UW rejects more qualified in-state students

Julie Perrigo didn’t go to the University of Washington.

At 25, she’s gone a long way without a UW degree, something she was once certain she would attain.

The 2004 Kamiak High School graduate lives in Los Angeles. She’s an account executive for the Gannett Co., working in online adver

tising sales for USA Today.

“I just got promoted,” said Perrigo, who graduated in 2007 from the University of Colorado. She earned her communications degree in three and a half years at the school in Boulder.

“I grew up a lot because I went out of state,” Perrigo said Thursday. “It gave me confidence to leave home and be out on my own.”

She didn’t attend the UW because she didn’t get in. Perrigo was featured in the 2004 Herald article “No room at the U,” written by Eric Stevick and Victor Balta. That story examined how even excellent students hadn’t made the cut at the state’s flagship university.

With her 3.53 grade-point average, advanced placement and honors classes, a good SAT score, plus athletics and leadership roles, Perrigo had a solid high school record.

She was senior class president and lettered in softball.

“I was crushed when I didn’t get in. I thought I was going there,” Perrigo said of the UW’s Seattle campus, where her mother, grandparents and other relatives had all been Huskies.

Again this year, very well-qualified applicants from all over Washington are being shocked by rejection notices from the UW.

“Twenty years ago, we were having this same conversation. We have many students who are perfectly well qualified to be here and can’t get in,” said Norm Arkans, assistant vice president for media relations at UW. “Always, regrettably, we’ve had to turn down well-qualified students.”

This year, that perennial challenge is amplified by the state’s huge revenue shortfall — “a $5 billion problem,” Arkans called it.

In early March, as UW officials saw clearly the reality of a shrinking university budget, it was decided that more out-of-state and foreign students would be added, and that 150 freshman slots for in-state students would be lost.

“It was a very difficult decision, and we wish we didn’t have to make it, to reduce the freshman residents from 4,000 to 3,850 — to go down 150 and replace them with nonresidents,” Arkans said Thursday.

He explained admissions numbers and a bit of history, and offered a reminder that “there were thousands of students who got in.”

“There are 5,650 students in the freshman class,” he said. Of all undergraduates, 70 percent come as freshmen and 30 percent are community college transfers. And of all undergraduates, 84 percent are state residents, and 16 percent nonresidents. Next fall’s freshman class will be about 70 percent residents, down from 73 percent this year, Arkans said.

Last year, the UW accepted 5,500 freshmen — 4,000 from Washington and 1,500 nonresidents. Partly because of the budget shortfall this year, Arkans said it was initially decided to boost the freshman class by 150 to 5,650, with the whole increase coming from nonresidents.

Nonresidents pay roughly three times what residents pay, “more than the cost of educating themselves,” Arkans said. In-state undergraduate tuition and fees at UW are almost $9,000 a year. For a nonresident the cost is more than $25,000.

That tuition differential explains why 4,000 in-state students were accepted as freshmen last year, but only 3,850 this year — with the 150 slots going to students from out of state.

What the numbers mean is that more fine in-state students, like Perrigo, were rejected this year. A recent Seattle Times article told the story of Brandon Stover, a senior at Chief Sealth High School, who didn’t get into the UW, despite a 4.0 grade-point average.

The university wasn’t so picky in the past. The UW accepted me, in 1972, with a grade-point average of about 3.5.

Rick Perrigo, Julie’s father, said his daughter has no regrets about Colorado, but it was an expensive choice. Her education there cost about $20,000 a year. “It ended up costing us a lot more money,” he said.

“She’s not a Husky; she has no attachment,” Rick Perrigo said of his daughter.

He isn’t sure out-of-state people will be as loyal to UW after graduation. “They’re not going to be as supportive,” he said.

Julie Perrigo has great memories of college, where she joined the Gamma Phi Beta sorority.

“The University of Colorado in Boulder ended up being so much fun. I would have made new friends at UW, but I ended up adjusting just fine,” she said.

“I learned pretty quickly that things happen for a reason.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; muhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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