PULLMAN, Wash. — Graduate student enrollment at Washington State University has increased more than 12 percent throughout the WSU system in the past year.

Howard Grimes, interim dean of the Graduate School, said more than 3,300 graduate students are attending classes, working on research and teaching on the WSU campuses in Pullman, Spokane, Tri-Cities and Vancouver.

“This tremendous increase in the number of graduate students choosing WSU as the place to launch their professional career is a clear indicator of the outstanding programs that we offer and the world-class status of our faculty,” Grimes said. “Make no mistake, graduate students choose an institution because of its excellence and faculty make this excellence.”

On the Pullman campus along, nearly 2,000 graduate students — an increase of nearly 8 percent compared to fall 2002 – are working on advanced degrees.

Throughout the system, WSU has a record number of full-time students. The number of women who started programs this fall is the largest ever. The number of minority students is up to 290 system-wide; Latino students number 108, an all-time high. WSU international student numbers increased 19 percent system-wide, 29 percent on the Pullman campus. The number of doctoral students is up 31 percent.

“We have worked hard to develop top-notch state-wide graduate programs that address critical needs for our state,” Grimes said. “As we continue to strategically increase outstanding graduate opportunities across Washington, we will significantly enhance our ability to develop well-trained individuals who will contribute their skills back to our state.”

The Graduate School dean said graduate education and research excellence go hand-in-hand. Last year, WSU researchers conducted research valued at more than $100 million – a 14 percent increase — over the last year on projects that include a myriad of subjects.

Grimes said outstanding research programs attract the best, and most diverse, graduate students. “ We simply can’t expect our research prowess to grow without a clear commitment across our institution to graduate education.”

This research touches every aspect of our lives, from agriculture to technology to the environment, the James N. Petersen, interim vice provost for research, said.

Nearly 15 percent of the expenditures are from the NIH, while more than 11 percent are funded by the Department of Energy. WSU faculty members also receive major grants from the Department of Agriculture, NSF, Department of Education and the Department of Defense.

Graduate students are a critical component of the engine that drives successful research and, at the same time, they have the opportunity to work with outstanding faculty.

“More often than not, graduate students are directly responsible for performing the experiments and research that yield the breakthrough findings,” Grimes said. “Their creativity often leads to fresh insight into standing problems that then propels the research into novel directions.”