University readies for huge freshman class

With GW set to welcome one of the largest freshman classes in its history, University officials said they are ready to deal with an unexpectedly larger student population.

Officials are estimating that the incoming freshman class will have 2,550 to 2,600 students, marking the only time other than 2001 that entering freshmen numbered more than 2,500.

The influx of students will put more pressure on the University’s academic and residential facilities, which now must accommodate an extra 150 to 200 freshmen. The newest batch of incoming students would be the largest in GW history if it eclipses the 2,578 freshmen that enrolled in 2001.

Andrew Sonn, director of University Campus Housing, said the Community Living and Learning Center will be ready to house this year’s incoming class in the 12 freshman residence halls used last fall and spring for the class of 2007.

The two largest freshman halls, Thurston and the Hall on Virginia Avenue, house 1,030 and 444 students, respectively.

“We’ll be creating additional beds for freshmen in mixed class residence halls like Mitchell and Strong by offering returning students in those halls room changes to other residence halls,” Sonn wrote in an e-mail. He added that the number of freshman beds on the Mount Vernon campus, which last year housed 435 freshmen, is not likely to increase.

Sonn, who characterized the University as being in “great shape” for housing next fall, said in the past five years he has worked at GW, the CLLC has successfully accommodated entering classes, even if the number of first-year students was larger than projected.

In a similar situation, when GW needed to accommodate a larger-than-anticipated incoming class in 2001, it housed freshmen in City and Madison halls, which are traditionally upperclassman dorms. They also acquired Pennsylvania House to handle the overflow.

Officials said the extra students will not cause a space shortage. With renovations preventing the use of classrooms in Funger Hall and other buildings, officials scheduled more Friday classes and changed class start times to avoid a classroom crunch.

Craig Linebaugh, associate vice president for academic planning and special projects, said freshmen will not see a drop in class quality and added that there will be enough professors and space to handle the extra students.

“We have been reallocating funds to the different departments that will need resources for the increased number of students,” he said, mentioning that some GW departments, such as the University Honors Program, will see an increase in first-year students.

Kathryn Napper, director of Undergraduate Admissions, attributed the increase in class size to a larger number of students accepting an offer of admission to GW than was expected. Officials originally planned for a freshman class of 2,400.

The yield rate, which measures how many admitted students pledge to attend GW, was 35 percent, University officials said last month. GW originally projected a yield rate around 31 or 32 percent.

“Because greater competition for more academically qualified students was expected to drop the yield rate, 600 more students were admitted in order to enroll a freshman class of 2,400,” Napper wrote in a May e-mail. “The yield rate, instead of declining, increased.”

Napper added that while the University has received 2,725 deposits from students intending to attend GW, the number of freshmen that will take classes in the fall will drop slightly over the summer because some students will opt not to matriculate.

Robert Chernak, senior vice president of Student and Academic Support Services, said the rise in accepted students underscored GW’s academic quality. He added that the larger class will improve various aspects of the University.

“All in all we’re meeting more of our objectives to create diversity, achieve a better balance between the male and female populations and attract a higher quality student,” Chernak said.

Chernak said SASS will be able to provide for the greater freshman class and added that students will not see any major changes or cuts due to the increased enrollment. SASS oversees more than a dozen departments, including athletics, CLLC and University Police.

The class of 2008 will benefit from well-funded programs thanks to budget reallocations, Chernak said, pointing to the newly expanded University Writing program as an improved aspect of GW’s curriculum for freshmen. About two-thirds of the freshman class will participate in the program, which is in its second year.

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