Things have gotten so rough at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, students are essentially working in stairwells, University President Steven Knapp told the Board of Trustees last week.
Old facilities, a weak reputation and declining enrollment has caused the school to announce plans to increase the size of its freshman class by about 100 students.
The cost of GW is especially a deterrent for students considering that many “engineering families” are middle class and have trouble paying for GW, said Hermann Helgert, a professor in SEAS who also serves as the chair of the physical facilities committee in the Faculty Senate.
“Given the many less expensive (universities), the effectiveness of our recruiting efforts depends to a large extent on the discount rate from regular tuition SEAS can offer potential freshmen,” Helgert wrote in an e-mail.
Over the past two to three years, the number of freshman entering SEAS has decreased. This year, 112 freshmen enrolled in SEAS, while last year there were 130 students in the freshman class. In the past, the school has had as many as 186 incoming freshman. This is not the first time the school has attempted to expand.
“SEAS has been trying for some time to increase student enrollment,” said Donald Lehman, executive vice president for Academic Affairs.
Next fall the school aims to enroll between 160 and 180 students and then increase enrollment numbers in subsequent years.
“This will help the entire University because the school has a capacity to take more students which will relieve some of the pressure off the number of students that go into other schools (at the University),” Lehman said.
He said students also choose to attend other engineering schools because of the current state of SEAS classrooms. SEAS freshman enrollment has suffered because of sub-par facilities, Helgert said.
Nelson Carbonell, chair of the development and alumni affairs committee for the Board of Trustees, said a committee is being formed that will look at how to pay for a new science and engineering complex that is part of the new campus plan. The groundbreaking for the building is at least two years away.
Barbara Myklebust, assistant dean for student affairs at SEAS, said the engineering school isn’t as well-known as the other schools in the University, and the school suffers from this lack of a reputation.
“We’re working with the Office of Admissions very closely,” Myklebust said. “GW recruiting is giving SEAS a presence.”
She added, “The School of Engineering wants to increase the visibility on campus, in the Eortheast corridor and across the country.”
Myklebust said SEAS will be holding more open houses to try to attract high school students early on. She said the school’s enrollment numbers do not reflect the amount of research the engineering professors churn out.
“We’re a small part of the University, but we tend to play a big role in engineering research,” she said.
SEAS is the smallest undergraduate school in the University, as they currently enroll about 500 undergraduates. There are about 10 times as many students in the Columbian College, the largest undergraduate school.