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Originally published Saturday, January 17, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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No new students at UW in Seattle this spring

UW has taken the drastic measure of closing its doors to new students who want to start in the spring. The move is in response to budget cuts and overenrollment.

Seattle Times higher education reporter

The University of Washington has taken the drastic step of closing its doors to new students who want to start classes this spring.

The move, which applies only at the main Seattle campus, comes in response to budget cuts and overenrollment -- both driven by an ailing economy. One group of students who won't be affected: athletes.

UW Admissions Director Philip Ballinger said he plans to send out about 325 letters next week to students who would have been accepted for the spring quarter under normal circumstances. Those letters will explain that they won't be admitted at this time.

The students essentially will be given three options: to keep their applications on ice for consideration in the fall; to attend the Bothell or Tacoma branch campuses, which are still accepting spring students; or to apply for a refund of their $55 application fee.

An additional 200 to 250 students who would have been rejected under normal circumstances will still receive letters stating they've been declined admission. Those students won't have the option of a refund.

The deadline for spring-quarter applications was Dec. 15. Ballinger said the decision to nix enrollment was made within the past week.

"I hate to do this," Ballinger said. "It's just an unavoidable situation."

He said almost all spring applicants are transfer students. About two-thirds typically come from community colleges; the rest come from other four-year colleges.

Ballinger said there are a few exceptions to the enrollment freeze.

A handful of students in engineering programs that typically start in the spring will be admitted, as will some students enrolling in an early-entrance program for gifted youngsters.

And athletes -- including football players transferring from junior colleges -- won't face a problem.

"We decided to be very conservative with new admits this spring, not knowing what the budget situation is going to be next fall," UW spokesman Norm Arkans said.

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Because UW already enrolls more students than the state subsidizes, fewer students in the spring will result in lower faculty and facility costs but no reduction in state support.

In her draft budget, Gov. Chris Gregoire proposed a 13 percent cut for the university, which translates to a $116 million reduction in state support over the next two years.

The cut comes on top of a $17 million hit that UW already has taken in the present budget cycle.

In November, UW announced that 1,100 more sophomores, juniors and seniors had stayed in school this year than had been anticipated, in all likelihood because of the worsening economy.

And this year, the university remains on pace to break fall freshman-application records. A record was set last year when 20,000 students applied for 5,500 freshman slots.

Given the budget situation, UW already has been finding ways to save money, Arkans said. It has clamped down on travel and implemented a hiring freeze for most positions.

In a letter sent to alumni this week, UW President Mark Emmert said the university plans to save money in other ways -- for instance, by changing the way students can meet foreign-language requirements. Emmert said that initiative, and others like it, help.

"But the hard reality is that cuts of this magnitude would mean the loss of hundreds of positions at the university," Emmert continued.

"Ultimately, this would mean fewer faculty to teach students, fewer advisers and other services, and an overall decline in the quality of the UW educational experience."

Nick Perry: 206-515-5639 or nperry@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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