February 15, 2023
Dear WSU Community,
As we look to the year ahead, I remain committed to improving transparency around
our system-wide decision-making and the priorities that will impact our financial
health. I understand there is a need to know more about how the university is bringing
in revenue and allocating funds — particularly given recent budget reductions. This
message will address some of the recent questions I’ve received and will serve as the
first in a series of communications detailing efforts to improve the fiscal health of
What challenges are we facing?
One of Washington State University’s primary sources of revenue is the tuition we
receive from enrolled students. The graduation of some of our largest classes to date
(those who started at WSU in 2018 and 2019) means that more students are graduating
even as fewer are enrolling, and we are working with fewer dollars than we have before.
In a letter I sent during the fall semester, I described several new initiatives we are
undertaking to help stabilize enrollment across the WSU system. As we work toward
building our fall 2023 classes, we are continuing to modify our enrollment management
practices in an increasingly competitive enrollment environment.
What are we doing about it?
At the start of this application cycle, Enrollment Management (EM) enabled
first-year students to apply to WSU using the Common App for the first time in our
history. As a result, there has been a significant increase in the total number of
applications received across the system — especially in non-resident applications.
Looking at year-over-year comparisons, there has been a 59.3% increase in non-resident
applications system-wide. These numbers are encouraging, but additional work is
required to ensure those applicants become confirmed Cougs by next fall.
The interest from out-of-state applicants presents a unique opportunity for WSU to
extend its offerings. To support interested non-residents in their decision to choose
WSU, I recently invested in an expansion of our
Western Undergraduate Exchange tuition waiver (WUE).
Under the expanded policy, all non-resident students with high school
grade point averages above 3.0 may be eligible to receive up to $11,000 in awards. The
expansion aims to improve accessibility and strategically leverage financial aid to
secure more commitments and subsequent revenue in the long term.
Given the number of out-of-state applicants applying to their campuses, WSU Pullman
and WSU Tri‑Cities are committed to pursuing this strategy and have already begun
coordinating targeted communications to eligible students and their families. The
other campuses will ultimately decide whether this expansion makes sense for their
recruitment efforts and budgets.
In addition to expanding the WUE policy, we have made several selective investments
of nearly $500,000 in one-time funds to assist Enrollment Management with landing a
robust class of undergraduates for fall 2023. EM will put these resources towards
hiring additional full-time admission staff and providing overtime and temporary pay
to keep up with the increase in applications.
Research shows students enroll at higher rates when they receive a prompt decision.
These funds will improve admissions processing and better support enrollment teams
that have been working around the clock to secure the next class of Cougs; through
onsite and on-the-spot admission programming, frequent visits to transfer institutions,
and hosting fall preview days at each of our five campus locations. With the increased
exposure and staff, EM can better meet potential students wherever they may be.
While we wait to see the impact these changes will have on final fall 2023
enrollment, these initiatives will better support the WSU system in the years to
Projections for fall 2023 enrollment
Enrollment Management, in collaboration with Institutional Research, has provided
estimates for our incoming classes across the WSU system for the fall 2023 semester.
For the Pullman campus, we expect between 3,200–3,250 first-year students; for the
Vancouver campus, a range of 350–400 first-year students; and for the Tri‑Cities campus,
a range of 180–205 first-year students. These numbers do not include transfer students
and will be finalized in the coming weeks. The projected class sizes are purposely
conservative estimates and suggest that new enrollment will be essentially flat compared
with the Fall 2022 classes.
A lot can change between now and August as families and students make decisions about
where they will enroll for the fall semester. We will provide an additional update on
enrollment projections in several months.
How can you help?
While recruitment is an essential component to the success of our university, so is
retaining every eligible Coug across the system. Each of you contributes to that
effort — whether that involves keeping our facilities up and running, advising incoming
students, or providing a supportive classroom environment. Your work has a direct impact
on the Cougar experience.
For those looking to provide additional support to ongoing efforts across the system,
you can remind students to complete the FAFSA or WAFSA, volunteer to participate in
recruitment and yield events, or just take time to interact with students and families
that may be touring your campus. A kind word, a “Go Cougs!”, or simply giving directions
can go a long way in helping students and their families choose WSU.
For more specifics on how you can support the Cougar community, do not hesitate to
get in touch with admissions staff posted at your campus or college.
I recognize the challenges our campuses, colleges, and units are facing. While there
is no guaranteed path to success, I know that our enrollment will play a large part in it.
During this time of change, I am immensely grateful for your support and the expertise
of our colleagues in Enrollment Management, Institutional Research, and Finance and
Administration. These decisions are not made in a bubble, and the implications of these
decisions will not be constrained to one. We all have a part to play in realizing the
future of Washington State University.
Thank you for your continued engagement. I will provide another update on our fiscal
health in the next few weeks, but please feel free to reach out to me with any questions,
suggestions, or comments you have in the meantime.
Kirk H. Schulz
Washington State University