News and Analysis

Wallace Loh, president of the University of Maryland, laid out an alternative plan for the Corcoran College of Art and Design to keep its independence in court Thursday. Hatchet File Photo.

Wallace Loh, president of the University of Maryland, laid out an alternative plan for the Corcoran College of Art and Design to keep its independence. Hatchet File Photo.

Opponents to breaking up the Corcoran Gallery of Art and its College of Art + Design called on witnesses to present their plans in court Thursday that would keep both institutions intact.

The president of the University of Maryland and a prominent D.C. philanthropist laid out alternatives to GW’s joint plan with the National Gallery of Art to absorb the Corcoran. The testimonies come more than a week after a D.C. Superior Court judge ruled that some members of the advocacy group Save the Corcoran could make a case against the merger.

UMD president Wallace Loh described the plans he had outlined to Corcoran leaders in February before the Corcoran announced a deal with GW. Loh said he was prepared to return to the $46 million deal that the state university had offered the Corcoran, which would make it an affiliated college.

Save the Corcoran had subpoenaed Loh, who said he was “philosophically” committed to preserving the Corcoran’s independence and keeping the art school and gallery together, the Washington Post reported.

If GW acquires the college, it will spend $80 million to renovate the 17th street building, with $35 million coming from the Corcoran, University President Steven Knapp said Tuesday in court.

Wayne Reynolds, a philanthropist who led the $54 million campaign to turn around the historic Ford’s Theatre, offered another alternative to GW’s plans.

Reynolds testified that he could bring in deep-pocketed donors to revive the Corcoran’s lackluster fundraising. He also spotlighted the Corcoran’s poor management, saying officials asked him to become board of trustees chairman in 2012 but then cancelled several meetings with him, the Associated Press reported.

Five more witnesses are scheduled to testify early next week, and closing arguments could come as early as Wednesday.

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Friday, Aug. 1, 2014 11:48 a.m.

Forbes gives GW a B+ for financial health

The University received an above-average financial health rating from Forbes, but didn’t make the honor roll.

The American business magazine awarded GW a B+ rating for the second-straight year. Forbes weighed details like tuition dependency, the percentage of students who enroll and endowment size for its annual ratings.

The University relies on tuition for 62 percent of revenue, which contributed to its B-level grade.

“Tuition dependency is the most serious risk facing middling colleges today,” Forbes’ grading methodology read.

With an endowment of about $1.4 billion, GW also ranked lower than several peer schools that have larger nest eggs. Northwestern University, which has an endowment about five times the size of GW’s, ranked 19th on Forbes’ list of the nation’s best colleges and received an A+ for financial health.

New York, Boston, American and Georgetown universities, received B’s from Forbes. Tufts University and the University of Southern California, two other peer schools, both earned A grades.

Forbes used data from fiscal years 2010 to 2012, the most recent available.

GW received A-level grades from two credit rating agencies last week after it announced it will take on $300 million in debt, pushing its total debt load to $1.7 billion.

Moody’s Investor Service and Standard and Poor’s concluded that GW’s financial resources could support that amount because it plans to use $130 million of the new debt to replace existing loans and take advantage of lower interest rates.

GW landed at No. 122 on Forbes’ list of the nation’s best colleges, its lowest ranking since 2011. The rankings, which look at more than 900 schools, use return on investment as a key factor.

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The bankruptcy could delay construction on the Science and Engineering Hall. Hatchet File Photo

The bankruptcy filing could delay construction of the Science and Engineering Hall. Hatchet File Photo

Updated: Aug. 1, 2014 at 7:55 p.m.

A subcontractor hired to complete electrical work for the Science and Engineering Hall filed for bankruptcy last week, which could delay the project and cost thousands of dollars a day.

Truland Systems’ bankruptcy filing could cost Clark Construction, the company GW hired, about $7,000 a day. An attorney representing Clark gave that estimate in a motion he filed in bankruptcy court to replace Truland, the Washington Post reported.

“The delay in completing the critical path electrical work will not only result in late delivery of the project, [...] but, it will impact the other trade contractors on the project, resulting in potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in trade contractor delay claims,” Clark’s attorney Patrick Potter wrote.

Truland, a Reston, Va.-based electrical contractor with about 1,000 employees, filed for bankruptcy on July 23. The company’s employees stopped work two days before, the Post reported.

University spokesman Kurtis Hiatt said GW does not expect the bankruptcy to affect the building’s 2015 opening. The University is working with Clark to “mitigate any potential impacts related to the recent bankruptcy,” Hiatt said.

