Elson S. Floyd, Ph.D. - 8/10/10
The Enrollment Outlook
When I became president of Washington State University in May 2007, one of my highest priorities was establishing a stable base of enrollment for the institution.
Despite difficult budgetary times, we have succeeded. Our Pullman campus has welcomed its three largest classes of first-time freshmen in fall 2007, 2008, and 2009, with a high of 3,411 in 2008. Applications to and interest in the Pullman campus continue to rise. Meanwhile, the four-year programs at WSU Tri-Cities and WSU Vancouver have shown impressive growth.
We have also increased the diversity of our student body; a significant number of our applicants are first-generation students from historically underserved areas. Providing pathways to higher education for these students is vital to the state’s efforts to attain its economic and educational goals.
Coming into this legislative session, we were hopeful that we would be allocated sufficient resources to admit another fall freshman class of around 3,400 students in Pullman. Unfortunately, the persistent economic downturn has further depleted state revenues and reduced allocations for higher education. WSU’s share of the resulting 2010–11 budget reduction was a $13.5 million cut.
This reduction comes on the heels of $54 million in budget cuts for WSU that were already included in the 2009–2011 biennial budget. Earlier, WSU had been required to return $10.5 million of its 2007–2009 biennial appropriation to the state.
No institution can sustain such dramatic reductions without severe impacts. While we have sought to focus the budget cuts on the administrative, rather than the academic, side of the institution, it would be wrong to pretend that the reductions don’t affect our ability to deliver educational programs.
As a result, we have made the decision to limit the incoming first-time freshman class in Pullman to not more than 3,200 students. Historically, this remains a high number; it is a similar size to the freshman class we admitted in fall 2007, which was then a record.
By making this modest reduction in Pullman, we believe we can protect the quality of the programs that our students receive here. We believe that, for the time being, our Tri-Cities, Vancouver, and Spokane campuses have the capacity for continued growth, although that too could be impacted by future reductions in state allocations.
WSU remains committed to meeting the higher education and economic development needs of Washingtonians, first and foremost.
That commitment is matched only by our resolve to protect the quality and reputation of our educational programs. Through good economic times and bad, we will keep our promise—to current and prospective students and to our alumni—to maintain the value of a WSU degree.