Administrators have routinely quelled student concerns about increasing class size by explaining GW has the academic facilities necessary to accommodate the ever-growing undergraduate population, which will near 10,000 students next year. One might believe the University’s assurances because of all the construction on campus, but apparently this is all an illusion.
According to an administration-produced report to the Faculty Senate on fiscal planning, the total number of classrooms is projected to decline over the next few years despite the investment of more than $100 million in the Media and Public Affairs and 1957 E St. buildings.
The total number of general-purpose classrooms will most likely decline from 123 this year to 97 by spring 2005. This is because of the loss of class space in Funger, Monroe and Government halls during renovations and building additions. Thus, while the University seems to be expanding to serve the growing student population, it is actually shrinking in available facilities.
It is bad enough that there is barely enough space for the expanded student population, but it also seems there will not even be enough professors to teach them.
The report, using numbers that do not take into account an extra 150 students GW is now planning, explains that undergraduate enrollment has been growing faster than the number of sections and professors. From 1997 to 2002, undergraduate enrollment grew 46 percent while the number of available sections grew by only 22 percent and faculty increased by only 16 percent, which equates to larger class sizes.
Adding to the problem, the number of smaller, upper-level undergraduate courses is set to increase significantly over the next few years, as larger classes move through the University. According to the report, it is “definitely possible” many students will have difficulty completing their academic schedules as planned. This leads students to believe the only viable option for the housing and now academic space crunch is some sort of trimester system
It is unacceptable that the University is over-enrolling students when there is not enough space or professors to adequately instruct them. And don’t think there is any money available to hire more teachers or acquire large new buildings – the continued poor performance of the economy has diluted the University endowment and thus available funds.
Class sizes might be larger, but administrators hope they can solve the facilities crisis by altering GW’s traditional scheduling system. Class space is dramatically underused because of GW’s traditional scheduling pattern that allows many students to avoid taking Friday classes, with the idea that many students could use this time for an internship.
The plan is to start to chip away at this luxury by replacing many Monday-Wednesday 75-minute classes with Monday-Wednesday-Friday 50-minute classes. While this might be the easiest way for the University to solve this problem, the administration would be wise to try to limit Friday classes to general requirements for freshmen and sophomores. Upperclassmen should still be able to engage in internships and other Friday activities that they treasure as a benefit of going to private school and paying a higher tuition.