Truland would be liable for the costs of the delay because of the provisions in its contract with Clark, Potter wrote in the motion.

Two former Truland employees filed a class action lawsuit against the company Wednesday, claiming they did not receive written notice of their termination 60 days in advance as required by federal law.

Construction for the Science and Engineering Hall is expected to cost $275 million.

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GW dropped sharply in Forbes’ ranking of the best colleges for the first time in four years.

The University fell from No. 77 to 122, its lowest slot since 2011 when it was ranked 151st in the country.

Forbes uses a different ranking method than the popular U.S. News & World Report rankings, which placed GW at 52nd this year among universities nationwide. Forbes focuses on graduates’ return on investment, salaries and retention in collaboration with the Center for College Affordability and Productivity.

GW had risen in the rankings over the past four years and fell only once since the business magazine began compiling a best colleges list in 2008.

Williams College won the top spot in Forbes’ 2014 ranking, and Princeton University was named the top Ivy League school, coming in fourth overall.

Forbes does not include universities that have forged admissions statistics, such as Emory University, but has kept GW in the rankings even after University officials admitted the admissions office misreported admissions data for over a decade in 2012.

Northwestern University, GW’s highest-ranked peer institution, came in 19th on the list, and Georgetown University was the highest-ranked D.C. school at No. 28.

Another ranking focused on return on investment from Money magazine sent GW to the No. 214 slot.

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A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation Wednesday that would strengthen campus sexual assault policies by imposing heavy fines on schools that fall short of federal standards.

The bill, spearheaded by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., comes several weeks after McCaskill released a report that showed more than 40 percent of schools had not conducted a sexual assault investigation in the last five years. Other senators who backed the bill included Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

Colleges could face fines of up to 1 percent of their operating budgets if they don’t follow the bill’s requirements, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported, potentially costing them millions of dollars.

Universities can now lose federal funding for mishandling sexual assault cases, a threat that lawmakers say is impractical, the New York Times reported. For private institutions like GW, that consequence might impact funding streams like federal research grants and low-income government-backed loans.

The proposed bill would quadruple the penalty for violating the Clery Act, which requires schools to report details of all crimes to the Department of Education. Penalties could cost institutions up to $150,000, according to estimates. More than 60 schools are currently under investigation for their response to sexual assault on campus. GW is not on that list.

The government would also mandate anonymous surveys about sexual assault, and universities would have to release results online, the Times reported. GW conducted its first anonymous survey about harassment, stalking and dating violence last spring, but has not made any findings public.

Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion Terri Harris Reed, who oversees the University’s compliance with the federal anti-discrimination law Title IX, did not return a request for comment.

Schools would also be required to offer confidential advisers to support victims and help them if they choose to report their crimes, a resource GW already provides. If the legislation passes, institutions could not punish students for underage drinking if they are reporting a sexual assault.

Aides say the bill could face a tough battle in Congress and take up to two years to pass because of its complexity.

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This post was written by Hatchet reporters Zaid Shoorbajee and Zunara Naeem.

Save the Corcoran continued its effort to block the GW-Corcoran merger in court on Wednesday, asking how the board of trustees managed fundraising. Hatchet File Photo.

Save the Corcoran continued its effort to block the GW-Corcoran merger in court Wednesday, asking how the board of trustees managed fundraising. Hatchet File Photo.

The lawyer representing the group that’s against the merger between GW and and the Corcoran College of Art + Design grilled a Corcoran leader Wednesday over what he called officials’ fundraising failures.

Andrew Tulumello, Save the Corcoran’s attorney, questioned Harry Hopper, the Corcoran’s board of trustees chairman, as part of the ongoing legal battle that will decide whether the art school will join GW.

Tulumello brought up a 2008 report from a professional development firm, which advised the Corcoran to expand its board of trustees and recruit “high net-worth” individuals who can contribute seven-figure donations. Despite the recommendation, the board shrunk from 12 to nine members in 2011, including three who did not give any gifts that year.

Tulumello and Save the Corcoran are trying to block the deal with GW by proving that financial mismanagement caused the Corcoran’s downfall.

Hopper argued that since he became chairman in 2009, the board lacked enough time to run a successful fundraising operation.

Tulumello asked whether amending the Corcoran’s charter so it can become a part of GW was the only option for the art school. Hopper said the Corcoran could only survive “a couple of months, maybe three months” without stepping on the “third rail” of selling artwork to fund operations.

He said the board had explored other ways to rescue the Corcoran without selling art, which would be “particularly painful for this institution” for ethical reasons.

