WSU Tri-Cities freshmen enrollment up this fall, helping to halt recent decline

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldMay 9, 2013 

More freshmen are flocking to Washington State University Tri-Cities, according to preliminary data for classes starting in the fall.

The Richland campus has received 284 applications for fall 2013 semester, 72 more than at this point in 2011, university officials said.

Data for this time last year was unavailable.

"We're also seeing freshman accept their offers of admission earlier, which we're excited about because it means we can start working with them sooner," said Jana Kay Lunstad, the university's enrollment management coordinator.

If sustained, the enrollment jump could help WSU Tri-Cities reverse two years of a declining student population.

The Richland campus hit a peak of 1,553 students in the 2010-11 academic year, three years after it began accepting freshman as a four-year university.

But enrollment since has dropped, reaching 1,438 this academic year.

Many student and university leaders have cited increasing tuition as a big factor. Resident undergraduates paid $11,386 in annual tuition and fees this year, an 81 percent increase from $6,290 in the 2007-08 academic year.

WSU President Elson S. Floyd recently announced that he would work to keep any tuition increase for the next academic year to no more than 2 percent.

WSU Tri-Cities also continues to attract more students from the region and transfers from schools such as Columbia Basin College. It will open an expanded facility in central Richland for its nursing program as early as January 2014.

"We restructured our enrollment management unit just over a year ago and we now spend a lot more of our recruiting efforts focusing on college-ready students in our top 10 high schools," said James R. Pratt, interim chancellor at WSU Tri-Cities, in a statement. "We're trying to be sure that our local students know that we're eager to have them come to college here."

University officials said the numbers are subject to change and there won't be solid enrollment figures until students show up for orientation in June.

However, applications are still coming in for freshman and transfers.

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