CWU faces low enrollment

Laynie Erickson, News Director

Central Washington University has felt the pinch of budget cuts, just like many universities throughout the nation. 

The university projects 1700-1800 freshmen for the upcoming school year. While this number is up from the last two years, it is still lower than pre pandemic enrollment. According to CWU President Jim Wohlpart, it will take some time to recover. 

“When you bring in small freshmen classes they are with you for a while and your total enrollment generally drops. It will take a while for those small classes to bubble through,” Wohlpart said.

With about 50% of the budget coming from the state, and 50% from tuition, lower enrollment means some hard choices will have to be made. According to CWU’s chief financial officer Joel Klucking, the university’s goal is to maintain a 20 to 1 student to faculty ratio.

Less students means less professors are needed. This may result in some reduced workloads for non-tenured track staff. 

“It’s obviously very difficult. Our non-tenure track faculty are the ones that won’t have students to teach next year,” Klucking said. “Many of these faculty have been with the university for a long time and it’s a very difficult situation to not be able to fill their workload, or perhaps some of them don’t have any workload.”

Dr. David Dougals, a Senior Lecturer and NTT Senator at CWU, realizes that it will be faculty like him and other non-tenured staff that could potentially be on the chopping block.

“With the budget cuts, and again this is just the reality of it, because NTTs are not on that tenured track line, we are going to be the first ones to get cut, to lose our jobs. That’s going to affect our students,” Douglas said.

In an effort to increase enrollment, CWU is now taking a different approach. The university has traditionally taken what Wohlpart describes as a “transactional” approach. This includes receiving student data and sending postcards and emails.

However, CWU has now started implementing what he describes as a “relational” approach, focusing on building relationships with admissions counselors in high schools as well as reaching out to middle schools.

“CWU has such incredible depth and quality to the relationships that we establish here on campus. That’s who we are, and how we do what we do,” Wohlpart said. “That’s the magic of Central Washington University. But our recruitment efforts didn’t match that magic.”

Although lower enrollment means tough decisions, President Wohlpart is optimistic and excited about the “amazing things” that can be done when enrollment reaches the 12,000 students the campus can sustain. In the meantime, he believes in being very open about the challenges the university faces.

“The thing that has been a little bit different is the way in which we have been very transparent with the projections and the budget and the impact of that,” Wohlpart said. “I really do believe in that kind of transparency and the community coming together to figure out how we are going to embrace this challenge.”