Even as U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke announced last week that the recession is likely over, University officials said they recognize that many GW families are not yet out of hot water.
Executive Vice President and Treasurer Lou Katz said the largest impact of the recession at GW has been on the financial stability of students and their families. Despite the fact the economy may be on the upswing, families are still feeling the lingering pain of the downturn.
To ease the financial burden of a GW education, Katz said the University will continue to increase the amount of money for financial aid so it can help families who have seen a drop in their income or who have lost their jobs.
“Even if the recession turns around, I believe next year is going to be a tougher year for families just because of the lingering impact,” Katz said. “We’re planning as such that next year is going to be more difficult than this year. We may or may not be right, but that’s what our plan is.”
Don Lindsey, the University’s chief investment officer, said the end of the recession for investors and the end of the recession for students and families are two very different things.
“It’s very likely that unemployment is going to stay high for quite a while, because even though we may have positive growth in the economy, it’s going to take a while before business feels comfortable hiring back employees,” Lindsey said.
While the University’s stock may grow, students and their families may still have trouble paying for an education, he said.
Last year, the University announced they would allocate an additional $10 million toward financial aid to ensure a GW education was still in reach.
This initiative will continue to increase over the next five years, Katz said, adding that students who have received funds from the University will continue to receive funding as long as they remain enrolled.
According to the University’s budget for the 2009-2010 school year, the cost of GW’s push to maintain affordability will be between $24 million and $47 million over the next four to six years.
“When we came up with our financial aid plan, we talked about it being for a four- to six-year period, and the reason why there was the range in there [was for a few reasons],” Katz said. “First thing, when we award financial aid to undergrads, it can go up, it can’t go down during your four years at the institution. And, whether it’s four years or six years we’re looking at, it’s dependent upon how soon things actually improve in the economy.”
GW also announced last year it was increasing its goal of fundraising for financial aid from $10 million to $40 million. For the first year of that goal, the University set out to raise $14 million.
“We did raise $12 million, which was a 20 percent increase over the prior year’s average,” Katz said. “That in itself is good and, considering the market we’re in, we think that’s extremely good.”
While Katz said the University is committed to helping students pay for a GW education, he said not every student can have every problem solved.
“Even though we are really addressing this, there are limitations on funds too,” Katz said. “We’re not trying to say we can solve every single problem, but we are trying to solve a majority of the problems and I think you are seeing that, because we have a very large and robust undergraduate population.”
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: (Sept. 21, 2009)
The Hatchet incorrectly stated that Ben Bernanke was secretary of the treasury. He is chairman of the Federal Reserve.