More colleges break $50,000 cost barrier

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Nearly 60 universities have surpassed the $50,000 benchmark for total cost and GW, once the most expensive school in the nation, is now listed in fifth place, according to a list compiled by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

The list names Sarah Lawrence College as the most expensive school, with $55,788 in annual costs. Landmark College, Georgetown, and New York University take the second, third, and fourth spots respectively.

“Each institution has its own story why it’s costing them what it’s costing them,” Executive Vice President and Treasurer Lou Katz said. “As institutions have had more and more cost pressures, they keep pushing up their tuition.”

GW operates with a fixed tuition rate in which students are guaranteed the same tuition from when they entered the University to when they graduate. The Chronicle ranks GW at $51,775 per year, about $500 less than the third-place Georgetown. Katz said the fixed tuition plan has helped to keep GW’s costs down over the long run in the face of criticisms that came when GW’s tuition was the highest in the country and the first school to reach more than $50,000 per year.

“The reason we did that was we locked in tuition so you wont get an increase every year. And if you factor your total cost over four or five years, we’re way down in the list, but no one wanted to talk about that no matter how many times we said it,” Katz said. “We were committed to it and over time it’s proved to be the right decision. You know we were taking a lot of heat at that time.”

Robert Chernak, senior vice president for Student and Academic Support Services said in an e-mail that the model assures student’s merit-based financial aid as well.

“While a student who demonstrates greater need over time may actually get an increase in their aid award, for institutional funds it will never be lower,” Chernak said. “Therefore, the combination of fixed tuition and guaranteed aid when applicable lends itself to predictability in net cost – a comfort many GW families appreciate in these difficult economic times.”

Despite the drop to fifth-highest, some students said they felt unaffected by the change in rank.

“I don’t think a change in rank will change people’s mind about GW. People still think it’s expensive,” Elliott School senior Juliana Taube said.

Katz said the multitude of schools over the $50,000 mark means less because though GW at one time had the highest tuition, the total cost was never far off from other schools.

“When no one was writing about it, there were 50 institutions all within a $1,000 within each other. People don’t make the decision of where they are going to school over $1,000,” Katz said, pointing out that hundreds of schools are now more than $45,000 per year.

Emily Cahn contributed to this report.

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