GW officials are set to propose a unique fixed tuition plan for incoming students to the Board of Trustees Friday, as the University looks at new strategies to cope with a tight budget. The University will also be proposing a traditional increase for continuing students, but administrators are declining to release the exact figure until Friday.
GW increased tuition by 5.5 percent last year to $29,350 for incoming students, while the price for continuing students rose by 4.5 percent to $29,072.
University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg said the fixed plan, which could be implemented for next year’s freshman class, will enable each class of undergraduate students to pay the same price during their entire time at GW.
“We are trying to set tuition at one price and tell kids in high school that this will be your price for the next four years,” Trachtenberg said.
He said the proposal is designed to increase retention and allow families to better financially plan for undergraduate tuition. The University will set a price that takes inflation and other economic factors into account but strives to keep the price realistic and marketable, Trachtenberg said.
“As we look across the next four years we are looking to help families plan but not hurt ourselves,” he said, but declined to disclose the proposed price.
The University would also lock the financial aid package a student receives freshman year as the minimum aid a student will receive until graduation. Aid could increase with need, he said.
But GW could face financial and marketing risks if the Board approves the new pricing scheme.
The fixed GW tuition is likely to be noticeably greater than other private institutions next year, but Trachtenberg said the fixed cost would seem like a deal to families by senior year as other universities annually increased their tuition prices.
GW could also face a financial risk by locking in the tuition cost for four years because the University would have no outlet to adjust revenue if the economy worsens.
“We would have to scramble if inflation increases … you can imagine some crises,” he said, adding that the University always has the option of scraping the pricing program if it fails to meet needs.
Current GW seniors entered GW in 2000 paying $25,040 in tuition and fees and currently write a check for $29,072, a 16 percent increase over four years.
Trachtenberg said continuing students should expect a four to five percent increase this year and touted the fixed-cost plan as a solution to the yearly drama regarding the tuition increase.
“This way people can actually plan and have some certainty when it comes to paying for GW,” he said. “Each year the University has to revisit tuition and the annual drama and stress unfolds.”
Trachtenberg said housing prices will not remain fixed and students will have to pay the 2 to 3 percent annual increase for on-campus housing prices.
The University met with student organization leaders Wednesday to discuss the new plan and other GW priorities.
Student Association President Kris Hart said he supports the fixed tuition plan and believes it will benefit families struggling with yearly increases.
“I think it’s a wonderful idea … but we have to make sure that we market it effectively,” Hart said. “The increase will look like its more than it should be and its more than you will spend on other universities next year … but we need to explain that you can plan the next four years and financial aid is locked.”
Hart noted the fiscal risk GW faces by locking in one price but said proper planning will enable the plan to benefit the University.
“It’s a courageous decision in my mind … I wish my parents would have an offer like this as opposed to facing an arbitrary increase every year,” he said.
Some students said they thought the plan was positive because it allows better planning, but were wary of supporting it before seeing proposed University prices.
“It sounds like a good idea for parents to have a fixed tuition, but I’d
really need to look at a price (illustrating projected increases) before I’d be for or against it,” senior Meghan Shea said.
“If it stays consistent with other schools’ (tuition increases) … I’d
probably do it,” said Jeremy Liebman, also a senior.
This article appeared in the February 5, 2004 issue of the Hatchet.