A Washington student's chances of getting into the University of Washington are much better than they were last year.

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Good news for Washington high-school seniors who applied to the University of Washington for fall quarter: It’s going to be easier to become a Husky this year.

Fewer Washington students applied to the UW’s Seattle campus and more in-state students will be admitted, because of a new state requirement. As a result, “I expect it to be a much happier year for resident students applying to UW-Seattle,” said Philip Ballinger, the university’s director of admissions.

There’s no telling how it will shake out for any individual student, of course. Some applicants who are now being classified as nonresident may later earn resident (in-state) status, and applications for some programs, and for student athletes, have different deadlines. (For most freshmen, the application deadline for fall 2012 enrollment was Dec. 1, 2011.)

But so far, Ballinger counts just 9,361 in-state applications, down from 10,447 last year.

And the Legislature is requiring the UW to enroll 4,000 in-state freshmen this fall — 150 more than last year. Because not every student who’s admitted ends up going, the UW will probably admit 300 to 500 additional Washington students to be sure to make the quota, Ballinger said.

“Their chances are definitely better,” he said of the applicants. Acceptance letters are expected to be mailed out after March 15.

State Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, called it “great news.”

The requirement to admit 4,000 in-state students was a provision Orwall sponsored last legislative session in a law giving the state’s four-year schools the flexibility to set their own tuition. The requirement starts this fall and is to continue indefinitely.

The move was in reaction to last year’s decision by the UW to cut the number of Washington students it admitted to its main Seattle campus and to increase the number of nonresident students, who pay nearly three times as much in tuition and fees.

This fall, the UW expects to enroll between 1,800 to 2,000 nonresident freshman, Ballinger said.

The university makes a kind of profit on nonresident students, who in turn subsidize the education of Washington residents. But last spring, high-school hallways and the corridors of the Legislature were abuzz with stories about top state scholars who didn’t get into the UW.

For example, Orwall heard from the parents of a senior at Aviation High School in Des Moines who scored a perfect 800 on the math portion of his SAT, but didn’t get accepted to the UW. That student ended up going out of state to pursue a degree in engineering, she said.

Just exactly why the UW is getting fewer in-state applications this year is a bit of a mystery, Ballinger said. Because of a demographic dip in the high-school population, there is a slight decrease in the number of graduating seniors this year, a trend that is expected to continue.

But Ballinger thinks students may be self-selecting. Having heard how difficult it has become to get into the UW, they may not even be applying, he said.

Meanwhile, Washington State University has seen in-state applications grow by more than 13 percent for the Pullman campus compared to the same period last year. So far, WSU has received 6,469 in-state applications.

“That just confirms, for me, that’s it’s probably — in part — perceptions,” Ballinger said. “The perception at WSU is that they’re growing the class, which is a good thing. The stories that came out of the UW were that good students can’t get in.”

Only about 58 percent of all freshman applicants — both resident and nonresident — were admitted to the UW last year. In contrast, WSU’s “admit rate,” as it’s called, was 83 percent.

Even before the budget crunch, the UW was becoming increasingly more competitive for incoming freshmen. The average high-school grade-point average for an entering freshmen in 2005 was 3.69; last year, it was 3.75

Average SAT scores have risen slightly, as well — freshmen in 2005 scored an average of 1198 on the combined math and reading portions of the test. In 2011, they averaged 1212.

Sol Jensen, executive director of enrollment at WSU, said WSU has expanded student outreach in the Seattle area, including five recruiters who live in Western Washington. WSU has had an increasing number of visitors to the Pullman campus, and once they get here, “they just fall in love,” he said.

WSU also guarantees admission to students who are either in the top 10 percent of their class or have a 3.5 GPA. A “rolling admission” policy means students can apply and learn their status early in their senior year; WSU admitted the first members of the freshman class of 2012 in October 2011, he said.

Although in-state applications to UW are down for the fall 2012 freshman class, the university expects to see more than 26,000 applications overall, Ballinger said. That would be another record application pool for the school.

The growth is coming from out-of-state and international students — especially from China.

And while only about 70 percent of this year’s freshman class came from Washington, the overall percentage of Washington students enrolled as undergraduates is about 80 percent, Ballinger said. That’s because an additional 1,300 students transferred to the Seattle campus last fall after completing their first two years at a community college, and most of those students were Washington residents, he said.

Katherine Long: 206-464-2219 or klong@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @katherinelong.