Community groups challenge GW on enrollment numbers

Community groups want to make sure that when the city conducts an audit of GW’s enrollment numbers later this year, every student is counted to determine if a 20,000-person enrollment cap is being exceeded.

Tracy Schario, GW’s director of Media Relations, said if an audit determines that GW is over its enrollment cap, it could affect the city’s passage of the new 20-year Campus Plan that outlines development. GW filed the plan with the city in mid-February.

At last week’s Foggy Bottom Advisory Neighborhood Commission meeting, the group that makes zoning recommendations to the city passed a resolution asking the D.C. zoning administrator to instruct the independent auditor who will be determining GW’s head count not to exclude any groups of students in the count.

The current Campus Plan, a legal agreement between GW and Foggy Bottom neighbors, states that “during the 10-year life of the lan, total student enrollment, both full and part-time, may not exceed 20,000 at any one time.”

According to GW’s Office of Institutional Research, the enrollment at the University for the 2005-2006 academic year is 24,099, a number that includes all undergraduate and graduate students at the Foggy Bottom, Mount Vernon and Virginia campuses, off-campus students and students studying abroad. The number falls to 20,318 when just considering students at the Foggy Bottom and Mount Vernon campuses and students studying abroad.

Schario said the University believes that the cap should only be applied to students living on the Foggy Bottom campus and should exclude other campuses and students abroad because the Campus Plan only pertains to Foggy Bottom. The Mount Vernon Campus has a separate Campus Plan. With those exclusions, GW’s numbers would be well below the 20,000-person cap, she said.

In an interview this week, ANC Chair Vince Micone said that the legal language of the Campus Plan is simple and does not provide for any exclusion of student groups, specifically those on Mount Vernon or abroad. The resolution was passed 3-2 with commissioners Micone, Dorothy Miller and Michael Thomas for it and Anne Savage and James Morris dissenting. Longtime commissioner David Lehrman was absent.

“To include in this distance learning students, to include students who have matriculated at various programs in Virginia, to include students from Mount Vernon, it seems to me to be to try and set up a trick bag, a trap, to try and create a situation in which the University cannot be in compliance,” University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg said.

Micone disagreed and said that the community has a valid concern with enrollment and GW’s fulfilling the stipulations in the plan.

“Mount Vernon students go to class in Foggy Bottom. Even though they may be residing in another part of the city they still have an impact on the area,” Micone said.

Late last month the Foggy Bottom Association, another resident group, sent a letter to the zoning administrator stating that GW was not in compliance with the enrollment cap provision of the Campus Plan and asked for action to be taken.

Micone said that he believes the audit will begin to take place next month. Schario said she is not aware that a timeline has been set but she hopes to see the audit completed by June. D.C. Zoning Administrator Bill Crews did not return calls from The Hatchet this week.

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