After a year of heated student advocacy for a lower increase in tuition and fees, the University’s Board of Trustees approved a 4.7 percent increase for continuing undergraduates Friday.
The increase brings tuition for current undergraduates to $21,320 – $950 more than last year’s figure. An additional $1,035 University fee puts the price of a GW education at $22,355 for continuing students.
For the first time in recent years, however, new undergraduate students will face a higher tuition hike than continuing students. The Board approved a 5.9 percent increase for new students, putting their tuition at $21,590, almost $300 more than tuition for current GW students.
GW Vice President and Treasurer Louis Katz said the Board has approved different tuition increases for new and continuing students several times before. The last time the Board took similar action was at least three or four year ago, he said.
“Last spring, we promised returning students we’d pass a lower increase this year,” GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg said. “What promises have we made to people who were high school juniors last year?”
Trachtenberg said the freshmen who will pay the higher increase will be the main beneficiaries of the initiatives it covers.
Law school tuition will increase four percent, down almost two percent from last year’s hike. Graduate students will see a 3.9 percent rise in tuition and fees.
Trachtenberg said the University strove to keep the tuition and fee increases lower this year, while still covering the initiatives students have advocated.
“Just as it’s a sin to raise tuition, it’s a blunder not to raise it high enough to give people what they want. That’s the fine line we walk,” Trachtenberg said. “You need the money to provide the services.”
This year’s increases come on the heels of a year of heightened student awareness of the University’s budget process. Last spring’s 6.9 percent tuition hike triggered a swell of activism in the student community and prompted a call for increased communication between students and administrators, and more student involvement in the University’s financial affairs.
Student advocacy for a lower increase began immediately after the announcement of last year’s proposed increase with the formation of a group called Students Against Yearly Increases in Tuition (SAY IT) and a boycott of J Street to protest the increase.
“I really think student activism played a part in the lower tuition increase this year,” Student Association President Kuyomars “Q” Golparvar said. “We said we wanted them to keep the increase under five percent, and they did. We said we wanted them to target technology and they did. I’m satisfied.”
But Trachtenberg said student activism was not central to the Board’s decision to pass a lower increase this year.
“The budget is driven by necessity,” he said. “But student activism helps to inform our thinking a little.”
The increase in tuition and fees pours more than $9 million in revenue into the University’s budget, but the budget is slated to include almost $15 million in increased expenses. Trachtenberg said funds from GW’s endowment and contributions from the $300 million Centuries Campaign will make up the difference.
After last year’s tuition hike, Trachtenberg identified libraries, financial aid and technology as the “big ticket items” to be supported with revenue from the increase. This year, he said the increase will be used for “more of the same.”
The 1998-99 budget ups GW’s campus-wide technology initiative by $2 million. This comes on top of a $5 million increase in last year’s budget. Additional funding from the University’s endowment and increases in technology spending in coming years will put the technology initiative at almost $40 million by 2002.
Technology improvements planned for this year include updating the University’s core infrastructure, wiring all residence halls by the end of 1999 and upgrading faculty computers.
“Our technology push is two-fold,” Trachtenberg said. “Part of it was (the Middle States’ accreditation team) coming in and saying, `It looks to us like you didn’t budget enough.’ The other part was students saying, `Hurry up.’ “
Academic programs will get the biggest boost in the new budget – a $7 million spending increase, including $2.5 million for faculty and staff hiring. The Board authorized $1.5 million for slated renovations in 129 classrooms and labs, including 20 rooms in Bell Hall and 19 rooms in Funger Hall.
Next year’s financial aid budget will rise nearly $2.5 million, including a $2 million increase in undergraduate aid. Next fall, the University will implement a new loan program. In an effort to give students better rates on commercial loans, GW will tap several private lenders as “preferred lenders,” promising them business from GW students in exchange for lower rates.
Katz said requests for proposals were sent to Citibank and Sallie Mae, among other private corporations that issue student loans. He said details of the program still are fuzzy, but that he expects everything to be ironed out later this spring.