“I personally have put in thousands of hours to explore every credible alternative. I can’t drive down every cul de sac in the neighborhood, but we have explored many, many options,” Hopper said. “We’ve had several alternatives over the years which looked promising but didn’t yield fruit.”

The case will resume Thursday and could stretch into next week. The Corcoran’s attorneys rested their case Tuesday for revising the institution’s charter.

University President Steven Knapp testified on Tuesday, announcing an $80 million price tag to renovate the Corcoran’s flagship building down the street from the White House.

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University President Steven Knapp announced renovations to the Corcoran would cost $80 million. Hatchet file photo.

University President Steven Knapp announced renovations to the Corcoran would cost $80 million. Hatchet File Photo.

Taking over an arts college comes with a hefty price tag.

University President Steven Knapp announced Tuesday that GW will spend $80 million overall to renovate the Corcoran College of Art and Design’s aging building on 17th Street, with the first phase costing $25 million. He testified in D.C. Superior Court as lawyers for the Corcoran finalize plans for the institution’s merger with GW and the National Gallery of Art.

The first round of renovations will fix problems like aging heating, cooling and mechanical systems, Knapp said. About $35 million for upgrades will come from the Corcoran’s own cash on hand, the Washington Post reported.

Tuesday’s hearing is part of a weeklong courtroom battle after a judge granted advocacy group Save the Corcoran legal standing to argue that financial mismanagement caused the Corcoran’s downfall. The group, which includes artists and lawyers, has been trying to block the merger.

In his testimony, Knapp defended the takeover as historic and a “model” for education in the 21st century.

University President Steven Knapp, pictured right, defended GW's acquisition of the Corcoran College of Art and Design Tuesday. Hatchet File Photo

University President Steven Knapp, right, defended GW’s acquisition of the Corcoran College of Art and Design Tuesday. Hatchet File Photo

“This partnership is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create something truly powerful in the heart of the nation’s capital,” Knapp said.

Lauren Stack, chief operating officer for the Corcoran, also testified Tuesday. Stack said the Corcoran’s deficit could be as large as $10 million a year, which would have been higher if Corcoran officials had tried to renovate the aging building on their own. She also said the Corcoran had been struggling to find a successful business model for the last four decades, the Post reported.

An attorney for Save the Corcoran, Andrew Tulumello, questioned Tuesday’s witnesses and tried to prove that the Corcoran could have had surpluses if accountants hadn’t subtracted investment income from its bottom line. The group has for years slammed leadership at the Corcoran for mismanagement.

Sean O’Connor, an employee at a firm that had mentored gallery staff on how to court donors, said he doubted the Corcoran could pull in $10 million in a year. He said deep-pocketed donors haven’t given to the gallery in several years, though the Corcoran did meet its fundraising goal of $3.1 million last year.

Ten more witnesses will be called to the stand Wednesday. The hearing is expected to stretch into next week, rather than wrapping up Thursday as planned.

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Updated: July 30, 2014 at 11:39 a.m.

GW came in at No. 214 in a new college ranking focusing on graduates’ return on investment

Money magazine’s college ranking sorted schools based on graduation rates, average student debt and expected earnings.

GW beat out Boston, New York and American universities in the list of 655 colleges, but didn’t come close to its own No. 52 U.S. News & World Report ranking.

Georgetown University, meanwhile, bested GW and its peer schools, claiming the No. 37 spot.

Money magazine makes its case for GW’s ranking, pointing out the $170,864 net cost of a degree and the average $47,500 annual salary graduates can expect within five years of graduating.

Vanderbilt University’s ranking speaks to Money magazine’s methodology. Five years after attending No.50-ranked Vanderbilt University, graduates will earn an average $52,100 annually after shelling out a net price of $160,791.

In 2007, GW became the first school in the country to charge students more than $50,000 for total cost of attendance.

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that GW was the first college in the nation to charge more than $50,000 in tuition. It was actually the first school to charge more than $50,000 for total cost of attendance. We regret this error.

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Updated: July 31, 2014 at 12:01 p.m.

A federal judge has given D.C. three months to respond to his ruling that struck down the city’s ban on carrying registered handguns in public.

U.S. District Judge Frederick Scullin had ruled Saturday that the law violated the Second Amendment. The decision overturned the last ban of its kind in the U.S. and came after a five-year wait that frustrated the law’s opponents.

The Office of the Attorney General asked for a stay while the city appealed the decision, or for 180 days so the D.C. Council could collect public input and pass legislation, the DCist reported Tuesday. The judge granted a stay until Oct. 22, and city legislators are on recess this month.

