University escapes ‘most expensive’ list

After years at the top of Forbes Magazine’s annual list of the most expensive colleges in the country, GW fell from the top 10 for the first time this year, according to Forbes’ rankings published Monday.

While the University is no longer featured on the controversial list, GW missed the top 10 by a mere $25, behind Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, whose tuition, room and board, and other necessary fees cost $53,300 for the 2010-2011 academic year.

Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, N.Y. – which surpassed GW as the most expensive school in the country in 2008 on various lists – once again took the No. 1 spot this year, with tuition, room and board, and other necessary fees costing $57,556 for the 2010-2011 school year on Forbes’ list.

Neighboring Georgetown took the No. 9 spot, with annual costs of $53,340, just $65 more than GW.

University President Steven Knapp said GW’s fall from Forbes’ list is a testament to the University’s efforts to lower costs, a goal Knapp set on his first day as the University’s top administrator in 2007.

“My goal then and now has been to ensure that no qualified student will be deterred by financial considerations from taking advantage of what GW has to offer,” Knapp said.

Knapp said the University has taken three main steps in order to lower costs since 2008, when the Board of Trustees approved cost-cutting measures. One step includes raising tuition by 3 percent or less on a yearly basis – less than the average 4.5 percent at other colleges – to maintain the “no surprises” policy, which freezes tuition and guarantees aid for continuing students for up to five years. Another step is the implementation of the Power and Promise Fund, which aims to quadruple the amount of student aid raised from University donors.

“Taken together, these actions have enabled us, as we hoped, to work our way down the list of most expensive universities, although we still want to go further over time,” Knapp said.

Students interviewed said they viewed GW’s drop from the top 10 most expensive schools list is a step in the right direction.

“I think that the fact that we are no longer ranked on the list shows that we are becoming more of a fiscally responsible institution,” said junior Taylor Barnes. “In the economic times we are in, this is definitely a positive thing and a step forward for both the University and students.”

Though the University no longer has to grapple with the “most expensive school in the country” label, Knapp admitted that the University still has a ways to go toward making the University more affordable.

Knapp said the University has undertaken a large effort to fund financial aid with fundraising dollars, rather than from tuition revenue. Spending tuition revenue on financial aid, Knapp said, takes money away from improving academic programs, a problem that Knapp seeks to fix.

“It will take time and a lot of effort to work our way out of that model, and the most important way to do so, once again, is to raise more funds so we can derive student aid from philanthropy, not tuition,” Knapp said.

But for now, Knapp said he is happy with GW’s fall from Forbes’ most expensive schools list.

“I certainly hope the approach we launched three years ago is starting to give us a reputation as a University that cares about the financial burdens faced by our students and their families,” Knapp said.

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