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Briefings

UW Sets New Record in Student Enrollment; Freshman SAT Scores Rise

When the University of Washington opened its doors Sept. 28, it had a record enrollment of 39,251 students on the Seattle campus—beating its previous mark of 39,216 set in 2002.

There are 25,469 undergraduates and 11,763 graduate and professional students. Women are in the majority, constituting 52.2 percent of the total population.

The grand total includes 2,019 students taking credit courses through UW Educational Outreach who are not currently seeking degrees.

UW Bothell has 1,534 students, compared to 1,608 last year, while UW Tacoma has 2,189 students compared to 2,100 in 2004.

Thanks to increased funding from the Legislature, the UW was able to add more freshmen and transfer students, says Director of Admissions Philip Ballinger. He originally expected to enroll 4,700 new freshmen, but after the state budget passed, he was able to enroll 4,893.

“We had about 500 students on the freshman waiting list May 1,” he says. “After the budget numbers came in, we invited about 200 of those students to join us and most of them did.”

While the UW is selective, Ballinger says, there is an “urban legend” that it is extremely difficult to get in as a freshman. He notes that there were 15,955 freshman applications and the UW offered a place to 10,694—an acceptance rate of 67 percent.

The average high school G.P.A. of these new freshmen is 3.69, the same as last year. However, their average SAT score jumped 15 points to 1198—a significant increase, he says, since national SAT score averages remain fairly steady.

Another myth is that the Seattle campus is taking fewer transfer students. “People may not realize that 30 percent of all new undergraduates are transfer students from Washington community colleges. Our policy hasn’t changed,” says Ballinger. Fall quarter saw 1,430 new transfer students and Ballinger has space reserved for winter- and spring-quarter transfers as well. He says that the UW will enroll at least as many as last year, when 2,300 came to the Seattle campus.

“It is a great time to apply as a transfer student to the UW,” he says. Out of the 2,478 community college students who applied for fall quarter, the UW accepted 61 percent.

Making sure there are places available is a top priority. “We are trying to be as accessible as we can to the population of the state,” Ballinger says. “We want to make sure that the University of Washington is the University of Washington.”

The diversity of the overall student body increased. Students of color at the Seattle campus rose to 28.9 percent of the total enrollment, compared to 28.1 percent last year. For undergraduates, 34.1 percent are students of color. While pleased with the totals, Ballinger was disappointed with the percentage of underrepresented ethnic groups in the entering freshman class, which dropped from 472 last year to 447 this year—a 5.3 percent decrease.

The proportion of two underrepresented groups are below 1998 levels while two other groups are above that benchmark, Ballinger says. This was the last year the UW was able to use ethnicity as a factor in admissions. Voters approved I-200 that year, banning affirmative action in state agencies.

Proportional representation of African American freshmen is 2.37 percent, compared to 2.94 percent in 1998. American Indians account for 1.08 percent, compared to 1.26 percent seven years ago.

The two underrepresented groups above the benchmark are Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders  (0.56 percent compared to 0.48 percent in 1998) and Latinos (4.96 percent compared to 4.65 percent in 1998).

Ballinger says there is fierce competition for these students among public and private universities. For example, the UW had a larger applicant pool of African Americans than it did last year, yet the percentage of those invited to the UW who actually came dropped from 61 percent to 50 percent.

Ballinger says the UW will be working harder to reach these students. “One of the things we hope to discover is where these students went and why,” he says. “We are going to increase our efforts to recruit these students and raise more financial aid.”