The day after senior Alison Brazaitis received her early decision acceptance letter to GW four years ago, she got another letter saying she was not eligible for any financial aid.
The news was devastating to her family, and to make ends meet her mother took a second job. But with an economic crisis at hand and harder times looming, Brazaitis has decided to graduate a semester early to save money.
Brazaitis is one of many GW students who are looking for ways to afford attending college in the midst of economic turmoil. Although GW is no longer the most expensive college in the country, some students have resorted to graduating early or transferring in order to lessen the financial burden.
“Though my parents make a decent salary, paying GW tuition
has been a major strain on them,” Brazaitis said. “Since my acceptance was binding, I had no choice but to come to GW and take out several loans.”
Senior Angela Aronoff is also graduating early because of her current financial situation, and is nervous about entering the job market earlier than expected.
“GW is really expensive, and I came in with 21 credits from AP classes so it was stupid not to graduate early,” Aronoff said. “But since I’m graduating early, the job market scares the hell out of me and sometimes, when I start thinking about it, I can’t sleep at night.”
Because of financial stress, freshman Grace Mallory plans to transfer to a community college next year.
“I’m transferring because I’m very different from a lot of students: My parents don’t pay for my college education,” Mallory said.
The financial aid office told her that in order to receive aid, she must either be dependent on her parents or have lived at her own permanent address for two years – classifying her as “independent.”
“Because I can’t do either of those things, and because I come from a middle-class family, I have to transfer,” Mallory said. “I can’t cover these expenses.”
Even though the financial aid office could not assist Brazaitis, Aronoff or Mallory, Dan Small, executive director of student financial aid, said his department has been working to meet the needs of the students.
In mid-October, Small sent an e-mail to undergraduate students reiterating the financial options GW offers and said the school recognizes that more students may need financial assistance because of the flagging economy.
“We realize that there was a high number compared to other years of those who are struggling, but we are going to figure out how to do this,” Small said.
The financial aid office has responded to more than 100 letters from students concerned about their financial situation, Small said.
Small said, “We wanted to explore all their options in order for them to make sound decisions. But even in a good economy, some students don’t have the finances and have other issues, but they chose to say their reason for leaving is the economy.”
Robert Chernak, senior vice president for Student and Academic Support Services, said the University is working to support students and their families.
“Our Office of Student Financial Aid has reached out to students encouraging them and their families to contact that office should their family’s economic situation have deteriorated since the start of the school year due to the current economic recession,” Chernak said.
GW Housing declined to give the number of students dropping housing for next semester.
“At this time there have not been many cases of students claiming the economic situation as a reason to move off campus. We have only had a few of these requests,” said Seth Weinshel, director of GW Housing Programs. “The numbers of cancellations in general are about what we would expect each year.”
Both Small and Chernak encourage students who have financial aid issues to explore all financing options before making any decisions.
Chernak said, “I would like to encourage any student who might be contemplating transferring from GW solely due to financial reasons – but otherwise happy with their experience – to give the Student Financial Aid Office a chance.”