GW to pull in millions more for academics

The University will likely be able to inject $15 million more than expected each year into its academic and research ambitions, top officials said Tuesday.

University President Steven Knapp’s savings-searching Innovation Task Force is projected to rake in $75 million yearly by fiscal year 2017 through different efficiency strategies, more than the initial $60 million target set in 2009.

“We can increase productivity and develop new programs that can actually generate revenue to spend on our core programs,” Knapp said.

The task force selects six money-saving ideas twice yearly. The freed up funds go toward academics and research.

In the group’s fifth round, its co-chairs Dave Lawlor and Craig Linebaugh confirmed GW will likely shoot past its goal the same day the task force announced the latest round of initiatives. Most center on veteran academic training and support.

Two of the nine new proposals pitched Tuesday that would create the most income for the University would be holding courses at a military base in Fairfax County, Va., and adding online general education courses for active service members.

The two combined are projected to create about $1.5 million in revenue.

“What’s driving all this is the fact that the military is drawing down,” said Hank Molinengo, the GW Law School’s associate dean for administrative affairs and leader of one of the ITF proposals. “What we’re trying to do is make it a soft landing for military folks who are transitioning.”

Molinengo said Fort Belvoir, which has expanded rapidly in Virginia over the past few years, has expressed interest in bringing GW courses to the military base.

The ITF also focuses on adding online, certificate and off-campus programs that draw revenue but keep the University under the city-regulated enrollment cap that limits the number of students who enroll on the Foggy Bottom Campus.

The nine ideas discussed Tuesday will be whittled down to six over the next few months.

Seth Lynn, director of the University’s Center for Second Service, said now is the time to ramp up offerings for veterans and soldiers, especially at GW, which has been named one of the most military friendly schools for four straight years and enrolls about 1,000 veterans.

“This is a special moment right now. Two wars are winding down,” he said. “No top university of GW’s caliber has said that this is going to be a major focus.”

Lynn will head up two initiatives in this round already underway in the Graduate School of Political Management: a semester-in-Washington program where veterans can take classes and land internships, and a certificate program for veterans with political ambitions.

Christine Pintz, who headed up the ITF exploration committee, said the group sought out advice from military officials to feel out their educational needs. Several committee members, like Molinengo and Lynn, were veterans.

“The information is out there that GW actually provides a lot of the services that veterans need, and as a result GW has attracted a lot of veterans to the University,” said Pintz, an assistant professor of nursing.

Four other ideas take a non-military turn: a training seminar for international judges, certificate programs in sustainability leadership and organizational ethics and expanded unpaid leave for employees during slow business months.

Those four proposals would rake in an aggregate of more than $600,000. The certificate programs would target mid-professionals in the public sector to distinguish GW from the crowded market for certificate programs for private workers, Megan Chapple-Brown, director of GW’s Office of Sustainability, said.

Voluntary unpaid leave would add an employee benefit, modeled after an initiative at the tech company IBM. The program would be limited to 20 working days during low business activity periods like summer, and workers would not have to take the off days consecutively. It is projected to save GW $86,490.

Administrators have said ITF success is even more critical after GW’s endowment shrunk. GW also pointed toward the ITF as a source of $45 to $60 million in funding for the strategic plan, released in October. The money would go toward goals like hiring 100 new faculty and setting up new study abroad programs.

By next fiscal year, the University will have already invested $34 million in ITF money into programs like research start-ups and Columbian College of Arts and Sciences advising.

Lawlor said the group has pegged $55 million for use in fiscal year 2015, a number that will mature over time to reach $75 million a few years later. One of the group’s signature initiatives was the creation of a telecommuting program. More than 100 employees now work remotely to save money on leased office space.

He said the key to success has been the flexibility to modify ideas and quickly invest savings.

“Our objective from the outset has been to support the academic mission of the University,” Lawlor said. “This has and will continue to be our primary charge.”

Cory Weinberg contributed to this report.

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