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The University

Central Washington University (CWU) is one of three state-supported comprehensive universities in Washington State. Like the other comprehensive universities, CWU began as a normal school. Then the school became a College of Education in 1937, a state college in 1961, and a comprehensive university in 1977.

Offering more than 135 bachelor's and master's degrees, the university enrolls approximately 12,000 students and has a faculty-student ratio of 20:1. About 25 percent of students and 33 percent of freshmen are people of color. CWU enrolls and graduates the largest percentage of Hispanic/Latino students of any public baccalaureate institution in the state. The university holds regional accreditation through the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

Excellence in teaching is the core of the university’s mission, and faculty engage in scholarship, invention, and creative activity to support teaching, to advance knowledge, and to provide outlets for creative expression. Externally sponsored grants and contracts funded during academic year 2014-15 totaled more than $11.8 million. The largest awards were from the US Department of Education and the National Science Foundation. CWU faculty and alumni have received numerous honors and recognition, including CEO of the year, National Teacher of the Year, National Principal of the Year, and national-level recognition in many disciplines, from music to physics.

The university has been very successful in adding and maintaining modern, state-of-the-art facilities. The state has invested more than a quarter billion dollars in CWU facilities since 2008. In recent years, campus construction and remodeling projects have included impressive science facilities, a music building, and a new, spacious student union and recreation facility.  In all, there are 57 academic and 32 auxiliary buildings.

CWU plays a key role in the economic, educational and cultural vitality of the community and region. Faculty, staff, and students contribute research and service in the public interest. In addition, the university provides instructional and library resources for the community and partners with other educational service providers to enrich access and opportunity to education for citizens of the region. Each year more than 350 dramatic and musical performances, art and museum exhibitions, lectures, and athletic events are open to campus and community members.

The Community and Region

CWU’s exceptionally beautiful and well-maintained residential campus occupies 367 acres in Ellensburg, the largest city and county seat of historic Kittitas County. The city is situated in the geographic center of the state and on the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountains. Central Washington is a world-class destination for hiking, mountain biking, fishing, camping, whitewater rafting, boating, skiing and snowboarding.

As one of Washington’s founding communities, Ellensburg’s downtown is composed of beautiful brick buildings largely constructed between 1889 and 1917, and located just three blocks from the CWU campus. Weekends bring delicious local food, fresh produce, regional crafts, and eclectic entertainment downtown at the Kittitas County Farmer’s Market. Ellensburg is home to many top arts and cultural events in Washington, including Jazz in the Valley, Dachshunds on the Parade, Buskers in the ‘Burg, The Ellensburg Rodeo, and Spirit of the West.

Ellensburg is located approximately 100 miles east of the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metropolitan area. With an estimated population of more than 3,600,000, Seattle Metro is the 15th largest metropolitan area in the United States. The Puget Sound region is home to many natural attractions including the Seattle Unit National Historical Park, offering a glimpse into the history of the Klondike Gold Rush, the Big Four Ice Caves, and the San Juan Islands.  Top employers either headquartered or with a large presence in the region include Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Seattle, Starbucks, Boeing, Costco, Nordstrom, Weyerhaeuser, and Qwest Communications.

Also located two hours from Ellensburg are the “Tri-Cities” of Pasco, Kennewick and Richland, set at the confluence of the Yakima, Snake, and Columbia rivers. The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, one of the United States Department of Energy’s major national laboratories, is a major economic engine for the area.

Central Washington is a premium wine leader in the US, with  more than 100 wineries. Among the world's top hops producers, the area also is home to regionally well-known micro-breweries. 

For more information about CWU and the community in Ellensburg, please visit

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