Staff editorial: Paying for prestige

There is no question GW is moving in the right direction in improving its reputation as a prestigious university. The School of Media and Public Affairs building, a state-of-the-art testament to progress, is just part of the radical expansion period GW is going through. But the $1,000 fee SMPA undergraduates majoring in political communication, journalism and electronic media are required to pay has rightfully angered those students.

The University has failed to disclose the purpose of the fee to those it is most accountable – the students. A simple description of the items and services the fee pays for would suffice. Interim SMPA Director Jarol Manheim doesn’t have input over setting the fee, and the treasurer’s office is offering few details.

Manheim says the fee is understandable in that funds raised from it will be used for facility and technology maintenance. Using these funds to prevent the SMPA building from falling into disrepair like some of GW’s older buildings makes sense. But SMPA students are not the only ones using the building, and the technology is vastly underused for classes they do take.

All students are benefiting from the arrival of “Crossfire” and the name-recognition it is bringing to the University, which showcases the unique opportunities for GW students.

If students are required to pay the fee, they should expect professors to make use of the technology they paid for. It is inexcusable to pay a hefty fee, only to see high-priced classroom technology go unused. The school needs to train professors to use the new equipment students are paying thousands for.

It remains questionable whether the fee will deter students who rely on need-based financial aid from applying to the program. With future fees possible in the Elliott School of International Affairs and business school, GW should come up with a systematic approach to increasing financial aid and scholarship money in proportion to increased fees.

A $1,000 increase in tuition may seem a like a pittance compared to GW’s total tuition bill, but to many students it represents a significant hurdle. The University should find ways to make programs more, not less, accessible.

It is puzzling that Vice President and Treasurer Louis Katz said students in SMPA are essentially “paying for marketing competitiveness.” If the University continues on its trend of nickel and diming students, it may do more harm than good in differentiating itself from the rest of its market basket.

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