Enrollment Rises but Ethnic Numbers Down in Aftermath of I-200

While the total UW enrollment is up for the 1999-2000 academic year, officials reported a 32 percent drop in three underrepresented ethnic groups in this year's freshman class.

The total 1999-2000 enrollment for the Seattle campus is 35,559, compared to 35,108 last year. This fall also saw a larger freshman class of 4,515 students, compared to 4,219 last fall. UW Tacoma saw a record enrollment of 1,549 and UW Bothell also reached a record with 1,335.

Comparing this year's freshmen to last year's, the UW saw a 33 percent decline in African Americans, a 23 percent drop in Native Americans and a 33 percent drop in Latinos. There was a rise in both Asian-American freshmen and in white freshmen.

The numbers were disappointing but anticipated, says UW Director of Admissions W.W. "Tim" Washburn, after the passage of Initiative 200 in November, 1998 (see "The Road Ahead," March 1999 Columns). The initiative dismantled affirmative action practices in admissions and hiring at all state agencies.

"We hope to turn it around and be more representative in the future," Washburn says. An outreach program targeting these groups includes special UW counselors, increased school visits, student ambassadors, a direct mail campaign, SAT preparation programs, preview visits for students admitted to the UW and a diversity Web site.

"The decline of diversity in this year's freshman class is deeply disappointing," President Richard L. McCormick said in his address to the University on Oct. 5. "I am determined to turn this around through new and expanded programs of outreach and recruitment in the middle schools and high schools. We are hopeful that because of these new programs the freshman class of 2000 will be more diverse."

Looking at the total UW student population, minority enrollment is down only slightly, from 26.9 percent last year to 26.2 percent this year. But Washburn cautions that this is because only entering freshmen were affected by I-200. "This is really just the first impact. The trend will be reflected in the classes three to four years from now, if we don't reverse it," he explains.

The total UW enrollment is creeping toward the record of 37,549 set in 1979. This year's freshman class has about 300 more students because of planned increases to meet the "baby boom echo." The UW had 12,692 students applying for its 1999 freshman class, with 4,515 actually on campus this September. These entering freshmen have an average high school GPA of 3.63 and average SAT score of 1158.

But Washburn emphasized that this is only an average. For example, of the freshman applicants who had a 3.0 high school GPA and 990 SAT, 30 percent were admitted. More than half of the applicants with a 3.0 high school GPA and a 1360 SAT were offered a spot. "Everybody had a chance at every level. It's worth a shot to apply to the UW," he says.

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