In the midst of a pandemic, Western Washington University’s total enrollment for fall quarter is higher than anticipated, and the overall percentage of students of color is the highest in the history of the university.
Total fall enrollment, at 15,194, reflects a drop of 5.9 percent from total enrollment in fall 2019. In addition, WWU recorded a 10.2 percent increase in graduate enrollment.
University officials, seeing sharp drops in fall enrollment at universities across the region and nation due to the pandemic, had been concerned about a much steeper decline in fall enrollment at Western.
Western’s fall 2020 student body includes 28.1 percent students of color, a record high for the university. As a percentage of total enrollment, Black, Latino, Asian, and two or more races each have slightly higher representation in the student body this fall than they did in fall 2019. Native Americans are represented in the student body this fall at about the same percentage as last year, and white students fell slightly as a percentage of the total student body.
“We are very excited to welcome our new and returning students for the new academic year, and to see that the diversity of Western’s student body continues to increase year after year. While we of course look forward to the time when we can all safely return to campus life and in-person instruction, we are committed to providing students with the distinctively excellent Western experience regardless of the modality,” said Western President Sabah Randhawa.
Enrollment of first-year and new transfer students was affected by the pandemic, with lower than expected enrollment in those two categories. Many students trying to make difficult choices about how they wanted to begin their college experience opted to defer their admission to a future term. Of Western would-be first-year students, 278 have been granted deferrals to a future term, as compared to 103 in fall 2019. Transfer students requested deferrals at a higher rate as well: 75 this year as opposed to 32 in fall of 2019.
In-state enrollment was 88.5 percent, with non-resident students at 11.5 percent, as compared to 12.3 percent last year. Prior to the pandemic, 25 percent of overall applications were from non-resident students.
Shelli Soto, Western’s associate vice president for Enrollment Management, said that the university will continue to work to ensure that students have access to the exceptional educational opportunities offered by Western.
“We are thrilled that so many talented students decided to join the Western family, and so happy to welcome our returning students back to a new academic year,” said Soto.
For fall quarter, Western is offering mostly remote instruction, with some limited in-person experiential courses.
The number of students in residence halls is about 1,050, compared to about 4,100 in Fall 2019. The current number of students living in Western’s residence halls on its Bellingham campus was shaped primarily with the goal of reducing density to maintain safe social distancing for residents.
Most transfer students come directly from a state of Washington community college, led by Whatcom, Everett, Skagit, Olympic and Bellevue colleges.
For the 21st year in a row, Western Washington University is the highest-ranking public, master’s-granting university in the Pacific Northwest, according to the 2021 U.S. News & World Report College rankings. Western also was named in the top five best public schools in the West, a region stretching from Texas to the Pacific.
Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine also ranked Western among the 100 best values in public higher education nationwide.
For more information about Western's 2020-21 enrollment figures, contact Paul Cocke, WWU Office of University Communications, at email@example.com.