Rep. retracts tuition bill, cites GW’s new plan

Citing efforts by universities such as GW to curb costs, Rep. Howard McKeon withdrew legislation last week that would have penalized universities for implementing steep tuition hikes.

In a statement released last week, McKeon (R-Calif.) praised GW for adopting a plan that fixes tuition for incoming students, saying the University has acknowledged that “institutions have a share of the responsibility for the skyrocketing cost of tuition.”

He said steps taken by GW and other universities to make paying for college more predictable led him to abandon his attempt to withhold federal funding from universities that raise tuition at more than twice the rate of inflation.

McKeon also noted steps the University of Virginia has taken to “ease tuition burdens” by guaranteeing a minimum amount of financial aid for all students that can demonstrate need.

“(GW and UVA) should take a bow for rising up to the challenge of college affordability and serve as shining examples for other institutions,” McKeon said.

Staffers from McKeon’s office were unavailable for comment as of press time.

University officials, who vehemently criticized the bill, said they were not surprised by McKeon’s decision. They added that punishing colleges for instituting tuition hikes would undermine efforts to improve academics and student life.

Robert Chernak, senior vice president for Student Academic Support Services, said the bill “addressed a sentiment in society that families would like to see a de-escalation in the rising costs of tuition to send their sons and daughters to school.”

If passed, McKeon’s bill “would not have affected GW,” said Chernak, who noted that yearly University tuition increases have hovered around 5 percent, which is several points lower than twice the inflation rate.

Last month, the University’s Board of Trustees approved a fixed plan that will require next year’s freshman class to pay $34,000 in yearly tuition costs during their entire stay at GW.

While GW’s plan was designed to make financial aid consistent for students during their four or five years at the University, officials said that fixed tuition was not created to specifically address McKeon’s bill.

Gerald Kauvar, special assistant to University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, said the fixed tuition plan was not a byproduct of congressional concerns over tuition increases even though “McKeon sure said so.”

“What (McKeon) was proposing wouldn’t have helped,” Kauvar said. “It is hard to say that the price of higher education can be set to inflation.”

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