University projects financial aid increase

Next year’s undergraduate financial aid pool could total up to $159 million, a nearly $10 million increase from what it is this year, a senior University official estimated this week.

Robert Chernak, senior vice provost and senior vice president for Student and Academic Support Services, said the amount of funding for financial aid will likely be between $155 and $159 million, largely depending on the number of continuing students who return to GW in the fall.

“It’s going to be more than $150 [million] that we’re going to request from the Board,” Chernak said, referring to the Board of Trustees, GW’s highest governing body that approves the financial aid budget. “My guess is somewhere between $155 to $159 million – somewhere in that range is going to be the required amount of funding in order to do the things that we’ve been doing to help people maintain access.”

This year’s junior class is larger than the current senior class and also receives more financial aid – meaning that the amount of aid graduating seniors will release will not be enough to completely replenish the aid pool without an increase in funding, Chernak said.

The final number will depend on the amount of need undergraduate students demonstrate, the amount of tuition they pay and the amount of aid the University has previously committed under its Guaranteed Grant Policy, Chernak said.

Under the Guaranteed Grant Policy, a portion of a student’s institutional award is guaranteed and cannot decrease.

In May, the Board of Trustees approved $148 million in financial aid funding. In October, the University added an extra $2 million to the fund after 400 students saw heavy decreases in their aid packages.

Chernak said the only aid funding that has been approved for next year is the pool for freshmen and transfer students: about $40 million for incoming freshmen and $3 million for incoming transfers, which Chernak said is on par with this year.

“The question is what will we need for continuing students for next fall,” Chernak said.

At the beginning of the school year, approximately 62 percent of the undergraduate population received some sort of financial assistance. More than 60 percent of undergraduates received assistance last year.

Executive Vice President and Treasurer Lou Katz said he will recommend the Board continue the course of expanding the aid pool as necessary.

“Even though there are aspects of the economy that have gotten better, a lot of the economy has not gotten better and there is still a lot of need from the families of the students at the University, so we’re going to continue some supplemental aid,” Katz said.

With potential cuts to the Federal Pell Grant Program or other complications that could arise, Chernak said the new Power & Promise Fund could give the University additional flexibility in distributing aid once the Board approves a final amount. The Power & Promise Fund is a financial aid fund that has been attracting a significant amount in donations, including a recent $100,000 gift from an anonymous donor as part of an alumni challenge sponsored by the Office of Development and Alumni Relations.

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