Gabrielle Friedman: Less aid? Not GW’s fault

We’ve all had this conversation:

“I go to GW.”

“Oh.”

During this “oh” moment, our acquaintance’s face appears confused as he or she tries to rationalize why anyone would pay so much for college.

It is not news to anyone on this campus that GW is an extremely costly university. It has been the school’s reputation for years.

And for those coming to GW, financial aid is clearly a huge factor. But some students have been up in arms about this year’s financial aid allocations, and have taken to Facebook and other social media to discuss their situations. While I feel for those students who didn’t receive the aid they needed, their anger and disappointment toward the University is completely misdirected.

As many of you know, GW is no longer in Forbes’ list of the top 10 most expensive schools in the country, nor is it even the most expensive school in the District. According to Forbes magazine, Georgetown and at least another nine universities have now surpassed GW in tuition costs. This was not some fluke. The University purposefully held tuition increases at a mere 3 percent, while other universities on average increased their tuition by 4.5 percent. Some universities, like Clemson University, increase their tuition by a staggering 8 percent. Comparatively, GW has been great at balancing tuition increases to help subsidize financial aid with maintaining a reasonable cost for students. Additionally, GW has a policy many other universities lack – guaranteed aid. With guaranteed aid at GW, grant money allocated to students will remain the same amount for all four years of attendance. This is done so that parents and students do not have any surprises when they open their tuition bills.

Many of the grants that GW students receive as part of their financial aid packages are contingent upon federal allocations of money. According to the Office of Student Financial Assistance, if a student opens up his or her bill to find decreases in aid, it is because the federal government has simply allocated less money to these grant programs and not because GW did something wrong. In fact, in these cases, GW’s hands are tied. Whatever grant money the University has allocated to a student is guaranteed for all four years. Therefore, when the federal government decided to allocate less money this year, there was very little GW could do to mend the loss. Instead, the federal government increased federal loans, such as Perkins and Stafford, to help make up for a lack of grant money.

While the federal government may think increasing the amount a student can take as a loan will help that student pay his or her tuition, in reality, it is just putting that student into more debt. What students really need is for the federal government to prioritize education in the annual budget and ensure enough money is put into these federal grant programs, so students won’t have unexpected bills that can force them to withdraw from school. For example, instead of spending federal funds on frivolous projects like a $762,372 grant to University of North Carolina at Charlotte for the development of computer technology to digitally record performers’ dance moves, this money could have given 16 students a $50,000 federal grant to pay their tuition.

What good is the U.S.’s impressive higher education system if we make it impossible for American students to attend college here? When bright young minds can’t afford college tuition, America ultimately pays the price. I urge students to channel their anger towards their congressional representatives, instead of taking out their frustrations with the University. By taking action, hopefully we can see real change that will leave us with more change in our pockets.

-The writer, a sophomore majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet columnist.

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