Fall plans will depend on speed of vaccine distribution, officials said

Media Credit: Grace Hromin | Assistant Photo Editor

About 2 percent fewer students started spring semester classes last week relative to 2020, largely attributable to a decline in international enrollment.

Officials said they have begun planning for the fall semester, focusing on stabilizing enrollment levels and exploring options for hybrid courses.

University President Thomas LeBlanc said he expects GW to be open in the fall to the “fullest extent possible” at a Faculty Senate meeting Friday, but he added that fall planning will be informed by the state of vaccine distribution in the coming months. Vaccine supply remains limited across the United States, but experts have predicted the vaccine could become more widely available before the fall.

“Vaccines are providing much needed hope for brighter days ahead,” LeBlanc said at the meeting.

Provost Brian Blake said officials met with officials at other universities to learn best practices for potentially teaching hybrid classes this fall. Planning meetings have also been held with the deans and the registrar’s office, he said.

“We’ve been finding out, even if they’re hybrid, there’s a small difference between totally online and hybrid,” Blake said.

He added that spring attrition is “similar” to previous years, with a slight uptick in the number of leaves of absences. Fall application levels are on par with last year, Blake said.

“Applications for the fall are right in line with applications for last year,” he said. “It shows we’re as attractive as before, maybe even more because of the uncertain times we’re in.”

Jay Goff, the vice provost of enrollment and student success, said administrators have seen an increase in the number of first-year applications. Domestic applications are roughly 2 percent higher than last year, but international applications dipped.

Goff said more than 25,000 undergraduate and graduate students began spring classes last week, which is about 2.1 percent below last year’s levels. He said officials had reached out to students taking a leave of absence in the fall, about half of whom are taking classes this spring.

“We are continuing to see a sizable fall in international students,” Goff said. “We will be reaching out to those students so they understand what they need to do to come back to GW in the summer or the fall.”

Arthur Wilson, the chair of the senate’s executive committee, said the ongoing faculty-wide survey of LeBlanc’s leadership will remain open until the end of January.

Faculty senators managing the survey said in an update on Jan. 7 that they would evaluate the response rate on Jan. 15 to decide if they would keep the survey window open longer. More than 800 faculty have completed the survey, the senators said at the time.

Blake, the provost, also provided the senate with an update on the University’s research endeavors, reporting that officials distributed more than $200 million on research projects during calendar year 2020, the highest amount GW has ever allotted in one year.

The agenda for the meeting also included an update from the future enrollment planning working group, presented by faculty senator Jamie Cohen-Cole, but the senate unanimously voted to move into a closed, executive session for the presentation.

Isha Trivedi, Jared Gans and Lia DeGroot contributed reporting.

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