Central enrollment, diversity on the rise for 2015-16

Matt Escamilla, Staff Reporter

In a world where diversity is celebrated, it’s important for a student’s university to follow suit.  Students of color now comprise a third of the student population at Central.

John Swiney, special assistant to the vice president of Business and Financial Affairs, said 44 percent of the population Yakima and Tri-Cities are Hispanic.

Swiney said that Central has actively sought to increased diversity in its student body to make sure students of color don’t feel uncomfortable in the classroom.

“There is a psychological factor and comfort level knowing that an individual won’t have to be the spokesperson for their ethnicity,” Swiney said.

In a recent Faculty Senate meeting, President James Gaudino credited various student support services for helping retain first-generations students.

Central’s incoming freshman class came in at 1,653 when the projections were 1,500. Central also had a balanced freshman class, with 51 percent female and 49 percent male. At public universities nationwide, the student body averages 56 percent female and 43 percent male, according to Forbes Magazine.

According to the preliminary data from the Fall 2015 freshman profile report, more than half of Central’s incoming  freshman are from Western Washington.  Swiney said Ellensburg’s location attracts students from around the state.

“An individual lives far enough and yet can still visit home on the weekends,” Swiney said. “The cost of living in Kittitas County is a key factor as well.”

Tuition cuts in recent years and programs like the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) Program have also furthured Central’s goal of being a diverse community.

“The [WUE] Program waiver allows students throughout the western United States, the Pacific Island US Territories and free-standing states to enroll at a reduced tuition rate while seeking their first undergraduate degree,” stated the Central scholarship website.

Under the WUE, students pay the regular tuition fee plus 50 percent for their undergrad.

The state’s tuition cuts have also affected enrollment.  There was a tuition cut of 5 percent this year, and a 15 percent decrease is expected next year, reducing annual tuition by more than $1,600.