During its announcement that GW would charge incoming freshmen more than $50,000 next year, the University also pledged a shift of an estimated $2.5 million from merit-based to need-based financial aid. While this decision will only affect a small portion of the class of 2011, it is still a necessary step to broadening the socio-economic makeup of GW’s student body.
Indeed, there is a chance that GW’s new scholarship policy was intended as an effort to assuage concerns over its new position as the most expensive American undergraduate university, rather than make a real impact on the student body’s composition. Even if this is the rationale for the funding shift, administrators should take advantage of this change to broaden the range of students who come to study at GW.
Fundamentally, a balance between need- and merit-based aid is a function of a debate on whether students should be rewarded on the basis of their hard work or their societal situation. While merit-based aid may be the best indicator of a student’s hard work, a $50,000 price tag automatically eliminates a large number of individuals who will price themselves out of consideration for money based on achievement.
This page has called for the University to look into ways to expand the background of the GW student population in the past, and this new scholarship could be an effective vehicle to achieve this goal. At the end of the upcoming admissions cycle, administrators should evaluate whether increased need-based aid has had any impact on the demographics of incoming students. If the policy has prompted a broader range of students to apply, it may be prudent to expand the amount of money for these scholarships in the future.
Ultimately, the proposed shift is not enough to make a tangible difference in GW’s demographics; however, it could be a step in the right direction. Careful examination and consideration of the effects of more need-based aid are essential to begin broadening the makeup of this University’s students.