University hopes to aid middle class

Two Ivy League schools recently altered their financial aid goals to benefit more middle-class families, and GW administrators said they are looking at ways to keep up with the changing marketplace.

Harvard University’s new plan emphasizes grant-based aid for higher income families, and provides free tuition to families earning less than $60,000. Days after Harvard’s announcement, Yale University released a similar statement pledging to use more endowment funding to increase financial aid packages for its students.

Several GW administrators said more higher-income families are applying each year for financial aid, and University President Steven Knapp said this may be a response to rising costs.

“It’s certainly the case that the demand for financial aid rises with the cost of higher education, not just for GW but across the nation,” Knapp said in an e-mail. “I have asked my administration to develop concrete recommendations on ways of improving access.” He added that he will “announce some concrete steps in a matter of weeks.”

A strong endowment can often be the proper backbone to a successful aid policy. Schools such as Harvard and Yale rely heavily on their endowment to fund financial aid, whereas GW relies on tuition dollars.

Knapp said increased fundraising is imperative to benefiting the University’s financial aid development.

“Currently, most of what we spend on financial aid comes right out of our general revenues, which is one reason why fundraising to increase our financial aid base is so important,” Knapp said.

He added that any decision made to accomplish the University’s goals is “to ensure access (to financial aid), not to compete with Harvard.”

Robert Chernak, senior vice president for Student and Academic and Support Services, said the University currently has no plans to alter its need-based aid, though having a larger endowment would be beneficial.

“It is certainly not GW’s intention to (change need-based aid), although I wish the size of our endowment allowed us to consider the option,” he said.

GW’s endowment is currently estimated to be $1 billion, as opposed to Harvard’s and Yale’s, which are both greater than $20 billion. The University must therefore rely on other means of financing competitive aid packages.

Last year, U.S. News and World Report said GW had the highest average of need-based aid packages in the country. Compared to other schools, the aid is loan-based, something administrators have said they want to stray away from.

The University currently spends $116 million on financial aid, according to the capital budget. This is compared to the $80 million Yale plans on spending according to their new financial aid initiative.

“We already do an incredible amount on institutional financial aid,” said Tracy Schario, a University spokesperson. “This will only continue to benefit our student body.”

Chernak said the Board of Trustees would discuss GW’s position on financial aid at its meeting in February.

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