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GW slipped two spots to No. 54 in U.S. News & World Report’s annual rankings of the nation’s best colleges Tuesday, the third straight year the University has dropped on the list.

U.S. News ranked colleges based on data for the class admitted in 2013, rather than the University’s most recent admissions cycle, which saw GW admit 43 percent of applicants – a 10-point increase from the year before. GW dropped to its current slot over the last three years after hitting its top spot at No. 50 in 2011.

GW shares the No. 54 spot with Ohio State, Pepperdine and Tulane universities. GW, Ohio State and Tulane all tied last year, as well.

But The University of Washington and the University of Texas at Austin, which both tied with GW last year, passed GW to come in at No. 48 and No. 53, respectively, this year.

Princeton University claimed the top spot for the second year in a row.

U.S. News stripped GW of its No. 51 ranking in 2012 after officials admitted they had inflated admissions data for more than a decade.

The magazine also ranked several schools in the top half of the rankings in a separate “Best Value” list, though GW did not make the cut. Pepperdine University snagged the No. 24 spot on that list.

U.S. News stuck with the same methodology it used last year to compile the 2015 list. Last year, it decided to give less weight to areas like the percentage of incoming students in the top of their high school class.

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Sam Hardgrove | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Finance Chair Ben Pryde sponsored a bill to create the SA’s “Innovation Fund” to help students with creative ideas. Sam Hardgrove | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Students looking to launch a creative project at GW without the help of a student organization can now turn to the Student Association.

The SA amended its bylaws on Monday to create a $3,000 “Innovation Fund” separate from funding for student organizations to help students with“innovative and unique” projects. Finance Committee Chair Sen. Ben Pryde, U-At-Large sponsored the bill and said he hopes the fund will spur more ideas like the solar table, Before I Die wall and What I Be projects, which were all launched by students individually.

“A good idea is something the Student Association should invest in, and students should be coming to us regardless of whether they have the CSE-registered label attached to them,” Pryde said.

Until now, these types of projects had to be temporarily housed under the banner of student organizations to receive funding, since the SA could only allocate money through groups verified by the Center for Student Engagement.

The $3,000 pool would ideally go to one large project, Pryde said, though the SA could potentially split the fund among two smaller proposals.

The money will be drawn from the SA’s cosponsorship fund.

Finance Committee Vice Chair Caroline Bourque insisted the fund would not hurt student groups looking for funding.

“This money for the Innovation Fund isn’t going to negatively impact student organizations on campus. It’s not going to take money away from them,” Bourque said.

Students hoping to secure funding for a project will apply through the SA’s cosponsorship form.

If approved, Pryde and another member of the finance committee will work with the recipient as the project develops.

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University President Steven Knapp launched an access and affordability task force last year. The New York Times ranked GW on Monday as less economically-diverse than more than 85 percent of the country's top institutions. Hatchet File Photo

University President Steven Knapp launched an access and affordability task force last year. The New York Times ranked GW on Monday as less economically-diverse than more than 85 percent of the country’s top institutions. Hatchet File Photo

GW landed in the bottom fifth of the New York Times’ first-ever ranking of the most economically diverse top colleges.

The newspaper gave GW the No. 84 slot on Monday out of the 99 schools it evaluated for efforts to attract and enroll poor and middle-class students.

Listing only U.S. colleges with a four-year graduation rate of at least 75 percent in 2011-12, the Times ranked schools based on their endowment per student, out-of-pocket costs for low- and middle-income students and the percentage of students receiving Pell Grants.

Researchers for the Times’ website The Upshot combined those factors into a College Access Index for each school. GW earned a -1.4, while the top school, Vassar College, earned a 3.1.

The data used to determine college access shows a stark contrast between GW and the liberal arts college in New York.

While 13 percent of GW freshmen on average received a Pell Grant (meaning their family income is less than $50,000) between 2012 and 2014, about one in four Vassar freshmen received Pell Grants on average during that same period.

Vassar College’s $340,000 endowment per student also dwarfs GW’s per student endowment of $70,000, though Vassar enrolls only about 2,500 students compared to GW’s roughly 10,000 undergraduates.

And while families earning between $30,000 and $48,000 annually paid about $18,300 after financial aid, families in the same income bracket paid a net price of just $6,000 a year on average for a degree from Vassar.

Families in that income bracket have seen their net price to attend GW rise 28 percent over the last five years.

Most of the schools GW considers its peers, including New York, Emory and Duke universities, outranked GW.

Still, GW ranked slightly higher than Boston University (No. 87) and Washington University in St. Louis (No. 92).

The ranking – not the first time GW has received low marks for attracting lower-income students – comes after University President Steven Knapp’s repeated assurances that accessibility is one of his priorities. Knapp launched a task force to tackle the affordability last winter, and has attended White House summits on the issue.

