Freshmen come in record numbers to all 3 UW campuses

When UW campuses open their doors to freshmen Sept. 27, these students will be making history. At Bothell and Tacoma, they will be the first freshmen ever at these regional campuses, which expanded from two-year to four-year schools this fall. In Seattle, officials expect a record number of freshmen—around 5,400—exceeding the old record of 5,382 set in 2001.

When they opened in 1990, the UW’s regional campuses served juniors, seniors and some graduate students. In 1995, the Legislature authorized UW Bothell, UW Tacoma and WSU Vancouver to become four-year universities.

At Bothell, officials have 140 confirmed students for the fall classes, which is right on target. Many are first-generation college students, says UWB spokeswoman Elaine Kraft, who want to study close to home and close to work. Most come from northern King County and Snohomish County, particularly along the I-405 corridor.

Tacoma is expecting from 160 to 180 freshmen, slightly exceeding its target. UWT spokesman Mike Wark says they mostly live in the school’s service area of Pierce, Kitsap and Thurston counties as well as south King County. With an average age just over 18, “they look like your traditional UW students, but ones who want the opportunity to live closer to home,” he explains.

Both campuses have a cohort system, where freshmen will be taking most of their classes together for the first year of learning. “Studies show that cohorts increase retention rates and are one of the best ways for new students to learn,” Wark adds.

Although these campuses are excited about their four-year status, both have a primary goal of serving transfer students from community colleges. At UWT about 72 percent of all openings will be filled by transfers and UWB has a similar percentage.

Meanwhile, the Seattle campus is bracing itself for a flood of freshmen. Last spring, Director of Admissions Philip Ballinger expected about 5,100 applicants to send in their $250 deposit. Instead, 5,643 made the down payment.

There is always a drop-off between the number of students who say they are coming and the ones who actually show up the first day of classes. It’s hard to predict, but Ballinger says the final count will range between 5,350 and 5,450.

The UW used a new admissions screening system that reviewed the entire application for every potential student, rather than relying on test scores and grade-point averages for some applicants. While the incoming group is larger than expected, it is also more ethnically diverse.

“This is probably going to be the most diverse freshman class since I-200,” Ballinger says, referring to the 1998 voter initiative that banned the use of affirmative action in state hiring and college admissions.

The number of African American applicants rose 13 percent and the number of those who confirmed they are coming rose 36 percent. The number of Latino applications grew by 7 percent and the confirmed number of Latino freshmen rose 28 percent.

Ballinger credits recruitment efforts by the Office of Minority Affairs for these strong numbers. The new application screening helped as well, he adds, since it is a more comprehensive and inviting process.

Critics who claim the UW is lowering its standards are wrong, he says. The entering freshman class has virtually the same test and G.P.A. scores as last year’s group—an average 1190 SAT and 3.68 high school G.P.A.

Despite a reputation that it is hard to get into the UW, the Seattle campus admits more than two-thirds of all students who apply to be freshmen. This year a record 16,625 high school students asked to be Huskies and the UW made an offer to 11,355 of them.