The announcement from Thomas J. LeBlanc, the university’s president; M. Brian Blake, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs; Mark Diaz, executive vice president and chief financial officer; and M.L. “Cissy” Petty, vice president for student affairs and dean of students, comes about a month before students were set to resume some in-person instruction.
“We know just how much many of you were looking forward to being on campus this fall, and we understand that this news is disappointing,” the officials said in an email to the campus. “However, we must always make the decisions that best support the health, safety and care of our community while fulfilling our core academic mission.”
The university also unveiled plans to provide a 10 percent tuition discount to Foggy Bottom undergraduates who live off campus, cutting $2,927.50 from its $29,275 cost of attendance for the semester. The tuition discount recognizes that the pandemic has caused economic hardship for students and families, officials said.
A limited number of on-campus beds will be offered to students who have “extenuating personal or academic circumstances,” they added. The amount of on-campus housing made available will depend on the number of students who apply for and are granted exemptions, said Crystal Nosal, a spokeswoman.
Undergraduates who live on campus will not get the price cut; officials noted that students who live off campus will not have access to the same resources as students who reside in the dorms.
Most graduate students will attend classes online, as well, with certain exceptions for programs that require in-person classes.
Sydney McArthur, 19, a rising sophomore from Lumberton, N.J., who planned to live on campus, said she was nervous about returning to school. McArthur’s parents have underlying health conditions, and she worried about the risk she would pose to them if she went to school and returned home, she said.
“I’m just really appreciative, personally,” McArthur said about her school’s change of plans. “So many students from GW are from some of the surging states, such as California and Florida and Texas.”
McArthur, who is studying political science with a focus in public policy, said her peers have mixed reactions. Some are grateful for the discount. Others are disappointed that they won’t be back on campus. But McArthur resisted the notion that GW’s announcement reflects a political position.
“It’s important to not politicize this. At the end of the day, people are dying. There’s nothing political about that,” she said.
GW joins the University of the District of Columbia and Gallaudet University, which disclosed plans this summer to hold all courses online. Other universities in the District are planning to offer a combination of virtual and in-person classes.
Students and faculty members at GW expressed conflicting views about returning to campus this summer in a campuswide survey. About half of continuing students and 58 percent of first-year and transfer students said they “definitely” would not prefer to attend online classes for the entire semester.
But in a survey of 926 faculty members, 56 percent said they felt “uncomfortable” or “extremely uncomfortable” returning to campus, citing health issues and concerns about social distancing.