Washington public college enrollment lowest since 2014

Washington state’s public universities are at their lowest combined levels of enrollment since 2014, according to state data.
Shaw-Smyser Hall on the campus of Central Washington University in Ellensburg with its classical revival architecture. Photo courtesy Ian Dewar Photography/Shutterstock

As of the 2022-2023 school year, there were 100,575 students enrolled in the state’s six public universities, compared to 106,038 in 2014

TJ Martinell
The Center Square Washington

Washington state’s public universities are at their lowest combined levels of enrollment since 2014, according to state data.

As of the 2022-2023 school year, there were 100,575 students enrolled in the state’s six public universities, compared to 106,038 in 2014.

The number of students enrolled has been on a decline since the 2018-2019 school year, when there were 113,974 students. That number fell to 108,195 in 2020-2021, the same time when government-imposed lockdowns forced students to learn virtually. Student enrollment went up in 2021-2022 to 110,024.

However, not all universities are experiencing the same loss of enrollment during the same timeframe. The University of Washington’s student enrollment is at 48,501; although an increase from 44,709 in 2014, it’s a steep drop from 54,822 students in 2021-2022.

In the 10-year span, Evergreen State College’s enrollment fell from 4,144 students to just 1,785. Eastern Washington University has experienced a similar decline, from 10,236 students in 2014 to only 6,661 students in 2022-2023. Its student enrollment fell by almost 3,000 students, almost 30% of the total student body, between 2019-2023.

Western Washington University’s enrollment has remained relatively steady, at 12,565 students in 2014 to 11,944 in 2022-2023.

According to the Mountain States Policy Center, the number of students enrolled in both public and private universities has declined during the past decade from 249,330 to 204,956. Regionally, Montana has also seen total student enrollment decrease, while Idaho’s enrollment has remained stagnant. 

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center has been studying the effects of the 2020 lockdowns on student college enrollment nationwide since the summer of 2020. Their most recent report undergraduate enrollment increased this fall quarter for the first time since the 2020 COVID-19 lockdowns, though freshman enrollment declined from last year by 3.6% and is just .8% above 2021 fall enrollment numbers.

This report was first published by The Center Square Washington.


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