Column: (Still) striving for prestige

They blew it last year. The most applications in GW history and instead of cutting down on the number they accepted, they took the largest class ever, and dropped GW’s ranking to 52nd in the nation. Now, with the recently announced drop in Early Decision I applications, we’re seeing the long-term results of decisions that put profits ahead of prestige.

The argument that we can afford to take larger classes because they’re still the smartest classes the University has ever seen is defunct. Every year, freshmen at universities across the nation are being told the same thing. As SAT and GPA averages rise, the same happens with incoming classes. Sure, the class of 2008 may have been told that they’re the “smartest” class to ever enter GW, but that means very little if the same is true of every other school that GW is competing with for rank.

Some people will say that rankings aren’t important. To a certain degree that may even be true. The quality of education received from a school ranked in the thirties (i.e. Brandeis or Lehigh) is probably not that much different than that of a school ranked in the fifties (i.e. Penn State, Maryland, Syracuse or GW).

The difference is that the name recognition of a school does matter in the real world. Employers pay attention to a school’s repute, and the correlation between a school’s ranking and reputation is indisputable. To say that a degree from Princeton and GW are worth the same to an employer is, to say the least, na?ve.

It goes without saying that it is unreasonable to expect GW to all of a sudden be competitive with Princeton, Harvard, Stanford and the like.

It should also go without saying that University officials should be spending less time giving themselves pay raises and more time considering the best interests of the students.

For example, in 2004, President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg was one of 13 university presidents making more than $600,000 a year. Instead of allowing himself to be put into the ranks of the highest paid university officials in the nation, he should be more concerned with putting his students into one of the highest ranked Universities in the country. While Trachtenberg has gotten pay raises every year since 2001, GW has managed to drop lower in rank.

Then again, maybe that’s because there’s a correlation between his pay and the number of student applications. “(Trachtenberg) added that his salary is determined based on the quality of GW’s management, the number of freshman applications and the value of the University’s endowment” (GW Hatchet, Nov. 22, 2004). So basically every time GW takes more students – and incidentally lowers its selectivity rating – Trachtenberg earns a pay raise.

Well, that may no longer be an issue. This year Early Decision I applications dropped by almost 200, to around 950. If it turns out that GW’s dropping rank is making potential students look to other places, will anything be done? If regular decision application numbers also drop, will President Trachtenberg take a pay cut? Is anything at all being done to attempt to bring GW back up after this year’s slip to 52nd in the nation?

This is a very serious issue that affects every single student that is receiving an education at the George Washington University. By the time this article is published, President Trachtenberg’s office will have received an interview request in hopes of having the answers to the previous questions for the next publication of this column.

Hopefully we will soon know why it seems the administration of this University is less concerned with the school’s reputation and more concerned with their paychecks. Hopefully we will soon know how they plan to change that image.

-The writer, a sophomore majoring ininternational affairs, is a Hatchet

columnist.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.