Tightening GW’s belt a notch

Money is on everyone’s minds these days.

Amid failures and bailouts, Wall Street woes and penny pinching all around, there was some good news on the campus front when The Hatchet reported Monday that GW is finally moving away from funding its many building projects with debt (“Univ. to lower debt dependency,” p. 1).

Before you get too excited, realize that this is likely not going to affect your tuition fees in the least.

If you take the long view, though, the 13 percent increase in fundraising money going toward construction costs is excellent news. It indicates that, at the very least, University President Steven Knapp is making good on some of his promises to move GW toward better financial stability. Hopefully, this will lead to better financing options for other problem areas on campus.

It’s easy to see where GW’s debt came from, and those who decry the building sprees of the past need to realize that 30 years ago GW was a commuter school. Love it or hate it, the rapid University expansion is responsible for the GW we know today and also the accumulation of debt that was needed to jump-start and sustain growth.

Running an operation on a deficit is a short-term solution that promotes growth – ? la Alexander Hamilton’s philosophy and practice. It can become a long-term, ever-expanding crutch as long as everything continues to run, though – ? la the United States of America.

For GW, running on debt is not going to be sustainable forever, and it is past time the University started looking to the future. Admittedly, Executive Vice President and Treasurer Lou Katz called this the beginning of “at least a 10-year plan and perhaps maybe a longer plan,” but at least there is $98 million of donated money offsetting some of the costs of the new dorm on F Street and renovations to Pelham Hall, for instance. Past due or not, the amount of fundraising going toward these projects is finally outpacing debt growth. It will take vigilance and careful planning to ensure that the University stays on this track.

As the balance begins to shift, though, expect more important money talk on campus – namely, is this extra money going where it should? As GW moves away from the tenuous situation of tuition dollars making up half the operating costs, as we start to chip away at hundreds of millions of accumulated debt, it’s important that we don’t lose sight of the only inalienable mission a college has. Even with both eyes on the bottom line, GW is an institute of higher education and somewhere in all of this, academics must benefit and improve in a meaningful way.

Maybe you can’t solve everything by throwing money at it, but academics at GW could stand to have a little thrown its way. If the University is still stuck on new buildings, a new library or renovations to Gelman wouldn’t go amiss either.

The $98 million in fundraising money isn’t exactly stopping the buck, but it’s a good start. On this campus, all the money talk is usually about the University doing something unpopular like taking away GW Reads due to budget cuts or setting new records in tuition fees.

The news that the University is moving away from debt dependency – and that Knapp intends to continue cutting up GW’s credit cards – is welcome news indeed in these troubling times.

The writer, a senior majoring in history, is Hatchet opinions editor.

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