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WSU encouraged by fall enrollment of new first-year students

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(The Center Square) – Washington State University saw a systemwide 6.5% increase in new first-year students this fall, the largest cohort growth since the pre-pandemic fall quarter of 2019.

Like other colleges and universities across the state, WSU is striving to recover from closures and the gradual return to in-person classes following the height of the COVID-19 outbreak that started in March 2020.

Prior to the pandemic, enrollments in 2018 and 2019 were among the largest in WSU’s history, making the COVID-related enrollment declines “even more pronounced,” Phil Weiler, the university’s vice president for marketing and communications, said in an emailed response Monday to The Center Square.

At its home campus in Pullman, WSU had total enrollment of 17,827 students in fall 2022 – a drop from peak numbers around 21,000 students in both 2018 and 2019. Since last fall, the campus has experienced mixed results: Pullman has seen more than 190 new first-year students enroll, a gain of 5.8%, but overall enrollment has dropped 4.4% due in part to a decrease in students pursuing masters and research doctorate degrees.

Established in 1890 as a land grant school, WSU also operates campuses in Everett, Spokane, the Tri-Cities, and Vancouver, plus an online “global campus.” Combined, the six campuses had 27,539 students – most of them undergraduates – enrolled in fall 2022, compared to 2018 and 2018 when numbers exceeded 31,000 each year.

Of those campuses, WSU Tri-Cities – which focuses on energy, environment, and agriculture studies – saw the largest increase this fall in new first-year students at 25.7% compared to fall 2022, when total enrollment was listed at 1,282. That was accompanied by a 6.6% rise in new transfer students, university officials reported in September.

Systemwide enrollment increases were also noted in WSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine, up 1.3% this fall, and in the number of new students seeking professional doctorates in pharmacy and human medicine.

“The growth we’re seeing in new students this fall is an indication of the excellent work of our enrollment management staff and demonstrates our ability to reverse the enrollment declines caused by the pandemic,” Elizabeth Chilton, WSU Provost and executive vice president Elizabeth Chilton, said in a September press release.

Last fall, the Spokane campus – home to WSU’s medical, nursing, and pharmacy schools – had total enrollment of 1,424, including 472 undergraduates, 690 in professional programs, and 262 in graduate programs. The campus also houses programs offered by Eastern Washington University, based in nearby Cheney, and Spokane’s Gonzaga University.

While it has the smallest enrollment of the satellite campuses, WSU Everett’s numbers bounced up from 186 students last fall to 212 this year. WSU Vancouver had 2,822 enrollees in fall 2022, including over 2,500 undergraduates.

While on-campus enrollment numbers dropped during the pandemic years, online participation in WSU’s global campus jumped up, increasing from 3,265 in fall 2019 to over 4,000 in years 2022 and 2021. Enrollment then dipped in fall 2022 to 3,839.

Along with WSU, other colleges in Washington’s university system include the University of Washington, Western Washington University, Central Washington University, Eastern Washington University, and The Evergreen State College.

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