George Washington University plans to reduce its undergraduate enrollment by 2,400 students — 20% — in the next five years, school President Thomas LeBlanc revealed this week, saying the school needed to “right-size” after a significant expansion in the past few years.
Mr. LeBlanc sent a letter out to the campus community Tuesday announcing the change, as reported by the campus newspaper, The Hatchet. He said the decision to scale back came after a recent retreat with university trustees to chart the Northwest D.C. school’s future.
“I can sum up in three words the feedback I have heard from faculty, students, staff and the Board of Trustees about the future: Better, not bigger,” Mr. LeBlanc wrote. “Our intention is to continue to improve everything we do at GW by being even more focused on quality and less focused on quantity.”
The move comes at a time when many U.S. private universities are scrambling to increase enrollment and keep tuition low. The amount of private colleges shutting down each year is expected to continue to increase, according to data collected by Inside Higher Ed.
GW, whose steady expansion over the years has been a source of some tension in the Foggy Bottom community, is stretching its facilities, services, staff and faculty too thin due to significant rises in undergraduate enrollment, Mr. LeBlanc said in his letter.
The targeted enrollment drop would bring in about 2,400 fewer undergraduate students than its current population of roughly 12,000 students, The Hatchet reported.
Mr. LeBlanc outlined his four initiatives for the university in his letter, which include focusing on enhancing undergraduate and graduate education; hiring and retaining world-class faculty; and encouraging “high-impact” research.
“This gradual reduction in size will help us offer the high-quality undergraduate experience our students expect and deserve,” Mr. LeBlanc said in the address.
Mr. LeBlanc also emphasized the cap will help the need to boost the number of students enrolling in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs.
The Hatchet reported in March that the university has one of the lowest proportions of STEM majors in a survey 30 comparable private universities in the country. GW has since increased its STEM student enrollment to 19%, according to the student paper.
“Increasing the number of students studying STEM subjects will broaden the conversations in our classrooms, our labs and our residence halls,” Mr. LeBlanc said.
Mr. LeBlanc additionally announced the university plans to bolster its masters and doctoral degree programs with the decrease in undergraduate enrollment.
“As we continue to build our world-class faculty, we will develop new strategies to recruit, retain and support the teaching and research needs of our faculty,” he said in his statement.