Central Washington University


For students looking for a college experience in the Pacific Northwest, Central Washington University offers a good range of academic programs in a rural setting. Located in a small town in Washington state, the pioneer spirit remains an integral part of the character of the university. In addition to the main campus, the university also has University Centers at eight other locations, offering a variety of programs to students in those communities.

The university was founded in 1891 as the Washington State Normal School. The campus was located in Ellensburg as a consolation prize to the city, which lost its attempt to be the state capital of Washington state.


Information Summary

Ranks 19th in Washington and 1074th overall. See the entire top 2,000 colleges and universities list
Overall Score (about) 79.4
Total Cost On-Campus Attendance $23,201
Admission Success rate N/A
ACT / SAT 75%ile scores 24 / 1160
Student Ratio Students-to-Faculty 21 : 1
Retention (full-time / part-time) 69% / 63%
Enrollment Total (all students) 12,342


Academic paths include 150 undergraduate degrees and 27 master’s degree programs. The university was founded as a teacher education facility, and the education program remains an integral part of the university’s mission. Programs are divided into a college of arts and humanities, college of business, college of education and professional studies, college of the sciences, continuing education, undergraduate studies, graduate studies, science honors research program and the William O. Douglas Honors College.

Popular Majors

Business and education are the two most popular majors. The university also has a well-regarded construction management program. The university has a number of research programs. The university has one of the only two research facilities for communications between chimpanzees and humans and was home to the famous chimp Washoe for more than 20 years. All research is purely sociological, no medical research or testing is done on the chimps.

Honors Program

The university also has a well-regarded science honors research program that allows students to develop self-directed research programs. Participation in the program is seen as a leg up into a science-related career, as in recent years students have co-authored a number of scholarly articles in professional publications and presented research at several conferences.

Class Size

Students may have to attend large classes. The faculty to student ratio is 21 to 1 and less than 40 percent of the classes have less than 20 students.


The university is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, which accredits schools in of Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. The NWCCU accredits more than 150 colleges and universities in the region.  

Most Popular Fields of Study


College Building :: Central Washington University College Campus :: Central Washington University CWU undergraduate student involved in microbiological field research at Soap Lake :: Central Washington University
Central Theatre Ensemble :: Central Washington University Central Theatre Ensemble - Urinetown :: Central Washington University Central Theatre Ensemble :: Central Washington University


Admissions are selective. CWU has an admissions index which weighs information submitted by applicants. The index takes into consideration GPA and ACT and SAT scores. New students who score below a certain level on the index may have to submit an essay and meet other requirements for admission.

The deadline to submit an application for fall quarter is April 1, winter quarter is Nov. 1, spring quarter is March 1 and summer quarter is June 1. Transfer students typically must submit ACT and SAT scores and their college transcripts. Students with less than a 2.5 GPA may undergo a comprehensive transfer application review.

Financial Aid

Students are eligible for federal grants and student loans. There are also a number of grants and scholarships offered by the state of Washington, the university and other organizations that students may be eligible for.

For example, the university offers a Heacock Family Scholarship for Women in Technology that awards $1,000 to female students majoring in mechanical engineering technology, electronics engineering technology or industrial education. The university also partners with Scholarship America in the Dollars for Scholars Program, which matches up to $250 of a student’s award from the Dollars for Scholars program.

The university also offers a merit tuition program to students with a demonstrable financial need who score a 45 or higher on the admission index and who have a 3.5 high school GPA. The program awards up to $2,700 per term and students must maintain a 2.5 GPA per term to keep the scholarship.

The university’s Web site has an exhaustive list of the scholarship opportunities provided by the school and outside sources, including information on how to apply for the scholarships. The office of financial aid also stands ready to help students find other grants and scholarships they may be eligible for.

Student Financial Aid Details

Ranks 4466th for the average student loan amount.
Secrets to getting the best scholarships and financial aid in Washington.


About a third of the university’s 10,000 students live in on-campus housing. The student body is split pretty evenly among women and men, with women making up little more than half the student body.

There are nearly 100 clubs and organizations for students. These include professional and academic organizations, as well as special interest groups such as the Rodeo Club. Club sports are also offered at the university and rugby has become a student favorite, with the rugby team winning several intercollegiate games.There are no Greek fraternities or sororities.

The university’s student union is the heart of student activities. This $58 million facility houses a variety of university shops, eateries and activities. The campus also features a recreation center, an 80,000 sq. ft. facility that offers students a variety of exercise and recreation options. Students visiting the recreation center can take advantage of indoor climbing, strength training, fitness classes and a variety of other activities.

Another popular student activity is the campus radio station, KCWU. From relatively humble beginnings, the campus radio station has evolved into a well-run and well-equipped broadcast station. The student newspaper is called The Observer.

The university’s theatre program is well-respected, and the university hosts a Summer Institute for Theatre Arts that draws theatre educators from throughout the nation each year.

Student Enrollment Demographics

Student Graduation Demographics


The athletic department fields teams in men’s baseball, basketball, football, cross country, track and field and women’s basketball, volleyball, cross country, track and field and soccer. It is an NCAA Division II school and is a member of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Championship. The teams are nicknamed the Wildcats. The school’s colors are red and black.


The yearly rodeo in Ellensburg has become something of a university tradition, with the university cooperating closely with the city of Ellenburg. Tickets are often tough to come by, as the event is extremely popular with the residents of Ellenburg and students at the university.

Local Community

Given their location in a small town, students don’t have all the distractions that their fellow students in big city colleges and universities have, but there are a variety of entertainment options on campus for students.

Ellensburg is a small city in rural Washington state. The city has a small, yet thriving local music community and the city hosts an annual Jazz in the Valley Music Festival each July. The town is also host to an annual rodeo competition each Labor Day weekend. Also, despite the small size of Ellensburg, the university can draw big names for concerts and other events. Recent guests at the university include Kathy Griffin, Ben Folds and Jim Gaffigan.


Notable alumni include Roland Wheeler, inventor of the Bowflex; Craig T. Nelson, actor in the TV series Coach; astronaut Dorothy M. Metcalf-Linderburger; and NFL quarterback Jon Kitna.

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