If an appeal fails, the Metropolitan Police Department would no longer be able to arrest individuals, including visitors to the District, for carrying a gun in public as long as they have a valid permit.

The case first began in 2008, a year after the Supreme Court struck down the District’s blanket ban on handguns. The city then passed laws requiring residents to register their guns and keep them in their homes in addition to taking a gun safety course, re-registering their weapons every three years and submitting photographs and fingerprints for police records.

Scullin said his decision was based on the same 2008 Supreme Court decision and a similar ruling that discontinued a handgun ban in Chicago in 2010.

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An $80 million gift from Michael Milken and Sumner Redstone renamed the public health school. Katie Causey | Hatchet Staff Photographer

An $80 million gift from Michael Milken and Sumner Redstone went to GW’s public health school. The Milken Institute School of Public Health’s new building opened in May. File Photo by Katie Causey | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Updated: July 29, 2014 at 9:12 a.m.

GW received $191.3 million in donations in the last year, attracting the largest number of donors ever as the University embarks on a $1 billion fundraising campaign.

More than 22,000 donors gave to GW, increasing its donor pool by about 15 percent from the previous year, for a total of $13.5 million in annual gifts. Officials say the growth in the number of donors will help build momentum as they look to entice new donors and spur donations from alumni.

Fundraising was propelled by GW’s largest-ever gift, a combined $80 million donation from billionaire philanthropists Michael Milken and Sumner Redstone to the public health school. But even without that record-breaking gift, the University would have seen its total fundraising grow by more than 8 percent from the previous year.

GW raised $103 million over the previous fiscal year, which represented the first drop in donations in five years.

“This year, as donors learned more about plans for the campaign and the public launch, many wanted to jump on board in order to be part of this historic endeavor,” University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar said.

The University kicked off its $1 billion campaign for academics, student support and construction at the end of June. It had already raised about $525 million during a “quiet phase” that began three years ago.

GW also received a record-breaking 26 gifts of $1 million or more this past year, five more than the previous year. Those donations made up about 68 percent of the total haul.

“We’re very pleased that the number of donors has been increasing from year to year, which represents the progress we have made, as we continue to focus on engaging alumni and deepening the relationships we have with them,” Csellar said.

Nancy Peterman, a partner at the fundraising consulting firm Alexander-Haas, said expanding a school’s donor base is not only important because it helps bring in more money, but because “success breeds success.”

“It demonstrates that a school is successful and it gives credibility when people are interested in investing in the school – it encourages others to give when they see that it’s popular,” Peterman said. “People give to success and being able to draw from many places shows a successful program.”

Trustee Mark Shenkman gave $5 million to the University this spring. Erica Christian | Photo Editor

Mark Shenkman, a member of the Board of Trustees, gave $5 million to the University this spring. Hatchet File Photo by Erica Christian | Photo Editor

The University has historically struggled to land big gifts, though capital campaigns tend to rely on large donations. GW has also had relatively lackluster rates of alumni giving. But about 58 percent of this year’s graduating senior class made donations, the highest-ever participation total.

In the spring, Board of Trustees member Mark Shenkman gave the University’s largest-ever gift from a sitting trustee. He donated $5 million to career services, and the residence hall Ivory Tower was renamed Shenkman Hall in his honor.

As part of the campaign, each school has set its own target for fundraising, including specific projects school leaders aim to fund. When setting such goals, Peterman said fundraisers usually consult deans as well as potential donors.

“It should be an all-inclusive process,” she said. “It should align with the donors’ interests – some of the most worthy projects may not be the most exciting or have the most donors. You need to know what donors are interested in as well as the needs of the institution.”

The GW Museum, which opened its doors to the public for a preview tour in June, set a target of $15 million for staff positions, equipment and its endowment, according to the campaign’s website.

The Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, the University’s largest school, hopes to pull in $100 million. About a quarter of that total would go toward endowed professorships, which ties into the University-wide goal of adding 100 endowed professor spots by 2021.

Programs on the Mount Vernon campus also hope to get a boost from the campaign, including $1 million for speakers through the Women’s Leadership Program and $2 million for scholarships to its members.

Michael Nilsen, a spokesman for the Association of Fundraising Professionals, said alumni are more likely to donate if they can relate to a school’s specific goal. He said administrators can use those targets to show potential donors how their gifts can have an effect – especially as an overall fundraising haul grows larger.

“An individual might think, ‘My little donation isn’t going to make a difference,’” he said. “You have to tie it back to impact and goals.”

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