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TACOMA, Wash. -- UW Tacoma s first graduation class consisted of four students in 1991.

On Friday, more than 1,300 students received diplomas from the school. It s one of many signs of the school s growth.

So is the ongoing construction on the new library, set to open in the fall.

There s nothing to suggest the growth will be slowing anytime soon.

We re only about half-built, if that, said UW Tacoma Chancellor Debra Friedman, and that s a fabulous place to be.

Next fall another 400 students will be enrolled, bringing the student population close to 4,000.

When the campus opened at its current location in 1997, enrollment was at about 1100.

The growth has transformed the neighborhood around the growing campus.

People tell me they were not only afraid to walk through this area, they were afraid to drive through it, said Friedman.

Some of the graduates have seen the transformation before their eyes.

I ve been a local resident about 30 years, said Class of 2012 member Ben Coronado. It s changed so much in the downtown area.

In a written statement, Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland called UW Tacoma integral to the redevelopment of the downtown core.

Strickland said the campus has changed the city for the better.

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