GW undergrad population reaches 7,200

Freshmen enrollment has increased about 20 percent in the past two years, making GW’s undergraduate population a record-high 7,200 students.

And no cutback in the population boom is scheduled any time soon.

The University’s five-year rolling plan is to obtain 8,000 students in five years from today, said Robert Chernak, vice president for Student and Academic Support Services.

Chernak said the population increase is directly related to an effort by the University to enhance the facilities using tuition dollars and to improve student life.

The fundamental goal of what University initiatives are about is to make The George Washington University qualitatively better, not just in perception, but in reality, he said. In order to do that without pushing tuition to a greater level, the costs have to come from a slightly larger population.

Chernak said the enrollment increase is paying for additions such as more comfortable classrooms, technological advancements, improved food venues, new residence halls and the new Health and Wellness Center, which is scheduled to open March 2001.

Despite these additions and future ones, students said the enrollment increases have caused major headaches around campus.

One of my classes was being held in the hallway of Funger, junior Pam Morris said of her Body Image class. There was no classroom available so we got kicked out the class. Now, all other classes are full.

Junior Lisa Rosenthal said she wanted to be in a class so badly she signed a form that said she was willing to sit on the floor.

The class was filled to capacity and I needed to take it, Rosenthal said. It was really nice of the teacher to let me (into the class), but it just shouldn’t have to come down to that.

University officials said they are compensating for the increase.

We have already added faculty to cover anticipated increases of students over the past few years, said Donald Lehman, vice president for Academic Affairs.

Class size will only be minimally affected. Class size may only increase, on average one or two students, but nothing beyond, Lehman said.

In addition, the new Elliott School of International Affairs eight-floor building will be finished in the fall of 2002, which will house the new Elliott School facilities, as well as other classrooms and will also provide residential housing with 200 beds.

Additional housing has also been purchased to accommodate the campus’s population growth. The Schenley (2121 H St.), The West End (2424 I St.) and six town houses on 21st Street, which comprise the Scholars’ Village, were all added to GW housing properties last year.

To ease mobs of students at J Street, food services added staff and additional eateries including Einstein’s Bros. Bagels, Cranberry Farms, Starbucks coffee and Provisions Too market.

We worked on staffing to have as many people as we have spaces to fill in order to alleviate congestion, said Lyle Vaughan, assistant director of Auxiliary Services. The intent was to enhance the program and also to most efficiently accommodate all of the students.

Last year alone, University Police hired six new officers to patrol the Hall of Virginia Avenue.

We are definitely in a growth spurt, said Dolores Stafford, director of the University Police Department. Stafford said she feels the department is fully prepared to take on the enlarged group.

Buildings are going up and those are the kind of things we take into account when building a plan, Stafford said.

Because of the student increase, Stafford expects to see a 10 to 20 percent increase in the number of people involved in alcohol-related incidents.

Mail services has also increased its staff to assist the additional students.

We have four or five cages worth of packages that we can’t possibly get out in one day, said Sean Wynn, customer service manager at Mail Services.

To deliver the mail faster, Mail Services added an extra person who helps out when needed.

The GW Bookstore is also adjusting to enrollment increases.

Patricia Lee, director of the GW Bookstore, said she and her staff are working to accommodate the ever-growing student population.

The increase in students wasn’t a surprise to us, she said. The University let us know. We have ordered more books to accommodate the larger enrollment.

Others departments are not concerned with accommodating more students.

Nhan Ho, operating supervisor for Athletics, said he is not worried that the growth will effect the Smith Center.

It won’t make much of a difference, he said. The weight rooms have always been crowded and now there are just a few more people than usual.

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