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Washington State University
Washington State University Office of the Provost

Enrollment eclipses 30,000 with a strong class of new Cougars

I am pleased to provide a report on student enrollment for fall semester, 2016. The tenth day of classes marks our official student census date, and hence, our official student counts have been finalized. Total enrollment across the WSU system eclipsed the 30,000 student mark for the first time in the history of our University and totaled 30,142, a 1.5 percent increase from 2015. In Pullman, total fall semester enrollment is 20,193 (17,527 undergraduate, 2,209 graduate, and 457 professional).

This fall, we nearly hit our Pullman new freshmen target of 4,000 spot on with an enrollment of 3,991. This number is intentionally lower than 2015, when we saw a greater number of admitted students enroll, resulting in 4,220 new freshmen. New transfer students increased about 2 percent to a total of 1,171.

More important than the absolute numbers is the composition of our new cohort of students. As you may know, Enrollment Management (including recruiting, admissions, student financial services, and new student programs) moved under the Provost’s Office in summer 2014. Since that time, we have focused on maintaining an enrollment target of 4,000 new freshmen in Pullman, while maintaining diversity, ensuring access for first-generation students, and increasing the academic preparedness of our students. It is important to note that it is not our intention to be exclusive. WSU has embraced a high-access mission, consistent with its land-grant ideals. The current freshman class includes 36 percent first-generation college students and 35 percent minority students. Incoming transfer students are comprised of 41 and 31 percent of first-generation and minority students, respectively.

We have made significant progress on ensuring our students arrive prepared to succeed. The average high school GPA (HSGPA) of the incoming class has increased over each of the last three years, with this year’s class having an average HSGPA of 3.4. In addition, over 86 percent of the class has a HSGPA of 3.0 or greater. For the first time in many years, the Pullman campus had a waiting list of nearly 500 students. Enrollment demand was so high that we were able to meet our target without dipping into this list, all of whom would have been admitted based upon criteria used two years ago.

We are proud to welcome a diverse cohort of students ready to navigate the rigors of academic life at a comprehensive public research institution. I am happy to inform you that we have done good work increasing the number of high-achieving students in our incoming classes. For example, the number of students falling in the Q-value (a combination of HSGPA and SAT score) of 2,800 or higher (our definition of a “very high achieving” student), has increased over 40 percent in the last two years.

Our attention to high school GPA has resulted from analyses of student performance over the past 10 years. We have found that HSGPA is one of the best predictors of student success, and a significant percentage of admitted students falling into the lower HSGPA ranges have not been continuing into year two. It is important to keep in mind that other variables also play key roles, such as unmet financial need, health and family issues, and engagement with faculty and community. Your dedicated instruction and mentoring are especially vital to our students’ success.

In two short years, we have made major progress in changing the outcomes of our recruiting and enrollment activities. This improvement has been achieved through a team effort, obviously involving the great work of our Enrollment Management team, but also faculty, staff, students, alumni, community members, and administrators pitching in to help recruit future Cougars and mentor them after they enroll. We will need to continue this effort to further advance our enrollment efforts and ensure that entering students successfully become Cougar alumni. Thank you for your contributions.