The University of Washington will welcome its largest number of in-state freshmen to campus this fall, a group that is also more diverse than any previous class.
The largest class of in-state freshmen will start at the University of Washington’s Seattle campus this fall — a group that will include fewer white students, more Latino students and a slight increase in African-American and Asian-American students.
The new freshman class is more ethnically diverse than ever and reflects steady shifts in state and national demographics.
In all, about 4,400 Washington residents will begin this fall as freshmen — making up 68 percent of the overall freshman class of 6,500.
That’s about 40 more in-state students than the previous record-setting class in 2006. That class was admitted at a time when the population of high-school graduates was at a peak because of demographic trends.
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The UW has purposefully let its freshman class grow over the past few years by admitting more students, but “now we come to a leveling-off period,” Philip Ballinger, associate vice provost for enrollment and undergraduate admissions, told the UW Regents during their monthly meeting Thursday.
Through the end of the decade, the admissions office expects to keep the number of admitted freshmen about the same because the campus can’t accommodate more students.
One of the largest demographic shifts is the drop in the number of white students; they are down by about 7 percent to 2,604 students, or about 39 percent of the class.
In an interview, Ballinger called that a “demographic reality.” It reflects a decline in the number of white students in Washington and nationwide, even as the number of Hispanic and Asian-American students is growing.
White students made up about 56 percent of all public-school students in Washington in the 2015-16 school year, down from 70 percent a decade ago, according to the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. In the Seattle school district, they made up about 46.5 percent of student enrollment that year.
Ballinger said he wished the freshman class could perfectly reflect the population of high-school graduates statewide. “But even though we’re the University of Washington, a larger proportion of our students are coming from the I-5 corridor — and the I-5 corridor doesn’t look like the state of Washington,” he said.
Ballinger said the “admit rate” for white students — the rate at which students are admitted to the UW Seattle — has held relatively steady since 1998. In that year, about 66 percent of white students got an acceptance letter. This year it was 61.1 percent.
This fall’s freshman class will reflect a nearly 12 percent increase in Hispanic/Latino students. They’ll make up about 9 percent of all freshmen.
Affirmative action, the practice of admitting students with the aim of increasing the number of underrepresented minorities, does not play a role in Washington college admissions; it was outlawed by a state initiative, I-200, in 1998.
But the UW has attempted to diversify its college enrollment through an application process known as “holistic review,” which takes into account a student’s personal story, including obstacles and challenges he or she has faced.
Students admitted in 2016 had an average high-school GPA of 3.78, and they scored an average of 644 on the math portion of the SAT and 602 on the critical reading portion. Ballinger said he expects those numbers to remain constant in the coming years.
Enrollment at the Seattle campus is expected to reach 46,000 students this fall and stay there until 2020, while enrollment at the university’s Bothell and Tacoma campuses is expected to grow.
During and after the recession, the number of resident students admitted to UW Seattle fell for two reasons: The population of high-school graduates dropped, and in 2011 the UW made a controversial decision to admit more out-of-state and international students because the higher tuition they paid helped subsidize in-state students.
This year, about 62.7 percent of Washington students who applied to be admitted as freshmen got an acceptance letter — down from 65.6 percent in 2015.
About 39 percent of out-of-state and international students were admitted, down from 48 percent in 2015.
This fall, 1,250 transfer students from Washington’s community colleges are also expected to enter the UW, bringing the overall percentage of undergraduates from Washington state to about 78 percent.
In 2014, the latest year for which data were available, the UW Seattle campus was listed as the 30th-largest campus in the country.
North and south of Seattle, admissions were also up at the UW’s two branch campuses in Tacoma and Bothell. Both the number of applications and the number of students who confirmed they plan to enroll this fall have gone up.
UW Bothell’s freshman class will include more Asian-American and African-American students. There was a slight uptick in international students and a slight decrease in white and Hispanic/Latino students.
UW Tacoma saw an increase in all student demographic groups, but especially white and Hispanic students.