Record Number Apply to UW as State Freezes Enrollments

Recent application numbers confirm what UW officials have been saying for a decade-it's getting harder and harder to enter the University as a freshman. For fall 2003, the UW had a record 15,770 applications. When classes start on Sept. 29, the UW expects about 4,800 new freshmen on the Seattle campus, the same target as last year.

Because the state has not funded more enrollments, the UW has no choice but to freeze the class size, despite increasing pressure to come to the UW, says Assistant Vice President for Enrollment Services W.W. "Tim" Washburn.

The high demand for a UW degree also means extremely high academic standards for admissions, he adds. "The final numbers aren't in yet, but I expect this year's average G.P.A and SAT scores to be similar to last year's," he says. For fall 2002, entering freshmen had an average 3.66 high school G.P.A. and an average 1168 SAT score.

The faltering economy has had an impact on both the number of applications and reluctance of students to graduate in a timely fashion, Washburn says. Applications from resident high school seniors were actually down from last year by about 100. "I think some of the students are becoming more realistic about their chances," he says. "In our application packet, we have a chart that shows the odds for admission for in-state students based on high school G.P.A.s."

The high demand for a UW degree also means extremely high academic standards for admissions...

In addition, tuition at community colleges is about half that of the UW. For economically strapped families, that may have an effect, the admissions director says. In-state undergraduate tuition this fall will be $4,458; non-residents will pay $15,611.

While enrollment numbers will not be counted until the 10th day of classes, Washburn has noticed some trends in applications from ethnic minorities. "We've had a good, strong increase in Latino applications," he reports, but a slight decline in applications from African Americans. Last year, about 39 percent of the entering freshman class were students of color.

In-state applications totaled 8,712 while out-of-state applications were 7,052. In addition to entering freshmen, the UW expects to enroll about 2,800 transfer students, mostly at the junior level, over the course of the academic year. Last fall the UW had a record enrollment in Seattle of 39,216 students; Washburn says this fall's total will be close to that number.

At the other end of the academic "pipeline," the UW had a record number of students graduate in 2002-03. The Seattle campus had 10,144 graduates, with 6,745 earning their bachelor's degrees. UW Tacoma had 736 graduates and UW Bothell had 654.

The UW's six-year graduation rate averages about 70 percent, the highest rate among public, four-year institutions in the state. Over the last eight years, the UW has invested more resources in high demand introductory courses, such as biology, that can delay graduation if students can't get in. But because of state budget cuts, these bottlenecks may grow, Washburn says. "We will have to reduce the number of courses we are offering and that will be added stress on our curriculum," he warns.

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