The ANC’s Anti-Ten Year Plan Resolution: The Enrollment Section

As mentioned yesterday, the ANC has issued a draft resolution regarding Georgetown University’s proposed ten year campus plan. As GM predicted, the resolution is critical of the plan, although it went into a lot more detail than he expected. So as promised, now that GM is back from his vacation he’s ready to dive into the resolution step by step and try to give you a little context and his own take. Today he’ll address the enrollment numbers section.

Background:

The resolution begins by discussing some of the historical context of the proposed ten year plan. Specifically it focuses in on the enrollment numbers that GU agreed to under its 2000 campus plan. According to the resolution, G.U. “agreed to house more students on campus and stated that by building the Southwest Quad dormitory, the number of undergraduate students living off-campus in the neighborhood by 2010 would be greatly reduced.”

That’s mostly true, although it glosses over some of the more complicated parts of the history of the 2000 plan. While GM won’t go too far into the weeds, the basic facts are these: in 2000 G.U. proposed to maintain the undergraduate cap from 1990 of 5,627 until they completed the Southwest Quad, at which point the undergraduate cap would rise to 6,016. Enrollment was to be determined by averaging the fall and spring semester’s enrollment numbers (G.U.’s fall enrollment is normally around 10% larger than the spring enrollment due mostly to students studying abroad).

The Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) initially rejected this stepped increase and G.U. sued. This led to seven years of litigation, that ultimately resulted in Georgetown getting to raise its undergraduate cap to 6,016.

One of the reasons G.U. won the litigation was that it agreed to move 84% of its undergraduates on to campus. This promise, along with the plans for the Southwest Quad, swayed the ANC. The body voted to support the plan conditioned on those two factors. This left CAG to fight the plan alone, which it was not well prepared to do.

Either way, as promised G.U. does now house roughly 84% of its undergrads on campus, up from 79% in 2000. But it’s not really accurate to say that they moved five percent of the undergrads back to campus because they added an averaged number of 389 students to the total (and some semesters the total undergrad number has been as high as 6,212). Thus if there is a difference between the real number of traditional undergrad students living off campus now compared with ten years ago, its pretty negligible.

But this numbers game was right there in the 2000 campus plan. So it’s not quite right to say that G.U. promised in 2000 to greatly reduce the number of off campus undergrads. The ANC probably should have seen this, but they apparently didn’t.

Loopholes

From here, the resolution goes on to describe what happened as a result of the 2000 campus plan. It’s pretty undeniably true that G.U. took the fact that they weren’t subject to a total enrollment cap and ran with it. Hard. Since 2006 alone they have increased total enrollment on the main campus from 11,812 to 14,033, an increase of over 19%.

The reason for this is clear: money. Most graduate programs (although not all) are huge cash cows for universities. This is especially true for prestigious schools like G.U. because student acceptance standards for many graduate programs don’t affect the school’s public rankings in listings like U.S. News and World Report. It’s somewhat like when a Hollywood actor goes to shoot shampoo ads in Japan. (And GM says this as a proud alumnus of one of those graduate programs). This is particularly the case for G.U.’s School of Continuing Studies, which added a whopping 1,000 new students to the campus since 2006.

But graduate and graduate-level continuing studies students don’t represent all of the increase. 222 new students since 2006 are “non-traditional” undergrads (a 44% increase since 2006). These include veterans, nursing school students, and more continuing studies students. In pretty much every category besides traditional undergrad, G.U. grew significantly. And the ANC would argue that many, if not most, of the non-traditional undergrads are for these purposes no different than traditional undergrads.

So its against this backdrop that the ANC considers G.U.’s request to add an additional 3,2002,100 graduate students. From the perspective of the ANC, G.U. is like a drunk who after a bender promises to quit, right after this next bender.

Conflation

Of course this analogy only works if you accept that graduate students can cause a negative impact on the neighborhood. This will likely be a significant bone of contention during the hearings. One side will present graduate students as the proverbial quiet and bookish grad student of so many Craigslist housing ads. The other will argue that grad students have just as much potential to cause disruptions as undergrads. In GM’s opinion, they’re both right, in a way. Grad students are, on average, less rowdy than the average undergrads. But they also tend to be young 20-somethings, who are, on average, more rowdy than the average adult.

So, the ANC will argue that increasing graduate students will inevitably increase the number of these young 20-somethings living in the neighborhood, even if they don’t make up 100% of the increase. Do they have a winning hand on this point? GM’s not so sure. Much (if not all) of the evidence the ANC and CAG have gathered relates primarily to off-campus undergrad students and the effect they have on non-student neighbors. GM doesn’t really think a strong case has been built that graduate students are also contributing to the problem.

And perhaps that’s why the ANC resolution seems to conflate the issue of undergrad and graduate students. Whether discussing noise or parking, the ANC appears to lump graduate and undergrad students together in its findings and recommendations. Maybe that’s justified, but GM still thinks they need to do a better job connecting the dots. GM says this because the ANC is not only requesting the Zoning Commission to reject G.U.’s requested increase of 3,2002,100 graduate students, they want the current number lowered. That’s would be a dramatic move, not likely to be granted without a very clear showing that the current graduate students are creating a problem. (Of course a huge chunk of the problem graduate students create relates to driving to campus. That issue will be discussed by GM separately).

What They Actually Recommend

That’s the back story to the enrollment section, but here’s what the ANC is actually recommending:

  • A cap on total enrollment on the main campus should be adopted, lower than the current 14,033 number, with specific caps in each category to prevent manipulation.
  • Rather than averages, G.U. should count its students under the full-time equivalent system.
  • G.U. must adopt as an ultimate goal having 100% of the undergrads within the gates of the school (as opposed to “on-campus”, which includes several blocks east of 37th St.)
  • In the meantime, G.U. should adopt limits on the number of undergrad and grad students living off-campus in the immediate neighborhoods.
  • G.U. should immediate cease housing undergrads in Magis Row on 36th st. and should have to seek approval from the BZA before buying anymore property in Georgetown or Burleith.

While the ANC will consider (and likely adopt) the resolution next Monday, GM will still continue to trudge through it over the next week or so, so stay tuned!

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “The ANC’s Anti-Ten Year Plan Resolution: The Enrollment Section

  1. Pingback: The ANC’s Anti-Ten Year Plan Resolution: The Transportation Section | The Georgetown Metropolitan

  2. Pingback: DC Metrocentric » Linked: Monday Morning Roundup

  3. DCstudent

    The enrollment caps in place for DC colleges are unfair and probably illegal – the schools should formally challenge the caps. The size and growth of colleges and universities in DC is already regulated by zoning standards – just like other land uses. To treat colleges and universities differently and to dictate how many students they can have on a campus is like dictating how many employees a company or office building can have in the business district. It isn’t needed since these issues are already controlled by zoning. The enrollment caps unfairly limit the activity of DC colleges and hurt these institutions by limiting growth and viability.

  4. Pingback: Georgetown University Campus Plan Details Released - City Desk

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