Students say they are dissatisfied with GW

When sophomore Jena Valdetero began her first day of classes last year, she thought she would be entering a cocoon-like universe where academics were paramount and learning was a priority.

GW’s price tag encouraged this line of thought, she said.

Three semesters later, after grappling with closed class sections, overcrowded classrooms and inadequate professors, Valdetero said she sometimes feels frustrated.

I wouldn’t trade living in D.C. for a lower-cost education, but I do think that GW needs to realize that this is an extremely expensive education and the educational qualities need to reflect that, she said. I think that courses, especially this semester, are very overcrowded. I have too many people in four-fifths of my classes who are sitting on the floor.

According to a recent Student Association survey, Valdetero isn’t alone in her concerns about academics and costs.

The Student Budgetary Priorities survey released last week indicates nearly 71 percent of GW students don’t believe GW gives them the education for which they pay. The survey, completed by 200 students, was designed to provide the SA with a clear understanding of how students felt their money should be spent.

Josh Friedman, tuition action director for the SA, said he was happy to know the percentage decreased from 76 percent in the 1997-1998 school year to 71 percent now but said he still believes the University has more work to do.

Seventy-one percent negative is nothing to brag about, he said. I hope this will be a wake-up call to the administration – that they need to make improving academics as high a priority as improving their other qualities.

Administrators, while quick to point out the unscientific nature of the survey, said they are concerned about a growing sentiment of academic discontent.

Anything less than 100 percent satisfaction is cause for concern, GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg said. If there was one student who was unhappy, we’d want to know about it. I bet if you did a similar survey at Harvard, you’d get the same results.

Other administrators said it is important to realize GW is in a time of transition. They cited the construction of a new School of Media and Public Affairs and Elliott School of International Affairs as well as the new Health and Wellness Center as facilities which will alleviate student concerns.

Robert Chernak, vice president for Student and Academic Support Services, said he feels a differentiation needs to be made between students upset about not getting enough for what they pay for and a student dissatisfied with GW.

I think that maybe it’s a reflection that students come to GW with a certain set of expectations centered in three areas: classroom experiences, campus experience and the city experience, Chernak said.

Administrators also said areas shown to be of concern in a similar survey conducted two years ago are now listed as satisfactory by students – indicating progress for the University.

Whenever students have brought an issue to the attention of the administration, we’ve done whatever is possible to correct the situation, if in fact, it was something that needed to be corrected, said Mike Gargano, assistant vice president of Student and Academic Support Services. I think there’s a comfort level that this administration has a track record of listening to students and doing their best to listen to concerns.

Despite the optimism of GW officials, students said they are still concerned about the quality of their academics and the seemingly overpriced value of their education.

I don’t think classroom academics anywhere is worth this much, but I think the combination of life experiences makes it worthwhile, sophomore Sabrina Calice said.

Senior Jay Mayfield said though he has seen improvement in the quality of academics over the past four years, he still sees much room for improvement.

In terms of (a GW education) being worth $120,000, I don’t know if it’s worth that, but since I’ve been at GW, I definitely feel the quality of education I’ve gotten at the University has improved dramatically – including the quality of professors, Mayfield said.

Mayfield said the University has also learned to use the Washington, D.C., environment as a tool rather than a crutch to compensate for inadequate education.

Instead of leaning on it, they’re actually using it productively, he said.

The SA report will be reviewed by the University’s Board of Trustees and other GW officials, administrators said.

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