Board fixes frosh tuition earlier than usual

The GW Board of Trustees broke with precedent and announced tuition for next year’s freshman class at its fall meeting Friday. For the second straight year, the board approved a fixed pricing plan that will require incoming freshmen to pay the same tuition during their entire stay at GW.

The $36,370 price tag, which may make GW the nation’s most expensive university for incoming students, is a 3.9 percent increase from this year’s freshman tuition.

The board traditionally implements yearly tuition hikes at its winter meeting. This year, however, University officials announced the increase early to let prospective students know about tuition before the application deadline. Next year’s room and board costs will be made available in the spring.

Last year, after the board approved fixed tuition in February, admissions officials scrambled to inform students already admitted to the University about the plan. Scores of parents and students were upset that they were not notified about the plan before they committed to GW,

“We want to give students who are high school students as much advance notice as possible,” University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg told The Hatchet.

The class of 2009 will be paying what could be the highest tuition in the country their freshman year. But their payments will be equal to and possibly less than tuition at other private universities when they become juniors and seniors.

Trachtenberg expects GW’s tuition to drop “30 places” in the next few years. He cited the 20,000 undergraduate applications GW received last year’s evidence that parents and students are attracted by the stability of the fixed plan.

“We are gratified with the overwhelming positive response to the University’s fixed tuition initiative, designed to take the mystery out of the cost of higher education,” Trachtenberg said in a written statement. “Bolstered by feedback from current and prospective students and their families, we are pleased to continue this innovative program for the next academic year.”

The fixed tuition was one of many items that trustees discussed Friday. The board is a 35-member body that oversees the academic and institutional management of the University. Trustees also sit on subcommittees that discuss various aspects of GW, including academics, student affairs and external relations.

In brief remarks delivered at the start of the four-hour long meeting, Trachtenberg identified three areas of concern for his administration: the recent spate of student suicides, part-time faculty unionization and the arrest of a former GW professor who is charged with stealing at least $600,000 (see “Professors fear research backlash,” pg. 1).

The suicides of three students since February was not unusual at an institution with more than 20,000 students, Trachtenberg said. Seven students have died since December.

“It’s hard to know in any scientific way what’s going on,” he said.

He briefly touched on recent revelations that Nabih Bedewi, former head of GW’s National Crash Analysis Center, is suspected of embezzling $600,000 in federal funds slated for GW research work.

Despite the charges, research funding has increased by $9 million to $125 million this year, said trustee Lydia Thomas, chair of the board’s Academic Affairs Committee.

“The University is really honing in on its research capabilities and how the research enhances the attractiveness of the University (for professors and students),” she said.

On Thomas’s recommendation, trustees approved a bachelor’s degree in pharmacology that would address GW medical officials’ concerns about a nationwide lack of pharmacologists.

Tony Sayegh, vice chair of the Student Affairs Committee, reported that the minority population of the freshman class has increased substantially from last year. The population of black and Hispanic incoming students increased by 68 and 22 percent, respectively.

Sayegh briefly addressed technology issues, saying the board should look into providing students with free laptops that have pre-installed virus software.

He also asked board members to financially support former Student Association President Kris Hart’s efforts to unseat Dorothy Miller on the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission. Miller, a constant thorn in GW’s side, has repeatedly tried to restrict the construction of academic and residential buildings.

Without mentioning Miller, Sayegh said trustees should give $25 to Hart – the maximum allowed under D.C. campaign finance laws – in the interests of getting more students on the six-member commission. Several board members said they would act on Sayegh’s suggestion.

“It’s good to have allies on the ANC board,” said Sayegh, a former SA executive vice president. “Kris Hart would be a wonderful candidate for financial support.”

Sayegh also provided an overview of Student Association President Omar Woodard’s goals, which included the creation of an online syllabi file and restoration of older residence halls.

Traditionally, after the student life committee report, the SA president outlines his projects in a two-minute speech. But Woodard – the only non-Hatchet student allowed into the meeting – thanked board members, urged them to participate in an SA-sponsored Georgetown business promotion and said he was not going to make a speech because Sayegh had already talked about SA projects.

Nelson Carbonell, chair of the Advancement and Alumni Affairs Committee, said GW exceeded its expectations by raising $57 million in donations and grants last year. The University is in the second year of a three-year drive to raise $229 million.

Carbonell said GW would eventually be embarking on a “shorter and bigger” major fundraising drive than the Capital and Centuries campaigns, which brought it more than $550 million in the 1990s.

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