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WSU Global continues to grow while other campuses see enrollment declines

Entrance to Washington State University's Pullman campus.
Washington State University

PULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State University’s Global Campus as well as several professional and graduate programs saw continued growth but overall system enrollment declined 4.2% this fall.

WSU’s total headcount this fall totals 29,843 students, down from 31,159 students in the fall of 2020. Systemwide, WSU did welcome more new graduate students this fall compared to 2020, growing about 3%. WSU continues to serve Washington residents, boasting more than 74% in-state students at all campuses except Global.

Additionally, the number of students pursing M.B.A and Executive M.B.A. programs, Doctor of Medicine degrees and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degrees all increased this fall compared to last fall.

Following up on last year’s record growth, Global Campus grew another 1.2%, settling with just shy of 4,100 students. It remains WSU’s second largest campus, trailing only WSU Pullman, which has 19,114 students this fall, down 3.9% from fall 2020.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and its related impacts have taught us very important lessons that’ll remain relevant in the years to come,” Saichi Oba, vice provost of enrollment management, said. “Foremost among these lessons is that campus visits are vital to our ability to attract future Cougs, and that in-person events cannot be substituted completely with virtual offerings.”

Efforts to retain students year-to-year are also a top priority among campus leaders.

Members of the WSU Board of Regents were presented the fall 2021 enrollment numbers during the Strategic and Operational Excellence Committee meeting Thursday morning.

In response to a discussion about current popularity of certain degree programs like computer science at other colleges and universities, Provost and Executive Vice President and Pullman Chancellor Designate Elizabeth Chilton spoke to WSU’s role in helping all students succeed.

“Often, students start out thinking that they want to go into field X or Y, and actually discover something totally different,” Chilton said. “So as a comprehensive research university, we want to, on the one hand, be sensitive to what they are interested in coming in the door but then also understanding that we need to support them throughout all the twists and turns, and acknowledge that they may end up in a very different place.”

Here’s a look at campus-by-campus enrollment based on the standard annual 10-day headcount.

  • WSU Pullman

    WSU Pullman saw significant improvements in the number of new transfer and graduate students, with gains of 8.2% and 19.5%, respectively. The total number of students, however, declined by 3.9%, though the campus’ retention rate went up 2% to 83.5%

  • WSU Global

    Global’s success continued this fall, with its total undergraduate population increasing to 2,462. While the total number of graduate students declined from 368 to 326, the number of students pursuing online M.B.A. and Executive M.B.A programs increased 7.1%, from 1,196 to 1,281.

  • WSU Vancouver

    WSU Vancouver’s total enrollment declined 7.7% from fall 2020 to fall 2021, from 3,504 to 3,233. The 9% decline among undergraduate students was offset slightly by gains among graduate students, which improved 4.2% this fall.

  • WSU Tri-Cities

    WSU Tri-Cities overall enrollment dropped from 1,716 in fall 2020 to 1,558 this semester, a decline of 9.2%. The campus had strong results among new freshmen, growing by 6% compared to last fall. The number of new graduate students remained flat at 53.

  • WSU Spokane

    WSU Health Sciences Spokane experienced a 5.9% drop in total enrollment, going from 1,727 students last fall to 1,625 currently. A bright spot is overall enrollment among those pursuing Doctor of Medicine degrees, which grew 6.6% this fall. Retention of full-time transfers stood at 85.7%, the highest rate among WSU campuses.

  • WSU Everett

    WSU Everett’s total enrollment this fall stands at 244, a decrease of 16.2%, or 47 students. While new transfer students was also down by 18 students, Everett did have the second best retention rate of full-time transfer students at 85.2%.

Media Contact:

  • Phil Weiler, vice president for university marketing and communications, 509‑595‑1708, phil.weiler@wsu.edu

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