Board approves $13 million aid boost, 3% tuition increase

The Board of Trustees approved a $13 million boost to financial aid at their meeting in the Elliott School this morning in response to the worsening economic climate. The body also approved a 3% tuition increase, about equal to the past three years.

Tuition for enrolled students does not change under GW’s fixed tuition program, so the new pricing of $41,610 only applies to the class of 2013. The tuition increase is part of a five-year plan to reduce total costs, and Board members said the 3 percent figure mostly accounts for inflation. The average tuition increase for private universities was 6 percent in 2008, according to the Chronicle for Higher Education.

Tuition figures do not take into account room, board and other mandatory costs, which make total costs more than $50,000. Board costs remain the same at $3,400 but housing costs – which are different depending on residence hall – increased by about $200.

This year’s 10.8 percent increase in financial aid grants is one of the largest in recent years, surpassed only by a 13 percent increase in 2006. It brings the total amount of institutional aid to $133 million, and will be paid for with the University’s reserves, according to a financial report presented to the Board.

“We are in a strong financial position, not to say it’s excellent, but it’s strong and will withstand the current problem environment of the economy,” said Russ Ramsey, chairman of the Board, after the meeting. He added that they are aiming to be on the “low end of the admission cost” in relation to peer institutions.

Board member Steven Ross said that they were eager to limit tuition increases. “Everyone was pretty receptive to keeping the cost increases close to cost of living increases,” Ross said.

Following the meeting, University President Steven Knapp said, “There was a great deal going on in (the meeting). We are moderating the admission cost of the entering class and GW will be significantly lower than other institutions. This is part of an affordable plan that will dramatically increase student aid.”

When asked about how the proposed tuition rate is of relevance to the University’s 5-year plan to review affordability, Knapp said, “We are staying the course from last year. This is going to really set us apart form other universities in regards to affordability.”

Last year Knapp committed to improve financial aid fundraising from $10 million to $40 million annually within five years. Halfway through the first fiscal year of that plan, $5.6 million has been raised so far, though University spokeswoman Tracy Schario said additional gifts are “in pipeline.”

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