CWU Campus

Wildcat statue on the campus of Central Washington University in Ellensburg. (Donald W. Meyers / Yakima Herald-Republic)

Enrollment across all eight Central Washington University sites and centers dropped about 5% compared to last fall term.

A total of 11,110 students were enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs as of the last day of this term to drop a course without financial penalty, according to a news release from the university. That’s a drop of 597 students compared to the previous year.

The number excludes Running Start and College in the High School courses through the university. Enrollment for these programs is ongoing, and served over 4,000 students in 2019.

CWU had seen record applications this year. It received more than 12,000 first-year-student applications, which accounts for a 24% increase over the year prior and the largest number yet. Student retention was also considered “strong,” the statement said. But some students chose to postpone their attendance for one or more terms.

President James Gaudino attributed the high level of new applications to university efforts amid the COVID-19 pandemic to provide virtual tours, virtual appointments and expedited admissions decisions. He said student retention indicated the university had pivoted well to meet the needs of students during the pandemic.

Gaudino added that when other students are ready to return, “We will be here, ready to welcome them to Central when the timing is best for each student.”

Reach Janelle Retka at or on Twitter: @janelleretka