Two brand-new 2006 Mini Coopers. A down payment on a house. A three-week trip to Italy, flying first class and sleeping only in historic chateaus. A facelift, some liposuction and a perky new pair of breasts.
These are but a few items that whoever is paying for your tuition at this fine institution could’ve purchased instead of sending you here for just one year, as this year’s freshmen are paying almost 50 grand a year to be here. The lead story in Monday’s edition of The Hatchet (“Officials call new CNN tuition rank misleading,” Nov. 6, p. 1) reported that CNNMoney.com granted GW the distinction of being the most expensive university in the United States. While University officials claim that GW’s tuition is comparable to other private institutions and disputed the ranking system used by CNN, the fact remains that GW is expensive.
I found this set of numbers disturbing, but it was another set of numbers that really began to irk me – incidental costs and fees that add up over a typical four-year undergraduate education. A graduating senior is especially affected by this, as he or she must pay for each copy of an official transcript when applying to jobs and graduate schools. To add insult to injury, seniors must actually pay a fee to graduate. From a fiscal management standpoint, this fee may be necessary, but to students who have endured a four-year-long financial pillaging, it appears to be a final cheap shot. Additionally, this final charge may do severe damage to GW in the future.
At the heart of the debate over incidental charges, which should be included in tuition instead, lies GW’s endowment, or more precisely, the lack thereof. One of the reasons the University actively seeks so much money is due to the paltry reserves from which it draws. In order to keep services at the level students have come to expect, tuition must remain high. If student complaints reach a fever pitch, the University may lower tuition, but at what cost?
In order to cope with the loss of revenue, services and programs must be cut. We already complain about the not having newspapers in residence halls or Colonials Invasion – how would we react if we lost our entire music department or if funding for the University Counseling Center is slashed? Due to the unpopular ramifications associated with lowering tuition, the number won’t change anytime soon.
But if students are going to foot most of the operating costs of the University through their tuition payments, why must they also pay incidentals like the lab fees inappropriately collected for foreign language classes, or more appropriately for hard science classes? My main concern is that graduates will leave GW remembering the school as a financially exploitative institution. Of course we will always cherish the bosom buddies we met here, those late night philosophical conversations or whatever other collegiate clich? we take with us, but we’re also going to remember how GW took almost every opportunity to punish us financially.
Lasting memories of GW determine future donations to the school. It is the alumni who fund the endowment, and no one wants to donate their hard-earned cash to the institution that spent four years rummaging through your bank account.
The resentment even begins while still in school. For example, the senior class gift is funded by donations of students. As a senior, there is a better chance of me winning the New York marathon than ponying up any amount of money for a gift to GW.
The future financial health of GW depends on its current students. The school has never been better, and each successive year graduates a more impressive batch of students. These intelligent individuals will go on to become highly paid professionals who make smart choices about how to spend their money.
When the fundraising letter arrives in the mail, however, how many of them will throw it out without even opening it, reluctant to again become financially entangled with GW? The University must realize how their actions today will resonate with students tomorrow.
-The writer, a senior majoring in international
affairs and political science, is a Hatchet columnist.