Niketa Brar: Rich student, poor student

It is not uncommon for this page to contain an editorial critical of GW’s notoriously high tuition. Many a student has decried the burden of a yearly check to the University that rests above $50,000. And though I agree that it is certainly a bitter pill to swallow, it is time to take notice of the fact that few of us are actually swallowing it.

U.S. News and World Report ranked GW first in the country for giving out need-based financial aid this year. As The Hatchet reported last fall, the University doled out about $115 million dollars of financial aid last academic year. Though these numbers garner far fewer headlines than the University’s impressive price tag, this should not discredit the significance of the GW’s financial aid program.

While GW has maintained an impressive commitment to providing comprehensive financial aid packages, recent announcements from Ivy League universities demand further expansion of this program.

The New York Times reported last month that Harvard University had upset the status quo with a plan to make its education financially viable for all students. Since 2006, families with yearly incomes $60,000 or less were guaranteed full scholarships to Harvard. The university noticed decreasing applications from middle income families who would not necessarily qualify for a generous aid package. These families face one of the most difficult situations in American education – being too poor to shell out $50,000 a year, but too rich to get money for school.

So, Harvard adapted.

In addition to exempting families making less than $60,000 from paying any tuition at all, Harvard has expanded its financial assistance program to middle-class families. If a student’s yearly family income is $180,000 or less, they will only be asked to contribute up to 10 percent of their income toward yearly tuition.

A little quick math for all the political science majors – that’s a guarantee of a Harvard education for at most $18,000 a year. Weeks after Harvard’s announcement, Yale University made a similar promise to families with incomes less than $200,000 per year.

Unsurprisingly, these Ivy schools have spurred significant controversy and are put increasing pressure on smaller colleges. Universities with comparatively small endowments struggle to compete with such a plan. Economists predict that the move will inspire a much-needed change in the American educational system.

Although the recently popularized method is exciting for the world of higher education, it is certainly not the only measure used by universities to make tuition more manageable. Here at GW, a closer look at student aid illustrates that a school does not have to boast an endowment fund that challenges the GDP of small nations in order to ease the burden of tuition. While GW’s financial aid packages often include student loans, they make it possible, if not easy, for students to afford this education.

Some may find the concept of GW’s tuition being in any way accommodating simply laughable. But the financial aid data illustrates that this is unfair. Sixty percent of GW students receive some type of financial aid. The average need-based package per student comes in at $33,809.

But GW cannot rest at this point. University President Steven Knapp must hold true to his commitment to making a GW education more affordable. By drawing on the examples provided by other universities’ recent tuition reforms, Knapp should use this remarkable period to emphasize GW’s commendable financial aid program and make the University more accessible to more students who will value the GW experience.

The writer, a junior majoring in international affairs, is The Hatchet’s contributing opinions editor.

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