GW takes a closer look at financial aidfor upperclassmen

Some continuing students, like sophomore Melissa Serocki, said they got a raw deal in their financial aid package returning for their second year at GW.

Serocki said when she first entered GW as a freshman she was happy with her financial aid package: $15,000 in grants, $2,100 in work study and about three different loan offers, made GW an affordable option for her family. Her package for her sophomore year did not prove to be as abundant. Serocki said $6,700 in grants, no work study, and only one loan offer was not the package she expected.

“Once they get you in, they think they have you here, so they don’t offer you as much money as they did your freshman year,” Serocki said. “I’m sure there are a lot of people who try to stay even if they do have smaller financial aid packages. I mean you already have your friends and you’re all situated and don’t want to leave school.”

But Dan Small, director of financial assistance at GW, said his office does not give returning students less money in order to provide scholarships for freshmen.

“We don’t take any money away from any students to accommodate a larger freshman class,” Small said.

Serocki said she appealed to the financial aid office and was able to get a larger package, but not as large as the one she received her freshman year. But she said the larger package allowed her to return to GW.

“I wouldn’t be here otherwise,” she said.

Small said each year money is first set aside for continuing students and then the rest is given to freshmen and transfer students. Small said there was a $5 million increase this year in the amount of financial aid given to students and much of the reason for that is because the Board of Trustees anticipated the larger freshman class.

Small said continuing students this year received even more financial aid than first-year students. For the 1999-2000 school year, continuing students received an average of $19,546 while freshmen received an average of $19,242. Last year, freshmen received an average of $18,921, while continuing students received an average award of $18,790.

Small said the financial aid office understands financial aid is a factor determining if new students choose to attend GW. But he said he does not consider financial aid the deciding factor – rather, he said he considers it one of “the top five.” Small said financial aid is never used for recruitment purposes at the expense of continuing students who need the money.

A sophomore who asked not to be identified said he considers himself lucky because he received more financial aid this year than he did last year. He said his package reflected an increase in University and alumni grants and a decrease in federal grants, but overall his package was a $2,000 increase from last year.

“I knew people who got University grants their first year and then didn’t get them their second year, and I thought that was going to happen to me too,” he said.

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