GW scrambles for beds

GW officials said they are negotiating with building owners around Foggy Bottom to find beds for a freshman class 300 students bigger than expected. There are 450 more freshmen than last year – the biggest enrollment jump in at least a decade.

Of the 2,550 enrolled freshmen, 300 have no place to live at the moment, said Robert Chernak, vice president of Student Academic and Support Services. He said there is a “very good” possibility that GW will have a new residence hall by the time students arrive for class in late August.

“We’re not going to have a problem with housing,” Chernak said.

Chernak said GW is finalizing negotiations with the Pennsylvania House at 2424 Pennsylvania Ave. to lease about 80 rooms to be immediately occupied and another 20 later to ease the housing shortage. GW will acquire the rooms, which will hold two to three students, for three years, he said.

Chernak declined to comment on what buildings GW is negotiating to buy, but said most are apartment buildings around Foggy Bottom. Owners of seven apartment buildings around campus, including the Statesman, Empire and Monroe House, said GW had not contacted them to sell by print time.

Admissions director Kathryn Napper said GW enrolled more freshmen than expected because she counted on a yield similar to recent years. The University only planned on an increase of 100 freshmen from last year, she said.

About six percent more students accepted to GW chose to enroll than last year, Napper said. She said GW’s yield – the percentage of students who accept admissions offers – increased from 29 percent to 35 percent, but the University expected no change from last year.

GW’s acceptance rate of 49 percent has remained the same since 1997, and the number of students has increased every year since then. In 1999 GW enrolled about 330 more freshmen than the previous class.

Napper said GW’s yield only exceeded 30 percent twice in GW’s history. Chernak said a 6 percent jump in a university’s yield is “unheard of.”

The University will offer the spaces in the Pennsylvania House to upperclassmen who were “forced into certain choices in the (housing) lottery because they were the choices available,” Chernak said.

“Most of these properties are not suitable for freshmen – they’re too nice,” he said.

Upperclassmen who accepted a room in buildings such as Crawford Hall, which was planned for freshmen housing before a housing crunch in the spring, will receive offers to move this summer, Chernak said.

All freshmen, and those on the guaranteed waiting list from the spring housing lottery, will receive rooms in the fall, said Andrew Sonn, director of Housing Services. About 160 students remain on the waiting list for housing.

Sonn declined to offer details about plans to house the extra students.

Craig Linebaugh, associate vice president for academic planning and special projects, said GW will add 50 lecture class sections that include “the most popular courses taken mainly by freshmen” to accommodate the larger class.

“A large number of these new sections are at 8 a.m.,” he said. “One thing students will have to be especially sensitive to is they will have to take one, maybe two 8 a.m. classes.”

He said the University will hire nine full-time faculty members and six teaching fellows, advanced doctorate students. Although the University added some course sections at the Mount Vernon Campus, GW does not plan to expand classroom space, Linebaugh said.

“We actually have plenty of classroom capacity here,” he said. “There’s a sort of myth that we do not have enough space.”

Linebaugh said he feels “very good” about GW’s response to the unexpected freshmen enrollment and the University’s readiness for classes in August.

“We will continue to monitor very carefully through the (Colonial Inaugurations) what classes are getting filled to capacity and then add more fellows,” Linebaugh said.

Director of Media Relations Gretchen King said several GW departments are collaborating to create an initiative called Students First to address student concerns about GW services and address the need for extra space.

“The task force wants to match resources to needs, whether space or finances,” said Mount Vernon Executive Dean Grae Baxter, who will head the group of GW officials.

Baxter said academic programs, housing, dining services and classrooms will be a priority, and the group will produce plans throughout the summer.

–Russ Rizzo contributed to this report.

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