Universities can also expect the first draft this fall of the federal government’s system to rate universities, which will look to incentivize colleges to improve affordability.

- Jeremy Diamond contributed reporting.

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The newly sworn-in Secretary of Health and Human Services gave her first public address Monday in GW’s Jack Morton Auditorium.

Three months after the Senate confirmed her, Sylvia Burwell used her time at the podium to defend the Affordable Care Act, saying the landmark health care law is about “making progress” and not “making a point,” The Hill reported.

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Sylvia Burwell made her first public speech Monday at GW. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Burwell replaced her embattled predecessor Kathleen Sebelius, who stepped down from the post after a botched rollout of the online enrollment website for the new healthcare system.

And Burwell made clear that she plans to stay above the political fray over Obamacare, pledging not to “fight last year’s battles.” Instead, she vowed to focus on the challenges ahead.

“Transparency builds trust, and it is something we take very seriously,” she said. “Even if the numbers aren’t quite where we want them to be on something, we’re going to tell you about it.”

The health secretary also used the speech as an opportunity to remind students and faculty that they can make a difference in their field by taking on leadership roles.

Burwell’s remarks come just two months before the second enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act, which begins Nov. 15.

A Twitter account for Burwell was also created today, the Wall Street Journal reported.

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Charlie Lee | Hatchet Photographer

Freshmen prepared letters and care packages for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Surivors, which helps families who have lost a family member in military service. Charlie Lee | Hatchet Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Tim Palmieri.

Freshmen and University President Steven Knapp huddled around bingo cards Saturday with veterans at the Armed Forces Retirement Home.

“I-26,” Knapp called out before freshmen Hannah Silverman and Elyssa Clauson gave each other a high five as their team moved one space closer to victory.

Freshmen split into groups at the retirement home for veterans of the armed forces, with some writing thank-you cards and filling care packages for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors while others played bingo and chatted with the elderly veterans. The freshman class spread across the District on Saturday for the sixth annual Freshman Day of Service to volunteer with more than two dozen community groups.

“It’s a great way to get involved in the D.C. community,” freshman Ashna Kapoor said. “All of us coming together from different parts of the country and coming together to help out is something special.”

The students who worked with TAPS prepared packages for families still reeling from the death of a loved one during service in the military.

“Working with TAPS has been great,” said freshman Zoe Dorau. “It’s sad to know every name on the card list has suffered, but it’s a great experience and I’m really happy I came.”

Between licking stamps and stuffing envelopes, conversations began with the usual questions: “Where are you from?” and “What’s your major?” But students quickly found common ground with the veterans, and the groups started to share cheesy knock-knock jokes and the names of favorite TV shows.

Students listened as the veterans shared some words of wisdom and the veterans in turn asked about college life.

“I’m impressed the University throws this event, especially when talking to my friends from other schools who don’t do anything like this,” freshman Peter Baumann said.

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Former Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) presented a GW freshman with a Beta Theta Pi scholarship. Katie Causey | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Former Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., presented a GW freshman with a Beta Theta Pi scholarship. Katie Causey | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Updated: Sept. 4 at 12:45 a.m.

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Brandon Lee.

Former Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., joined fellow members of Beta Theta Pi in the Marvin Center on Wednesday to present the fraternity’s Men of Principle scholarship.

The former senator also used his time to recall his fraternity days as a member of Beta Theta Pi at Denison University, and spoke out against hazing and excessive alcohol use in Greek life.

1. Men of Principal scholarship

Freshman Austin Hansen, who is not a member of the fraternity, beat out 13 other students to win the $500 Men of Principle scholarship. The award is an annual honor given to a male student who displays leadership on campus.

“I came here to be in D.C., to be in that bubble of famous people,” Hansen said. “To be able to shake hands with people like Dick Lugar, it reminds you why you’re here. I’m honored, and I have no other words to describe it.”

2. Hazing and alcohol

The scholarship’s name comes from a nationwide Beta Theta Pi initiative called Men of Principle, which aims to curb hazing and substance abuse.

“There had been an excessive use of alcohol and drug abuse in the Greek houses,” said Lugar, who spent 36 years in the U.S. Senate.

He added that students can have the most impact on changing that culture on college campuses.

3. Beta memories

Lugar, 82, also recalled his own time as an active member of the fraternity. He joined Beta as a freshman, when his chapter had a “no smoke, no drink, no horsing around ethic.”

“Turns out, that was sort of difficult to maintain,” he joked. “I must confess, when I was in the second floor of the house, I saw the occasional beer can floating around, which caught my attention.”

Greek life gave him a sense of community and friendship he still appreciates, Lugar said.

“By the end of freshman year, life had changed for me,” he said. “It was a new opportunity and a new beginning, and I knew that everything was gonna be OK.”

