More students are starting college at WSU Tri-Cities than officials expected.
Total enrollment at the Richland campus ticked upward from 1,868 students to 1,937. Administrators said the impressive changes came in the freshman class where 253 new students began school at WSU Tri-Cities, compared to the 177 students that started there last year.
“This is a really good time for us to be experiencing this kind of growth,” said Mika McAskill, WSU Tri-Cities’ director of admissions and recruitment. “We have the housing right on the docket. ... There is a lot of fresh energy.”
The growth outpaced expectations. Officials planned for 190 freshmen, according to a report presented to the Board of Regents.
While 95 percent of the campus’ population comes from inside the state, McAskill said her team succeeded in recruiting students inside and outside of the immediate area. They saw increases in new students coming from Yakima, as well as nonlocal markets.
The campus is attractive to people seeking a smaller class sizes and easier access to their teachers, McAskill said.
“With WSU having five locations, somebody is going to have a good fit for you,” she said. “(WSU Tri-Cities) is a lot smaller than Pullman or even Vancouver. You’re able to do a lot more hands-on projects at the undergraduate level that you might not have access to otherwise.”
Admissions staff work with incoming students to make sure they have a place to stay, McAskill said.
With WSU having five locations, somebody is going to have a good fit for you.
Mika McAskill, WSU Tri-Cities
She couldn’t credit the growth to any particular factor.
University officials are changing how they work with high schools. Along with attending college fairs and setting up tables to during student lunches, officials are finding ways to get into the classroom to build connections with the students as they are making decisions about their future.
These presentations include talking to students about careers and helping them to prepare for college.
The advertising in the classroom paid off with more visits to the campus, McAskill said. WSU staff showed 998 families around the campus last year — compared with just 388 in the previous year.
Along with increasing the amount, they are customizing more visits and finding out what programs students are interested in. They also ask if they want to meet faculty.
While the population of freshmen spiked, transfer students lagged behind expectations. Officials planned for 357 students, but only 268 students enrolled.
One other place the university saw stagnant numbers was in Running Start, where high school students attend college for credit at both.
The school continues to be the most diverse in the WSU system, with 39 percent identifying as a minority student and 40 percent reporting they are the first in their family to attend college.