Tuition. A word hated by all GW students and their parents. Ben Franklin used to say that in life, only two things were certain – death and taxes. College students can add another to the list: yearly increases in college costs above inflation levels.
Tomorrow, University officials will devote a couple of hours of their time to listen to a gathering of student leaders. The student leaders will tell administrators students’ feelings on what would be viewed as an acceptable tuition increase. But regardless of what the students say, it is unlikely their arguments will be able to substantially sway the views of administrators – while not yet written in stone, it is unrealistic to think that next year’s budget numbers still are written in pencil.
Something tomorrow’s discussion should focus a significant amount of time on is students’ lack of faith in the University. According to a Student Association poll, three-quarters of respondents do not believe they are getting in knowledge what their $20,000 a year should give them. This statistic should make all University administrators stop and think. A full 75 percent of these students don’t believe that they are getting their money’s worth from the University.
At the top of students’ concerns is academics. Crowded classrooms are an impediment to learning. How are people supposed to be focused on learning when they have to sit on radiators or on the floor because of a lack of space? What kind of personal attention can students get when there are dozens and dozens of students in their classes? Where is the low student to faculty ratio that all the promotional materials emphasize?
Smaller classes, in conjunction with a greater number of highly-regarded, qualified and distinguished professors, will give GW a better academic reputation. This is a win-win situation – students’ GW degrees will increase in value and administrators will look good. That is, after all, something that everyone wants.
It is the University’s responsibility to earn students’ trust. The entire budget process, as well as its end results, are shrouded in mystery. To prove their contention that students’ money is being wisely spent, administrators should open up the process to public scrutiny. Treat students like adults and let them see where their money is going. While things like new gates and parks are nice, they will not help students land interviews and jobs; academics will.
If the University truly views itself as an institution whose first and foremost concern is to teach students, then it must do so. It needs to make sure its students’ academic needs and concerns are fulfilled. If the University views itself mainly as a corporation, then it has a responsibility to provide its customers and shareholders the services they purchase. Either way, GW must redeem itself in the eyes of those whose futures are in its hands.