Dear WSU Community,
As an institution, the number of students enrolled across our system plays an integral role in the way we operate. The last few years have proven to be increasingly difficult in that arena as we graduate some of our largest classes in WSU history and confront the ever-changing landscape of higher education during a global pandemic. While our systemwide numbers are down 7.7% from where they were last fall, we are thrilled to be seeing early indications of a return to pre‑COVID application levels thanks to the coordinated efforts of faculty and staff across the system.
In a message that went out last month, I mentioned that Enrollment Management is incorporating several new and innovative strategies to boost applications systemwide. Some of those activities include the implementation of the CommonApp for first-year applicants, onsite and on-the-spot admission programming, and frequent visits to transfer institutions.
I’m happy to report that we are already beginning to see some early returns in these areas. With the use of the CommonApp, students now have the ability to apply to WSU with the click of a button. As a result, the total number of applications received across the system has increased by 34% compared to a year ago. While these numbers are encouraging, we recognize that additional work must be done to ensure those applicants become students by next fall. That’s where our New Student Orientation program, campus tours, admissions staff, student support staff, academic advisors, and the smart use of technology come in.
In addition to securing more applications, we have made substantial efforts to find future Cougs wherever they may be in the state. As part of our onsite admissions programming, admissions staff are making trips to local and regional high schools and have attended Fall Preview days at each of our campuses. We also recently held our first‑ever onsite admission events at WSU Research and Extension Centers in Puyallup and Mt. Vernon. We have admitted approximately 250 students through this process and look forward to expanding these efforts as the application cycle progresses.
We also aim to maximize transfer student enrollment throughout the system. Transfer student enrollment across the nation has dropped significantly over the last few years, with community colleges among those hit hardest by the pandemic. This fall, Enrollment Management has completed over 22 visits to transfer institutions and is currently coordinating additional visits and Spring Transfer events at each of our campus locations. These efforts are in addition to regularly scheduled hours at local community colleges in Tri‑Cities, Vancouver, Everett, and Spokane. This is a giant leap compared to last year when community and technical colleges were still remote, and admissions staff were unable to meet with aspiring Cougs in person.
New first-year and transfer students are important to our enrollment health, but so are current students. Retaining every eligible Coug is a priority if we are to regain the enrollments lost over the last few years, and the robust participation of faculty and staff is essential to achieving that end. For those looking to support current efforts around retainment, I would encourage you to remind students to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) this year and every year that they are enrolled in a degree-seeking program. Too much money — as much as $50M — has been left on the table by Washington graduates that never filed for federal aid. I know we can do better as a state and system.
As we look to the future, we will continue to adapt our strategy to meet the needs of Washington residents. Everyone should have the opportunity to benefit from a college education, and I sincerely hope we can be a part of a larger movement to ensure our state and its residents are set up for success.
Thank you to the faculty and staff who have worked tirelessly to provide a top-tier education to our students. WSU would not be the institution it is today without the cumulative efforts of the entire Coug community. I am grateful for your continued dedication to improving, supporting, and growing Washington State University.
KIRK H. SCHULZ
President, WSU System