UW News

May 17, 1999

Number of minority students headed toward UW freshman class declines sharply

News and Information

The number of underrepresented minority students planning to enroll in next Autumn’s freshman class is likely to decline substantially over previous years, according to figures compiled by the University of Washington’s admissions office.

Students offered admission to the University are required to send deposits by May 1 to secure their places in the freshman class. Those acceptances show that the numbers of confirmed African Americans in the freshman class have declined about 40% (from 124 to 74). American Indian representation is down 20% (from 56 to 45); Hispanic/Latino is down 30% (from 205 to 143); Asian American is up 6% (from 1,108 to 1,176).

“We have worked hard to overcome the effects of Initiative 200, which bars the use of race as a factor in admissions,” says Tim Washburn, executive director of admissions and records. “The admissions policy was modified to try and ensure a diverse student body. In reviewing applications, in addition to academic factors, we consider school and community service, socioeconomic status, students who are the first generation to go to college, students who have had to overcome personal adversity, and those who attended schools with a high proportion of students from low-income families–all these are “plus” factors. Despite these considerations, the numbers of underrepresented minorities in the freshman class have declined.”

Earlier, the UW had reported declines in applications overall and especially from minorities. Applications overall declined about 2%, while the number of in-state applications remained essentially constant. But applications from African Americans declined 17%; from American Indians, 9%; from Hispanic/Latinos, 9%; and from Asian Americans, 6%.

The percentage of students from several minority groups who were offered admission also declined. For African Americans, the decline was 32%; for American Indians, 14%; for Hispanic/Latinos, 17%. Offers to Asian Americans increased by 10%.

The proportion of minority students accepting the UW’s offer of admission declined as well. While 53% of admitted African American students last year accepted the offer to attend the UW, this rate declined to 46% this year. The American Indian acceptance rate declined 4%; for Hispanic/Latinos, the decline was 9%; and for Asian Americans, 2%.

“It is clear that Initiative 200 has had a chilling effect on applications from minority students and on their acceptance rate as well,” says UW President Richard L. McCormick. “We are very disappointed by this outcome for 1999, and we are committed to moving these numbers back up in the years ahead. Maintaining diversity on our campus is going to be a long-term challenge. The UW is determined to admit a diverse student body, and we will do so through expanded outreach to middle and high schools, by raising more scholarship funds, and by further revisions to our admissions policies. These efforts may take a few years to produce the kind of results we want, but we are going to make them work.”

“The students to whom we offered admission this year have offers from a variety of other colleges and universities,” says Washburn. “We are working in a highly competitive market for well-qualified minority students. The availability of adequate financial aid from the UW, including scholarships, becomes very critical in this arena.”

Under the UW’s revised financial aid policies, the UW will continue to award private scholarship funds to students whose presence will help increase the diversity of the campus. The university plans to expand efforts to obtain support for these and other scholarship programs.

When Initiative 200 passed in November, the UW was well into this year’s admissions process, which includes visits to most of the state’s high schools. However, after admission was offered, UW administrators and students phoned every single student from an underrepresented group who was offered admission, to talk about the advantages of choosing the UW.

While the May 1 deadline provides a good approximation of the composition of the freshman class, the process is not yet complete. About 150 students remain on a waiting list; their applications will be reviewed this month, based upon available spaces.

The UW freshman class size is projected to be about 4,575 students, up from 4,219 this year, primarily due to enhanced funding from the state legislature. To date, the UW has received 4,812 enrollment confirmations from students offered admission, about 4-5% of whom typically will not enroll this autumn.

Applications for transfer from community college are down overall about 4%, with applications from underrepresented groups down about 10%.