The University’s incoming freshmen demonstrated a significantly greater need for financial aid this year.
The Class of 2015’s average projected family contribution – the amount each family is expected to pay in addition to financial aid – dipped $1,600 from the year before.
“I don’t remember that much of a decrease in a single year,” Robert Chernak, senior vice provost and senior vice president for student and academic support services, said.
As the economy rebounds, the sudden demonstration of need came as a surprise to the University.
Department of Education press officer Sara Gast could not comment on national trends or projections, as the government does not keep track of average expected family contribution across the country or by school.
The average family contribution stood at about $34,000 this year, compared to $35,600 last year, Chernak said. The last time he remembers comparable figures was the 2005 to 2006 academic year, he said.
The University’s tuition stands at $44,148, not including books, housing or lab fees. The Board of Trustees will vote on next year’s tuition – which typically increases by about 3 percent per year – in the spring.
Although other universities have begun considering reliance on financial aid before admitting students, Associate Vice President and Dean for Undergraduate Admissions Kathryn Napper said earlier this month that GW would remain need-blind.
Dan Small, associate vice president for financial assistance, attributed the increase in need to widespread loss in the value of families’ assets due to the recession.
“The value of homes has gone down,” Small said. “People who did have investments, they’re no longer at the same level as it used to be.”
Small also said the global economic downturn has led many people to be underemployed, thus seeing drops in their incomes.
More people are applying for financial aid, both administrators said.
Chernak estimated that, of about 9,600 undergraduate students at the University, 7,500 filed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
The University’s financial aid pool is $159 million this year, a $9 million increase from last year.
“Right now the University has made a huge commitment in providing it, but they also have to be aware of their other expenses,” Small said. “We can’t divert all our money just to financial aid.”
Small emphasized that the University increased its aid pool during the recession, but said that students must meet it in the middle in order to cover the cost of college as need increases.
Small declined to give figures, but said aid is first allotted to continuing students, then distributed among freshmen and transfer students.
He said a portion of the $9 million would be doled out among freshmen, but that student loans, local scholarships and student jobs should contribute to “bridge that [$1,600] gap.”
“Our commitment is to make sure that we’re trying to retain as many students as we possibly can,” Small said.