In academia there is pressure for universities to expand every year by adding new aesthetic features and academic improvements. It is very difficult to stop the growth and cut programs. GW thrived in this pressure throughout the 1990s as it expanded on many fronts in the booming economic climate. But now that the economy has stalled and GW’s endowment value decreased by $135 million. The University can no longer afford this expansion.
GW, however, continued to expand despite serious budget shortfalls in the past five years and as a result doubled its debt to more than $600 million. The University community now needs to brace itself for major cuts and changes in the works that have serious implications for students.
4 X 4 = less for more
The Alternative Academic Calendar Committee, the group looking to maximize University resource efficiency through scheduling, is now looking at a four-by-four credit system. According to this system, students take four classes at four credits apiece, instead of the current five three-credit classes. Sources acknowledge that such a system, combined with a mandatory summer session for juniors, could come into effect at GW within a few years to help solve GW budget deficits.
The four-by-four system, without lengthening class times, would essentially give students less, call it more and charge the same price. All examples of four-by-four systems at other universities, including Tufts, show less in-class time for students, as instruction time in the other courses does not increase with the loss of a class. This means students receive less instruction time for the same price, all under the guise of academic enhancement.
No matter how the University tries to justify this system, the change is for purely financial reasons. Under the new system, each student at GW would take approximately eight fewer classes, allowing GW to hire fewer professors, cut departments and more efficiently use its classroom space.
A four-by-four system would be a huge change and require a reduction in graduation, general curriculum and major requirements. Many students would no longer be able to double major and minor. It would be difficult to even take a minor with eight fewer class periods to schedule. Without increased instruction time in the classes students do take, the four-by-four system will only hinder a GW education.
GW has always touted itself as a very internationally minded university, but current budget shortfalls have forced changes that threaten the University’s right to this claim.
As of next year, GW will close the English as a Foreign Language Department. The department provides classes for international students to improve their language skills. Some students enroll directly in the department, taking only EFL classes until they are fluent enough to apply to an individual school.
The administration has already curtailed the international appeal of GW by limiting study abroad options to a small, defined list and now it stands to decrease the international student population at GW because of further changes influenced by budgetary issues.
The Hatchet understands the need for budget cuts, but the cuts should be spread equally among departments. Eliminating EFL does a disservice to foreign students wishing to study at GW and American students who benefit from diversity on campus.
GW will be less attractive to foreign students who are not proficient in English. They can go to Georgetown or George Mason where EFL programs are offered. Even if their English is good enough to enroll in other GW colleges, they might be deterred by the decreased language support.
The more than 150 students currently directly enrolled in the EFL department receive the brunt of this cutback – they will be forced to either apply to other GW schools, transfer to another university or, worse, lose their visas and be forced to return to their home country.
Cuts in the areas of study abroad options and foreign student support challenge the “international outlook” GW boasts and limits students’ educational opportunities.