a decade ago, only about 2 percent of UW undergrads came from abroad.

Philip Ballinger, director of admissions at the University of Washington, explains 2012 is the second year in a row that a larger group of international freshmen has replaced a less diverse graduating class.

Seventeen percent of this year’s freshman class came from another country, compared with 18 percent in 2011.

Western has nine fewer students this year. But it has about 100 more out-of-state students than last fall to bring in some extra money and increase diversity on campus, said Clara Capron, executive director of admissions and financial aid.

The makeup of the freshman class – comparing in-state and out-of-state – is nearly identical to last year’s freshmen. In one way, the school made more room for in-state students, by increasing its community college transfers by about 100 this fall.

About 91 percent of Western students come from Washington, with most out-of-state students coming from neighboring states, plus Colorado and California. International students total 147 this year.

UW’s students hail from 44 states and 44 countries and UW Seattle has more freshmen from China (667) than California (469) this year. Among the top eight non-Washington high schools sending kids to Seattle this year are two in China, the Beijing Huijia and the High School of Nanjing Normal University.

After hearing from parents whose children with 4.0 GPAs and high test scores didn’t get into UW, the 2011 Legislature ordered the university to enroll at least 4,000 in-state students in this year’s freshman class.

Lawmakers didn’t give the university extra money to pay for that increase, however, so UW found the money in the pockets of out-of-state and international students.

Ballinger maintains, however, that UW’s diversity is part of its educational mission and among the reasons students want to study on its Seattle campus.

“We have a rainbow of people among our students,” Ballinger said. “It’s very, very difficult not to have your mind expanded from being part of that,” he said.

Tiana Steckler, a junior in industrial engineering from West Richland, likes the way the diverse student population adds to her experience at UW. She is living with students from Indonesia and the Philippines and couldn’t imagine a less international UW, but Steckler thinks her parents would rather see more in-state students at the school.

“My dad actually talks about this a lot,” she said, adding that she had some high school classmates who didn’t get accepted to UW.

Frank Sun, a sophomore from Henan Province in China, is thrilled to be part of UW’s diversity.

“The life here is brilliant,” said Sun, who is studying French and economics. “I love America. It’s fabulous.”

Sun said he chose UW after seeing pictures online of the campus near Lake Washington.

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