Western Washington University’s Fall 2023 First-Year Class is its Second Largest Ever

WWU extends strong enrollment for a second consecutive year, showing sustained recovery from pandemic dips
Thousands of WWU students marched from campus to downtown Bellingham for the university's First Night Out event at the beginning of Fall Quarter 2023.

Bellingham, WA — The number of new students who have enrolled at Western Washington University for Fall 2023 is officially WWU’s second largest in history with 3,184 new first-year students. This is surpassed only by the size of last year’s incoming class. While total enrollment is still below pre-2020 levels as the smallest pandemic-era cohort moves into its fourth year of study, overall trends are positive. Fall 2023 new first-year enrollment is up about 11 percent from Fall 2021 and almost 28 percent from Fall 2020 levels. 

WWU has a total of 14,651 registered students for Fall 2023. 

“Two years of record breaking first-year class sizes show strong and sustained interest in Western. This speaks volumes about the appeal of our academics and our extended community to new students, and I am proud of the work that all of our faculty, staff, students and alumni have done to make Western the highly regarded institution that it is,” said WWU President Sabah Randhawa. “In the midst of this good news, we need to continue to reach out and recruit students who have been traditionally under-represented in higher education, including first-generation students and Pell-eligible students, whose college careers were affected the most by the pandemic.” 

Western’s Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management Shelli Soto said that the two large entering classes of this year and last affirm that Western is in a very strong position for the coming years. 

“Western is a truly special and vibrant place, and students from throughout Washington and across the country are seeing that and choosing WWU as the university to launch their academic and professional careers.” Soto said. “This is an exciting time to be at Western, and the campus community is enthusiastically engaging in new initiatives to increase opportunities for students.”  

Other highlights from WWU’s enrollment report for Fall 2023 include an uptick in retention and an increase in the FAFSA completion rate among Western’s new first-year students, which is at 83.6 percent. In the state of Washington, about 44 percent of last year’s high school seniors completed a FAFSA. Nearly 30 percent of Western's overall student body identifies as students of color, marking a four-year trend that has shown continual gains in diversity.

An ongoing priority of WWU is to ensure the success and retention of its students. A mandatory advising pilot that reached almost 30 percent of WWU’s new students was introduced in 2022. This and other efforts are part of the university’s strategies for further realigning its advising and retention services for lower division students. 

Comprehensive facts and figures related to WWU’s community, including incoming students, enrollment, graduate outcomes and more are updated regularly at oie.wwu.edu/factbook/.  

About Western Washington University 

Western Washington University offers more than 200 academic programs on its main campus located in Bellingham, and at additional sites in Anacortes, Bremerton, Everett, Port Angeles and Poulsbo. 

Western is recognized nationally for its successes, such as being named one of the top public master’s-granting institutions in the Pacific Northwest for 25 years in a row by U.S. News & World Report. The report also ranks WWU in the top 10 in the West—a region encompassing more than 500 public colleges and universities from Texas to the West Coast—and also spotlights Western as among the best colleges for veterans. 

WWU is identified as among the most sustainable, green campuses in the nation by the Sierra Club, is known for being a top producer of prestigious National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Hollings Scholars, Fulbright Scholars, and Peace Corps volunteers, and nationally ranked for graduates who go on to earn research doctorates. The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Academic Workplace report named Western as one of the best colleges in the nation to work for, winning honors in two categories: teaching environment and tenure clarity and process. Western is proud to be a nationally recognized First Gen Forward institution.  


Media Contact

Jonathan Higgins 
Director of Communications, Western Washington University