Tuition, financial aid face key Board of Trustees vote

Correction appended

With the financial crisis looming over current and prospective students and their families, top administrators are predicting that the Board of Trustees meeting on Feb. 13 will include the largest financial aid allocation in University history and a moderate tuition increase.

Executive Vice President and Treasurer Lou Katz, who heads the Board of Trustee’s financial committee, said the team of administrators and trustees has already met once to discuss the major financial decisions they will have to vote on Feb. 13.

“From perspective of finance committee, this is an important meeting,” Katz said. “We will discuss financial aid and the endowment, and this is the meeting we typically approve tuition for next academic year.”

Katz said he expects the board to pass the moderate tuition increase, which he said will be on par with recent years, as part of a multi-year strategy to make the University more competitive in pricing.

“I expect our peer group will also have moderate increases because of the marketplace but our increase will still be lower,” Katz said. “Our goal is to get out of the top in pricing.”

Last year, the Board of Trustees approved a 3 percent increase in tuition, less than half of the average increase for the private colleges and universities across the nation. The year before, in 2007, the University made headlines with another relatively small increase – 3.8 percent – which nevertheless made GW the first college to break the $50,000 mark in total cost of attendance.

About once being the most expensive school in the nation, Katz said “We never wanted to be No. 1 in that particular category.”

GW is now the second most expensive university after Sarah Lawrence College, according to recent estimates.

Robert Chernak, senior vice president of student and academic support services, also serves on the financial committee and estimated the increase in financial aid will be $10 million more than last year’s funds.

“We are committed to keeping people here regardless of their financial situation,” Chernak said.

While Katz declined to discuss the specific financial aid recommendation his committee will make, he said it will be substantially more than the traditional increase in financial aid.

“Every year we increase the financial aid, but this year we are increasing it by a considerable amount,” Katz said. “It is a reflection of what has happened in the marketplace. We want to support as many people as possible and attract new ones as well.”

The third financial issue the Board of Trustees plans to address is the University’s endowment. Like virtually every college and university, GW experienced a significant loss in its endowment – 19.7 percent as of November. The University’s Chief Investment Officer Don Lindsey said the final numbers for 2008 will not be released until the board reviews them but that the loss is close to 20 percent.

“There is only one more month of activity that is not reflected in that [19.7 percent] number,” Katz said. “We still believe the University is performing well in comparison to other institutions.” n

Nathan Grossman contributed to this report.

This article has been revised to reflect the following corretion: (January 29, 2009)

The Hatchet erroneously reported that the meeting is “next Friday,” or Feb. 6. The meeting is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 13.

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