Other schools split on GW’s sibling discount program

Junior twins Stefanie and Katie Garry pay a total of $16,165 to cover both of their tuitions each year at GW because of a grant the University offers to families with more than one enrolled child.

The GW Family Grant, established in 1988, awards half tuition to full-time undergraduate students who have siblings at GW. While the grant does not include room and board, siblings are still eligible for financial aid and scholarships, despite their already discounted tuition.

In the Garry twins’ case, Katie was awarded the family grant while Stefanie earned a presidential academic scholarship that covers the cost of the full tuition she is charged.

While the twins said that the grant did not influence their decision to come to GW, Katie said, “It didn’t hurt.”

Robert Chernak, senior vice president for Student and Academic Support Services, said the grant was established to ease parents’ wallets as well as encourage families to send more than one of their children to GW.

“(It) attempts to mitigate to some extent the significant expense burden endured by families sending two or more full-time undergraduate children to GW simultaneously,” he wrote in an e-mail last week. “It was designed to encourage qualified applications for admission among family legacies.”

About 180 families with two or more students enrolled at GW receive the family grant, siad Dan Small, director of Student Financial Assistance. Small said the grant is not based on need, and as long as both siblings are concurrently enrolled as full-time undergraduate students at GW, the younger sibling is awarded half tuition. The younger student must reapply for the grant each year and maintain a 2.0 GPA or better to continue to receive the tuition discount.

Freshmen twins Erika and Amanda Asgeirsson pay $36,370 total for their first year at GW because of the family grant. Erika was given the family grant, while Amanda was given a merit scholarship that covers half her tuition. Together, the twins pay the cost of tuition for one student. Despite the deal, the twins said the grant and scholarship money did not influence their decision to attend GW.

“We didn’t find out about the grant until after we applied,” Erika said, “So it didn’t really influence our decision to come to GW.”

Some other universities believe, however, that offering a family grant to siblings enrolled in undergraduate programs is not the correct way to recruit students to a college.

William Conley, dean of enrollment and academic services at Johns Hopkins University, said that offering siblings half tuition may “unduly influence” a student’s decision to choose the school. Conley said he wants students to choose Hopkins or any other school based on the “appropriateness of the program” rather than due to a financial incentive.

“We do hope the positive experience of an older brother or sister would encourage a younger brother or sister to look at Hopkins,” he said. “We want our financial aid policy to be without gimmicks, so to speak.”

Julie Green Bataille, assistant vice president for communications at Georgetown University, said that the school does not offer siblings reduced tuition and does not plan to consider such a policy.

“I would tell you, however, that Georgetown’s policies to admit students regardless of their ability to pay for school and our commitment to meet the full financial need to students would impact a family if they had more than one student attending Georgetown – those factors would all play out in the financial aid packages for students from those families,” Bataille wrote in an e-mail last week.

Other U.S. colleges and universities have similar family grant policies. The University of Hartford in Connecticut established the family grant around 1980, which was when GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg presided over the school. Its policy is exactly the same as GW’s.

Catholic University of America also has a family grant but on a smaller scale. Catholic awards the younger brother or sister $200 per year as long as both siblings are simultaneously enrolled in an undergraduate degree program.

“With the cost of higher education, we find the families at CUA are grateful for different options to help them finance college,” said Christine Mica, director of undergraduate admissions at Catholic.

Twins at Lake Erie College in Painesville, Ohio, receive a two-for-one deal. With the twins scholarship, one sibling pays full tuition while the other student’s tuition is waived entirely.

At GW the policy on twins is the same as for other pairs of siblings, but in the case of triplets, one student pays full tuition and the other siblings each pay half.

Kathryn Napper, GW director of admissions, said that having more than one family member enrolled at GW is beneficial to the University as well.

“From an admissions standpoint, it makes a powerful recruitment tool when a family can say that two or more of their children attend GW and enjoy their experience,” she said.

Napper also stressed, however, that applicants with a sibling at GW do not have a better chance of getting admitted.

“First and foremost, we are seeking academically qualified students; therefore, the courses completed and the grades earned are the most important factors considered,” she said. “Legacy status alone does not influence admission decision.”

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