PULLMAN – “This year’s freshman class will be the largest class in the history of Washington State University,” said President Elson S. Floyd at a press conference held Monday, Aug. 25, at the Lewis Alumni Center. “It will also be the best academically prepared class and it is a very diverse class.”
For the second consecutive year, the Pullman campus is welcoming a record number of freshmen – a class expected to surpass last year’s 3,208 students.
“I am very, very pleased with where we are on the enrollment front,” said Floyd, who added that stabilizing enrollment was a primary goal when he took over as president in May 2007.
Though official enrollment numbers won’t be available until the tenth day of class, John Fraire, vice president for enrollment management, said fall semester enrollment for all WSU campuses is approaching 25,000 students – with roughly 18,000 of those students on the Pullman campus.
“We are projecting the freshman class will be approximately 3,350,” said Fraire. “That is a very strong increase.”
He was most pleased to announce a 25-30 percent increase in Latino enrollment in the freshman class.
“Most schools have witnessed a decrease … in Latino enrollment,” he said. “They are the largest and fastest growing community of color in our state – and one of the most difficult to recruit.”
Fraire credits the increase to changes in recruiting efforts.
“We put more modern recruitment methods into place – using more direct outreach,” he said. “We chose not to invest money in more brochures, but instead used that money to bring more students onto campus.”
The 2008 freshman class is also projected to show significant increases in high school grade point averages (GPA) and standardized test (SAT) scores. Last fall, the average GPA was 3.4; this fall, the average GPA is estimated to be 3.5.
“This is significant increase given the size of class,” said Fraire.
SAT scores averaged 1111 last fall and are expected to reach 1116 this fall. Fraire said a five-point increase in one year is also quite significant.
Crucial to these recruiting efforts is the specter of a demographic shift taking place across the state and nation. Floyd said that, over the next two to three years, the number of high school students graduating and going on to college will decrease. His goal has been to stabilize enrollment at about 3,300 to 3,400 students in the freshman class each fall.
In preparation, the university has not only intensified recruiting efforts but also is renovating Stephenson Hall and constructing Olympia Avenue student housing, the first new dormitory built on campus since the 1970s. Floyd said today’s students have come to expect certain amenities and health choices, and providing better housing and the Student Recreation Center helps ensure enrollment.
Overall, Fraire believes WSU will be well prepared for the demographic changes ahead.
“We are very pleased with what we have in place – our outreach efforts, our modern communication plans and our relationships with high schools and guidance counselors.”
Other topics at the press conference:
• Fraire said there is a continuing strong trend toward enrollment in the sciences, agriculture and engineering. Efforts are being made to connect all students with faculty and staff in their academic areas of interest as soon as possible.
• Dormitory costs have risen due to renovation costs. The Cougar Commitment program was discussed as a way to provide funding and scholarships for lower income students needing housing.
• Asked about the four day work week, Floyd said it has been successful and generally well received. It is an optional, family-friendly program that helps decrease fuel costs for individuals and the university, he said. Eligibility varies by department and employees must have the approval of their supervisor. For more information, see ONLINE
• Concerning the drinking age initiative in the news, Floyd said WSU will not endorse reducing the legal drinking age from 21 to 18 years. He said it is a complex question that will require a more creative approach.
• Floyd said selling alcohol at the new CUB restaurant, Dupus Boomer’s, and the Palouse Ridge Golf clubhouse is not a significant change from the policy WSU already had in place.
“WSU has always allowed some alcohol use on campus with the proper permits,” he said. “There will be no open bar at Dupus Boomer’s – and alcohol will only be served with a meal.”
• Phase II of the Martin Stadium expansion is scheduled to be done in time for the first home football game Sept. 6. About $20 million must still be raised to begin Phase III, which will complete the addition.
At the regional campuses:
• At WSU Vancouver, construction of a 55,000-square-foot Undergraduate Classroom Building is well under way, on target for opening to students in fall 2009. The Child Development Program will break ground on an expansion Sept. 18, which will lead to a private, full-day kindergarten by fall 2010, thanks to a $1.5 million donation from the Tod and Maxine McClaskey Foundation.
• At WSU Tri-Cities, administrators welcomed the campus’ second class of freshman students, as well as an increased number of transfer admissions. In May, the university dedicated the new Bioproducts, Sciences and Engineering Laboratory, a $24.8 million facility built in partnership with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
• At WSU Spokane, construction will soon conclude on the $34.6 million nursing building on the Riverpoint campus. The building will provide the College of Nursing with increased classroom, student support and library space. The building is expected to be ready for faculty and staff move-in in mid-November, with the first classes offered in January 2009.