BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — Western Kentucky University has reported its largest freshman class from the past 30 years. The university has seen a 16.4 percent increase in students since 2019, resulting in an additional 446 students. 

What You Need To Know

  • WKU reports largest freshman class from past 30 years

  • 16.4 percent increase since 2019

  • Changes due to new scholarship changes, lowered GPA requirement, more

  • In 2019, 39 percent of students qualified for scholarships, now 80 percent do

The university attributes the increase of students to the changes made to its scholarship program. Last year, WKU announced it would increase the minimum merit scholarship award from $1,000 to $2,500, no longer account for ACT and/or SAT scores for merit or targeted based scholarships, and lower the GPA needed to a 3.0. 

In 2019, only 39 percent of students qualified for scholarships, but once the new requirements took effect in 2020, 80 percent of students qualified. 

Director of Media Relations Bob Skipper says these small changes have had a huge impact on accessibility to the university. 

“We knew there was a demand for the WKU experience, and now we’re taking away some of the financial barriers that were keeping these students from furthering their education here,” said Skipper. 

The 2024 graduating class also holds the highest GPA on record at the university with a 3.44. Skipper says the university's decision to no longer account for standardized test scores was a smart move. In turn, the university focuses on extracurricular activities and a graduating high school senior's cumulative GPA. 

“Studies have shown that that high school GPA, which is a measurement of how well the student has done over the past four years, is a much better predictor of how well they’ll do in college than a single test score that rates how they did in a couple of hours,” said Skipper. 

Along with more accessible scholarship requirements, the university also hopes to bring in more students with their new first-year village and common area. Hoping to see an increase of students, despite the pandemic, Skipper says the university is always in the interest of creating accessible opportunities. 

“Our goal is to make it as easy for these students to come here as possible so they can earn a degree and take that education back to their communities and elevate their communities and be part of an economic rebound for our state,” said Skipper. 

For the 2019-2020 school year, WKU awarded a record number of bachelor degrees and is on track to set a historic graduation rate of 55.1 percent.