The University of Washington is preparing for its largest incoming class ever as 4,935 new freshmen are expected to attend when Fall Quarter starts Sept. 25.
This jump—400 more than last fall’s record total—is a result of a demographic bulge called the “baby boom echo.” High schools are graduating record numbers of seniors, children of the baby boom generation, says UW Director of Admissions W.W. “Tim” Washburn.
While the UW accepted more freshmen than ever, it didn’t have to lower its academic standards to do it. “We expect this year’s freshman class to have roughly the same high school G.P.A. and SAT scores as last year’s,” Washburn says. The 1999 freshman class had an average high school G.P.A. of 3.63 and an average SAT score of 1158.
Bucking last year’s trend, the new class will see an increase in African Americans, Washburn says. Currently his office is projecting a 36 percent increase over fall 1999 numbers. “We’re pleased that applications from African Americans increased this year,” says the admissions director. “We’re less pleased with the numbers for Native American and Latino freshmen.”
Washburn estimates that Native American enrollment among freshmen will be flat, while Latinos are projected to drop by 18 percent. He projects Asian American enrollment to rise by 8 percent.
“We’ve made special efforts in Eastern Washington and the Western states to reach out to the Latino community, but we have to do more,” Washburn says. He adds that Initiative 200, which dismantled affirmative action programs at all state agencies, is still having a major impact.
“We’ve had a rather severe decline in applications from these two groups since I-200. We haven’t been able to restore interest. They should know that if they apply, they do have a good chance of being admitted,” he says.
The University has been preparing for this wave of students since the Legislature authorized the extra slots. Housing and food services received a record number of applications for residence halls, including about 3,200 from entering freshmen.
Close to 200 rooms in Lander, McCarty and Terry halls are being converted from doubles to triples to help absorb the new students. The rooms will have a set of bunk beds and a lofted bed plus three wooden desks. Students will pay about $500 less than they would for a double.
The UW is providing more academic “room” as well by offering entering freshmen a head start on their fall course load. The new Early Fall Start Program offers a variety of five-credit courses held over four weeks prior to the official opening of Fall Quarter. New freshmen can take intensive classes in foreign languages, literature, political science, sociology, oceanography and other fields.
“We are limiting class size to 25 students,” explains Ken Etzkorn, director of curriculum planning for undergraduate education. He sees the courses as “a good entryway” into the University and hopes they will relieve some enrollment pressure on entry-level courses during Fall Quarter.
Washburn says the pressure to attend the UW is growing and will continue into the future. He notes that the UW received 1,091 more applications this year compared to last year. “It’s an exceptional group of students coming this year and we are excited about having them all here,” he says.