Staff Editorial: Lift enrollment caps and let GW grow

Shortly before his inauguration, then-Mayor elect Vincent Gray told the Washington Examiner that he would be willing to nix the enrollment caps that regulate the student and staff population for universities across D.C., if the policy change would benefit the District.

While Gray was not making a hard-and-fast campaign promise, the mayor was on to something – enrollment caps need to become a thing of the past.

Some members of Foggy Bottom Advisory Neighborhood Commission claim that a cap-free GW would lead to unbridled campus growth, allowing students and campus facilities to encroach upon residences.

But the fact remains, Foggy Bottom is GW and GW is Foggy Bottom. These arbitrary caps have never, and never will, prevent Foggy Bottom and GW from merging into one.

Almost every restaurant in the neighborhood accepts GWorld and wants GW students to patronize their establishments. Students live alongside residents, work in the neighborhood and give back to the community – just like full-time Foggy Bottom dwellers do.

The issue of enrollment caps stem from the Foggy Bottom and Mount Vernon campus plans. Established in 2007 for Foggy Bottom, the plan outlines GW’s enrollment limits, prohibiting GW from allowing more than 20,000 full-time students onto campus at one time. The plan was developed to appease neighbors, it was a trade of sorts. GW would be allowed to build outwards and upwards, but would limit the number of people living or working on the downtown campus. The Mount Vernon plan functions in a similar way.

While we understand why long-term Foggy Bottom residents may resent students for taking over their neighborhood, the University does not hurt the area. It provides an economic lifeblood. Foggy Bottom would not be as prosperous without GW.

University President Steven Knapp acknowledged that lifting limits on University enrollment will produce a symbiotic relationship between GW and D.C. – both will prosper if more students are allowed on campus.

In addition to how the University profits from increased enrollment, the adjacent economy will also benefit if GW is able to have more students living on its two residential campuses. Having more students in Foggy Bottom and at the Mount Vernon Campus means more business for local establishments, and ultimately can provide more jobs for D.C. residents. Local leaders, who are more concerned with GW students dominating Foggy Bottom than how a cap-free campus would benefit the city, must understand that lifting enrollment caps will not lead to GW’s uninhibited expansion. GW will never become a state school, but it will also never cease to be a dominating force in Foggy Bottom. So, instead of having a enrollment cap limit our growth, let GW’s own limits – living and studying space – limit the University from growing. While this may lead to more students, the effect will not destroy the area the way many neighbors imagine.

GW should grow and work within its means, not those imposed upon it by a few neighborhood residents. We ask that Gray revisits his aside concerning enrollment caps and makes lifting these arbitrary limits a goal.

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