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The GW Hatchet

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Wine bar on 2200 Penn opens doors
By Ella Mitchell, Contributing News Editor • June 14, 2024

Growth was theme of decade for GW, administrators say


That’s what GW administrators say was the theme of the past decade.

For GW, the first 10 years of the new millennium were not the “aughts” or the “naughts” – popular names for the first decade of the new millennium. Instead, these 10 years were arguably the best in the University’s nearly 200-year history. The University improved in three major markers of success for a university: its endowment broke $1 billion, admissions became vastly more selective, and GW’s student population grew exponentially.

“There is no question that the George Washington University has really come into its own over the past decade,” said University President Steven Knapp in an e-mail, emphasizing growth in both the size and scope of the University.

Applications at GW have increased from 6,000 to nearly 20,000, said University President Emeritus Stephen Joel Trachtenberg. Knapp added that this growth allowed the University to grow “larger and more selective at the same time.”

The endowment broke through the $1 billion barrier in 2007 – and the University’s debt approached the same milestone in the spring of 2009. While many universities saw their endowments decline by 30 percent or more as the economic recession hit, GW’s endowment sustained lighter blows because the University relies less heavily on its endowment than other universities, its operations were largely unaffected.

Robert Chernak, senior vice president for Student and Academic Support Services, said a majority of the buildings students use on a daily basis were built in the past decade, including the School of Media and Public Affairs, the Elliott School of International Affairs, Duques Hall, Ivory Tower, Potomac Hall, and South Hall.

Knapp said that with the strides made over the past 10 years, GW now has the momentum to reach its full potential as one of the top universities in the country.

“To achieve the full stature that is now within its reach, GW must and will become more visibly active in the discovery of new knowledge, whether in public policy, science and technology, or the arts and humanities,” Knapp said.

But the past 10 years have also brought controversy to the University.

When the Board of Trustees announced in 2007 that the incoming freshman class would be the first in history to pay more than $50,000 in tuition and fees, the University received criticism from educators across the country.

The massive physical growth the University experienced over the last decade also saddled GW with just under $1 billion in debt – not to mention some criticism from its Foggy Bottom neighbors. The University’s high level of debt means it is more dependent on tuition dollars to fund operating costs.

Knapp said, however, that affordability is one of the major goals the University hopes to work toward over the next decade – a goal he said can only be reached by drastically increasing the amount of money raised by the Office of Development.

“As we pursue these goals, we must also ensure that qualified students, regardless of their financial resources, can take full advantage of a George Washington education,” Knapp said.

He added that the University has set goals to quadruple the amount of fundraising for undergraduate and student aid from its previous level in 2008.

“If we succeed, we will guarantee that, for the next 10 years and beyond, GW will remain an affordable choice for the talented and committed students we are now attracting,” Knapp said.

Patricia Danver, a spokeswoman from the Development Office, said GW’s fundraising capabilities have grown over the past decade. In the fiscal year 2009, the University raised more than $84 million, the largest amount in GW history.

“As for the coming decade, we’ll keep doing what we do – informing and engaging the GW community, championing the stellar work of our faculty and staff, and stewarding the gifts that make so much possible at The George Washington University,” she said, emphasizing the importance of maintaining relationships with alumni in order to solicit gifts in the future.

Trachtenberg, who can be credited with much of the growth in the past 10 years, said GW became a “national and international” player in the field of higher education over the past decade.

“We had a great decade, by any and all measures,” Trachtenberg said. “I hope we can do it again.”

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