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported the amount of money given with the Men of Principle scholarship. The award is a $500 scholarship, not $1,000. We regret this error.

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Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014 10:49 p.m.

Three laptops stolen from Madison Hall room

Three freshmen reported that their laptops were stolen from the Madison Hall room they share last week.

The students said a person had entered their room and taken two Macbook Pros and one Macbook Air, which cost about $1,000 each. Their laptop chargers were also missing.

None of the roommates were home at the time of the alleged burglary, and the suspect did not enter the room by force, according to a Metropolitan Police Department report. The case remains open.

Security guards are stationed at Madison Hall between 7 p.m. and 2 a.m., the students said.

The University recorded 20 burglaries in 2012, the latest data available, which was down from 39 the year before and 75 in 2010.

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Firefighters, with some in hazmat suits, leave Tompkins Hall of Engineering. Zach Montellaro | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Firefighters, some wearing hazmat suits, leave Tompkins Hall on Wednesday. Zach Montellaro | Hatchet Staff Photographer

D.C. Fire officials found no evidence of an explosion in Tompkins Hall after at least six fire trucks responded to reports of a small blast inside the engineering building Wednesday.

Firefighters were dispatched to 23rd Street shortly after 4 p.m., and investigated Room 207 in Tompkins Hall wearing hazmat suits, D.C. Fire and EMS spokesman Tim Wilson said. No injuries were reported.

A firefighter in a Hazmat suit discusses the scene with other officials. Zach Montellaro | Hatchet Staff Photographer

A firefighter in a hazmat suit talks with other officials on the scene. Zach Montellaro | Hatchet Staff Photographer

“There was an indication from several accounts that there was smoke, but there was no indication of an explosion,” Wilson said, adding that D.C. Fire will not conduct a follow-up investigation.

University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar said there was “no immediate danger” to students and faculty.

Eva Palmer, Mary Ellen McIntire and Colleen Murphy contributed reporting

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The Metropolitan Police Department investigated a suspicious package at 2020 K St. Wednesday. Samuel Klein | Senior Photo Editor

The Metropolitan Police Department investigated a report of a suspicious package Wednesday at 2020 K St. Samuel Klein | Senior Photo Editor

Updated: Sept. 3, 2014 at 2:31 p.m.

City police investigated a report of a suspicious package at 2020 K St. Wednesday, keeping students from entering the building for more than an hour.

The Metropolitan Police Department closed down the block after receiving the call at 10:18 a.m., public information officer Paul Metcalf said. Police did not find any suspicious materials, he said, and students were allowed back into the building at about 12:35 p.m.

The intersection between 20th and 21st streets was closed off for about an hour Wednesday. Samuel Klein | Senior Photo Editor

The block between 20th and 21st streets was closed off for about an hour Wednesday. Samuel Klein | Senior Photo Editor

At least three fire trucks and four police cars surrounded the block, which was closed off with caution tape on 20th and 21st streets. Traffic was allowed back onto the street at about 12:30 p.m.

The University Police Department posted on Twitter that GW had canceled classes because of the police activity. The GW Registrar tweeted after police cleared the area that classes would resume.

University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar said GW “did not officially cancel classes” at 2020 K St., though some individual professors decided to cancel their classes when police evacuated the building.

Colleen Murphy and Mary Ellen McIntire contributed reporting.

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Director of Admissions Karen Felton, left, and Senior Associate Provost for Enrollment Management Laurie Koehler, right, lead GW's admissions process. Hatchet File Photo

Director of Admissions Karen Felton, left, and Senior Associate Provost for Enrollment Management Laurie Koehler, right, lead GW’s admissions process. Hatchet File Photo

The University will for the first time allow prospective students to apply to more than one school, in addition to giving them a wider selection of essay prompts.

Officials hope the changes, which GW announced Tuesday, will make the undergraduate application more flexible for an increasingly diverse pool of applicants.

This year, students will have the option to indicate a second school of choice on their applications.

“Although some high school seniors are committed to one specific field, there is a group of extremely strong applicants who chose GW because of the breadth of our curricular offerings, not because they definitively want to study in a specific school,” Director of Admissions Karen Felton said in a release.

Applicants will now have three options for the GW essay portion of the Common Application: They can choose to write about how they will “make history,” which questions they’d ask at a dinner with George Washington and how GW fits their “interests, talents and goals.”

“We hope that these changes will give us a more well-rounded picture of the students applying to GW, as well provide applicants with more choices,” Felton said.

Students who apply to the Corcoran College of the Arts and Design must submit portfolios of 10 to 15 pieces of artwork and will not need to provide standardized test scores, which matches the requirements Corcoran students had before the school’s merger with GW. But if those students also list an alternate school, they will need to submit SAT and ACT scores.

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