Only Four NYU Students Studied At NYU DC Last Semester, And That’s Not Even Unusual

It’s a sunny August afternoon in Washington D.C.— move-in day for residents of one of NYU’s newest study away facilities, located just a few blocks from the White House. At nine stories high, NYU D.C.’s fin-like facade stands out as the hippest, shiniest building on the block.

I’m the last of the NYU group to arrive. One of the faculty members lets me know that all four of us are here.

That’s right. All four.

That semester, only a third of NYU D.C.’s 120 residences were filled, and about 95 percent of them were filled by students studying at other universities. About two residential floors remained unfilled most of that semester — only to be used during special events, like when NYU students from New York or Abu Dhabi visited. Administrative floors operated at half capacity, entire offices remained empty, and some of the site’s high-tech classrooms remained locked all semester. NYU D.C.’s administrative faculty outnumbered all the NYU students there, two to one.

The building always felt safe, but nevertheless hollow, and frankly, a little eerie.

I wondered: did the donors like Constance Milstein and Ronald Abramson, who gave millions to the site and donated the land, know that they were giving money to a half-empty building on prime real estate? And did they know that it was being leased, mostly, to non-NYU students?

I thought my experience was an anomaly, but this spring semester, only five NYU students are studying in D.C.

While my friends in New York were wait-listed from required classes, I took courses where I was the only student registered. NYU D.C. offers an entire city to savor and a set of amazing classes to choose from, but less than a handful of students participate.

After months of research, it turns out my experience in D.C. was just a symptom hinting at a larger problem—inconsistent enrollment among study abroad initiatives at NYU.

In Tel Aviv, there’s a hostel designated specifically for NYU students. It would be a great idea, if all of the 20 rooms were filled. Next semester the site is expecting a maximum of ten students, and that’s down from 14 this past fall. Additionally, Tisch’s annual production program in Cuba failed to run last Spring, due to lack of interest. 

NYU’s expansion program and diverse course offerings promote the growth of Tel Aviv and D.C., but they are gathering interest at a slower rate than expected. The state of the global network university as we know it today is precarious, at best, if some of NYU’s less popular global sites continue to have such low enrollment. Despite the lag of some sites, others are expected to see growth.

“Overall, our Fall 2014 enrollment is projected to be approximately 10 percent higher than Fall 2013,” Josh Taylor, Associate Vice Chancellor of NYU’s Global Programs, told NYU Local. However, he added, these numbers could change a bit between now and the end of the semester.

What’s important to note is the real variance between study abroad enrollment between the Fall and the Spring. Sites like Madrid and Prague (relatively popular choices for semesters abroad) saw a much larger portion of students enroll in the Spring in comparison to the Fall. However, unlike NYU facilities in D.C. and Tel Aviv, Prague and Madrid have a flexible amount of residences available. NYU parted ways with a housing facility in Prague recently, and replaced it with hostel residences that could be leased flexibly to accommodate to the number of students attending per semester. Madrid offers programs like homestays and apartments.

Rather than just being intended for New York students, like Madrid and Prague, NYU now says that they set up NYU DC in the hopes of attracting international students.

“As more and more students from the Abu Dhabi and Shanghai campuses study abroad,” Taylor wrote, “there will be a dramatic increase in interest in Washington, D.C., as many students will want to study in the US, and be drawn to all that our DC site has to offer.”

How much, exactly, we can rely on these satellite campuses to bring NYU D.C. to full capacity is yet to be seen. And inconsistent interest in other programs like those in Cuba and Tel Aviv remain to be fully remedied.

The good news: thanks to some heavy promotion and an improved general awareness of the site, some 30 NYU students have set their eyes on D.C. this upcoming semester.

It’s not like NYU’s Tel Aviv and D.C. sites are wavering towards failure in the same way Tisch Asia did. Yet, our university’s attempt at globalization has left some empty rooms and underutilized resources in its wake. 

[image courtesy of NYU Washington D.C.]


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  1. Adam Becker says

    Excellent piece. It would be interesting to know what resources were redirected from the Square (i.e. NYU) to help support this and other away sites. This certainly did happen in some cases.