Some CCAS departments cut course sections, financial aid offers

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Ben Vinson, dean of the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, said the college is determining how to reallocate resources after missing revenue projections this year.

Updated March 27, 2014 at 3:50 p.m.

To make up for a budget shortfall in GW’s largest college, some departments will offer fewer course sections or smaller financial aid packages next year.

Columbian College of Arts and Sciences dean Ben Vinson has spent the last several weeks meeting with department chairs and deciding how to cut budgets for next year after a 4 percent enrollment decline sunk revenue by more than $1 million this year.

The college isn’t taking a “one-size-fits-all” approach to the spending cuts or recruitment strategies, Provost Steven Lerman said. For instance, the chair of the statistics department said master’s students would see less financial aid, while the organizational sciences and communication department chair, Clay Warren, said it sliced class sections.

“Each department needs to think about what its highest priorities are,” Lerman said. Vinson added in an email last week that he expected all funding decisions to be made by the end of the semester.

Warren said in an interview that his department decided a few weeks ago to offer fewer course sections, but that they had not had to lay off any faculty members.

He said the biggest challenge departments faced when deciding what to cut is balancing what might just be a one-year anomaly in the college’s enrollment.

Some departments have either cut part-time positions, or decreased those professors’ workloads, like Warren’s department. But that can have serious implications if the number of students increases next year, he said.

“You try to retain them because now you’ve spent time and effort investing in them,” he said. “Once that investment has been made, it isn’t good for anyone. The people you’ve brought in and worked with leave and won’t return when you want them to.”

Some graduate students without funded graduate assistantships in the English Department were told last month that they would not be offered classes to teach next semester because of the cuts. Chairs of departments like American studies, sociology, political science and religion declined or did not return requests for comment on the budget hole.

Several department chairs said the size of their programs had not decreased, but they were considering how to cut expenses for the college.

The statistics department has had an enrollment surge in their masters program over the last four years, as recruitment of Chinese students has brought in more revenue.

Still, Zhaohai Li, the chair of the department, said it could have to reduce the financial aid packages they offer master’s students due to budget cuts over the next year. Offering accepted students smaller aid packages could affect how many students ultimately enroll, he said.

“It could have a negative impact,” Li said. “The impact is probably more toward the enrollment of 2014 and 2015.”

The enrollment drops have been mostly across the board, Lerman said, and that some departments were actively looking to bring the number of students back up. This was the first time in at least 13 years that the University’s total graduate enrollment had dropped – a hiccup in an era where GW relies on graduate tuition to pad its bottom line.

The University has not released data on which departments saw the steepest enrollment drops.

Other departments in CCAS are making plans to increase enrollment in master’s degree programs.

To do so, departments can add new courses covering new, popular topics in the subject, Lerman said. GW offers 12 graduate certificate programs, which David Rain, director of the environmental studies program, said could be used to grow enrollment, too.

Departments will also target more undergraduates at specific schools to market GW, Lerman added.

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