Enrollment hits record, includes increased diversity

The UW’s Seattle campus broke several records when it opened its doors Sept. 28, including setting a new enrollment record of 39,524 students, beating last year by 273.

Seattle also has the largest freshman class in history and the most diverse since a 1998 voter’s initiative banned affirmative action by state agencies in activities such as employment and college admissions.

In Seattle, there are 27,836 undergraduates and 11,688 graduate and professional students. The Seattle campus enrollment ranked among the nation’s top 20 in the fall of 2004, according to the U.S. Department of Education, and this year’s total is likely to keep it in that group.

There are 5,438 entering freshmen with 10.4 percent coming from four underrepresented ethnic groups: African Americans, Hispanic/Latinos, American Indians and Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders. In the fall of 1998, just prior to the initiative, 10.3 percent of UW freshmen were from these groups.

In another milestone, both the Bothell and the Tacoma campuses accepted freshmen for the first time and met their enrollment targets. UWB has 134 freshmen and UWT has 188. Their overall enrollments were at or near record levels, with 1,678 at UWB and 2,292 at UWT.

Director of Admissions Philip Ballinger credits the UW’s new application process with helping attract a wide range of students. Instead of relying just on grade point averages and SAT scores, the UW has at least two readers evaluate the entire application, paying particular attention to the type of courses students take during high school and personal circumstances surrounding their education.

He also says that long-term outreach efforts from the Office of Minority Affairs, such as the Gear Up program, are paying off as students first contacted in middle school are now entering college. Demographics played a part in the increase, he adds, particularly the growth of the state’s Hispanic/Latino population.

Despite the new application process, Ballinger notes that Seattle’s entering freshman G.P.A. and SAT scores were virtually identical to last year’s. For the Class of 2011, the average high school G.P.A. was 3.66 and average SAT was 1187.

In another new twist on enrollment, the UW rescinded admission for 23 incoming students whose performance as seniors in high school showed a “significant downturn.” While there is usually a handful of these cases, Ballinger says, this year saw an increase due to the new admission process, better staffing and a higher number of offers.

“In most cases, we found their grades plunging from A’s and B’s to C’s, D’s and F’s,” Ballinger explains. His office also sent 180 warning letters to other entering freshmen whose senior year in high school was disappointing.

The UW action got praise from parents and high school counselors who sometimes complain about “senioritis,” but Ballinger says the practice is common among major universities. “Berkeley rescinded 25 this year and UCLA rescinded 70,” he says.