For the second time in five years GW will be welcoming a larger freshman class than anticipated. In 2001 – the first time GW admitted an unexpected number of freshmen – the University experienced an acute housing shortage precipitating the emergency lease of the Pennsylvania House. While University officials do not anticipate a similar large-scale housing crunch resulting from this year’s class, the increase in student population could adversely affect other facets of the University and student life.
The difference between the outgoing class of 2004, which enrolled 2,099 students initially, and the incoming class of 2008, enrolling nearly 2,600 students this fall, is significant enough to warrant concern about the ability of several University services to accommodate a significantly larger student body. Services such as 4-RIDE, a program that provides students with nightly transportation from one on-campus venue to another, which often prove unable to meet student demand, could see further delays and service interruptions.
While the University is currently renovating the J Street food court, it is unclear as to whether it will contain an expanded seating area. As the student body has grown over the years, it has become increasingly difficult to find a place to sit during peak hours. The influx of 500 additional students could make this problem even worse. Given this, it is not unreasonable to question whether students will see a negative impact on the food service itself.
With the closure of Funger Hall for the next year or so, upperclassmen – particularly those majoring in political science or enrolled in the Elliott School of International Affairs – have already felt the effects of a classroom crunch. With less classroom space, and even with the newly expanded schedule of Friday classes, many students experienced difficulties during class registration. The addition of 500 students will place a burden on a schedule of classes that is already under strain due to budget cuts in several academic departments.
This page recognizes that this influx of students and applicants is no accident. Through an aggressive promotional campaign and a genuine effort to improve its academic program, GW has transformed into one of the nation’s most attractive universities. Given the University’s increased appeal, it is only logical that more students will elect to enroll at GW than in the past.
While it might be easy for the administration to become infatuated with the additional dollars these new students will provide, it must develop a long-term plan to stabilize enrollment in order to ensure that GW can continue to adequately serve its undergraduate population. The University is undergoing a rapid expansion, but sooner or later all available lots will be taken up by academic buildings or new residence halls. Implementing a plan now to stabilize enrollment and factoring GW’s increased appeal into the expected yield rate will ensure that GW will be able to meet the needs of its current students while simultaneously ensuring its long-term success.