Universities, whose apparent goals include the dissemination of knowledge and the creation of a learned society, also have a business side that is seemingly separated from those goals. Although this capitalistic take on such a venture seems contradictory, it is necessary.
This rings especially true at GW, which in 2005 was the second-priciest university in America at about $36,400 per year. Today that figure looms almost at the $38,000 mark, not including the average extra costs for room and board, textbooks and personal academic expenses.
These figures aren’t that preposterous or unwarranted when you consider what we get here at GW for the price. The tuition is actually worth it.
Many disaffected students see the price tag as an unnecessarily high figure when considering what they are receiving in return. I can fully understand students who feel robbed when they suffer through the mess of red tape that layers campus or deal with administrative problems while on their academic path. Yet, consider this: not many other schools boast a faculty composed of 92 percent doctorate degree recipients, a 92 percent retention rate and a top-100 research institution title, according to GW ‘s Web site. Additionally, 50 percent of our University’s classes have less than 20 students and 25 percent have less than 10.
We also benefit from a proximity to downtown Washington, D.C., one of the best places to find an internship. For many, including myself, this factor is a heavy selling point. I don’t have many friends from high school interning at the White House, the Justice Department, CNN or the Secret Service, but I know people here who do. This is the biggest benefit in the opportunity cost of such a burdensome price tag.
More than 200 organizations and corporations came to GW last spring to conduct more than 1,175 interviews according to the University’s Web site. When we graduate, our average starting salaries and our future salaries will be competitive compared to those of other institutions, according to a site that allows alums to rank their former schools. This comforting thought should make you feel a little more at ease about the tuition situation.
Before bashing the high costs here, consider that Harvard University has an endowment of more than $25 billion. Ours is less than $1 billion. Other prestigious universities have a history of generous alums and supporters, while GW is just beginning its climb to prestige. This University will have to wait for substantial alumni gifts to roll in before they can lower tuition or offer financial aid without hurting quality. If we want our degrees to be valuable in the future, we must be prepared to pay now.
I am not proposing a specific plan for the best way to build a strong endowment. However, raising the public’s idea of a great institution is a proven strategy for raising the applicant pool and the number of quality graduates who may contribute in the future.
GW is not alone as far as rising tuitions go. Prices for higher education are rising so steeply because of the costs needed to offer students cutting-edge facilities in competition with other schools and rising healthcare costs for faculty.
Whether or not you have faith in GW’s tuition plans, it is important to consider that our tuition is necessary to stay at the top in the world of higher education. Plus, if there are enough people here willing to pay it, then administrators should use this income to make GW a high quality institution.
-The writer is a sophomore majoring in political communication and journalism.
This article appeared in the October 30, 2006 issue of the Hatchet.