UW Tacoma hit a record high of 588 enrolled freshmen students this fall.
Compared to last year’s freshman enrollment of 534 students, this increase shows incoming students are becoming more attracted to the university. The growth of freshman enrollment is expected to keep increasing as the university continues to grow in popularity. However, available resources on campus are limited.
Faculty and administration at UWT are not surprised with the issue. Karl Smith, chief of admissions at UWT, has seen the change in the amount of students applying.
“I have noticed an increase in freshman applicants applying to the university,” Smith said. “But many of our students come in with college credits or through running start so the class standing of many students enrolled students are slightly different.”
The Interim Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Jill Purdy, also agrees that freshman class sizes are growing.
“The size of the freshman class has increased each year,” Purdy said. “We have more freshmen entering this fall than we did last fall.”
Many students at the university are concerned about the resources available since the campus space is limited. Alexa Heinrich, a freshman student at UWT, stated her concern:
“It’s a pretty small campus and it’s very crowded whenever there’s a big event. Parking is problem for me too, I have a late morning class and so by the time I get here I end up parking all the way up the hill.”
In regards of the issue of expansion, Purdy commented that they “continually work with the legislature to add more buildings [and] to expand classrooms, labs and offices as the campus grows”.
The most recent addition to the UWT campus is the Tacoma Paper & Stationery building that opened this fall. The Office of Campus Real Estate also plans on expanding the campus land in order to gain more parking space for students.
The campus isn’t just expanding physically, — there’s also academic expansion occurring.
“I don’t think there’s a significant increase in class size due to all the new courses,” Smith said. “We’ve also added new majors over that time frame, for instance, we added biomedical science and this year we added electrical engineering to cope with student needs.”
UWT is becoming a more well-known university and popular with students when they think of their projected university options.
“Part of the growth has been the institution’s goal, which was to increase the number of first time in college students,” Smith said.
In 2006, the state legislature promoted both the Bothell and Tacoma campuses of UW along with Washington State University to accept lower division students. To accomplish this goal, the Washington State Legislature adds and enacts a section in the RCW 28B.45.020 that lower division students may be enrolled through coenrollment agreements with community colleges. Over the 10 years since that process started, the increasing numbers show this project to be a success.
The Pathways to Promise program was another initiative to raise awareness for graduating high school students. To help Washington residents realize the benefits of earning a college degree and options available at the university, this initiative promised to partner with school districts, the community and military. The outcome would create pathways to the promise of a bright future through higher education.
In 2012, UWT partnered with Tacoma Public Schools and the Puyallup School District to create awareness about college options. Since this was put in place, UWT has partnered with several other school districts to increase enrollment, such as Federal Way, Kent, Franklin Pierce and Steilacoom.
The overall popularity of UWT also plays a role in the high enrollment. The expansion of Tacoma’s Pacific Avenue gave way to a more lively college environment with many restaurants, supply stores and offices. Being close to downtown Tacoma appeals to many incoming freshman students.
“We see more and more students thinking of UW Tacoma as an option for college when they leave high school,” Smith said. “The institution also focused on serving the urban environment of South Sound to get more students in the area interested.”
Having a residence hall is also more attractive to freshmen and undergraduates. Apartments at Court 17 is a community that continues to become popular among freshman due to its closeness to the campus as well as shops and restaurants.
As UWT grows as an institution, the faculty and administration will continue to plan ahead to cope with admission sizes. Purdy and the Office of Academic Affairs are starting to work on a plan that gathers information on campus life so that they are aware of what resources the university will need 3 to 5 years from now. This ensures the administration will have enough time to obtain those resources.