GW plans to move departments to Virginia satellite campus as money-making strategy

Media Credit: Ali Eskandarian, dean of the Virginia Campus for Science and Technology, hears ideas to expand the campus at the Innovation Task Force meeting Tuesday. Sam Hardgrove | Hatchet Photographer

The University forecasts it will add nearly $1 million to its budget by moving high-profile programs from Foggy Bottom to the Virginia Science and Technology Campus over the next several years.

The Virginia campus could soon see more health science programs and a new cyber security academy, which VSTC Dean Ali Eskandarian said would attract researchers from across the University. Now, he said, professors struggle to work part-time in Virginia and Foggy Bottom, as there is still a stigma for teaching only on the satellite campus in Loudoun County, Va.

“We haven’t been really successful since we started a long time ago. One of the underlying reasons has been the fact that it was too much to ask faculty to go back and forth and unrealistic to ask people to divide their days,” Eskandarian said. “Professors still get criticized if they teach there and not here.”

Administrators presented a total of six ideas Tuesday at a meeting of the Innovation Task Force, a four-year-old program that executes cost-cutting and revenue-boosting projects across GW.

ITF chair Dave Lawlor said moving health sciences classes to Virginia would allow the 40-student program to expand, bringing in an estimated $600,000 extra in net revenue a year.

Three other ideas aiming to cut costs and build money-making projects – like an executive education program in the School of Media and Public Affairs and central event coordination – were also vetted at the ideas showcase Tuesday. University President Steven Knapp will choose to approve or shelve the proposals by the end of the year.

Lawlor pointed to the Virginia campus’ upcoming strategic plan as an ideal time for ITF to focus on the campus.

“It coincided nicely with the work we wanted here, so from that standpoint, we were opportunistic in combining them, and it’s turned out to be a great phase,” Lawlor said.

Administrators see the campus, which spans 120 acres, as a boon because of its untapped space. But they have struggled to take full advantage of the campus and convince enough professors to do research and teach classes there.

GW has increasingly moved departments to the suburban campus to save money.

The campus has also seen enrollment in its graduate and certificate programs – in areas such as nursing and energy – grow by about 15 percent in the last five years.

Now in its seventh round of ideas, the ITF was created in 2009 as administrators set out to find an extra $60 million each year to pad GW’s operating budget. But this semester, the University cut down estimates by about $20 million after two projects’ startup costs ran too high. Officials also warned that the University was struggling to find new programs with large revenue streams.

Both the physical therapy and physician assistant master’s programs at the School of Medicine and Health Sciences see about 4,000 applicants each year, but can only take dozens due to space concerns.

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