Jacob Garber: GW’s spending priorities out of line

Sometimes, it feels like GW throws our tuition into a black hole. It’s nearly impossible to keep track of where it actually goes.

When we do get a peek at where the money flows, priorities seem out of line. GW spent about 21 percent more per student than its market basket institutions on student services and spent less on academic causes in 2012, according to the most recent data from the Department of Education.

It is concerning that other top schools that we aspire to emulate don’t allocate their budgets in the same way. Although we significantly outspend similar universities in student services, we fall behind in spending on instruction, research and academic support. The difference is significant, as GW spends only about half of its instruction, research and academic support budget on research and two-thirds on classroom instruction.

The Innovation Task Force, a group of faculty and staff that tries to pitch plans to cut costs and raise revenues across the University, should put their focus on fixing this spending imbalance. What services are extraneous, and where can GW cut costs to funnel more money into instruction and academics?

The group has already succeeded in finding tens of millions of extra dollars for academics and research, but it’s clear that the focus needs to shift toward cutting costs from student services and spending more on academics.

Classroom technologies are not nearly up to par. Yes, the Science and Engineering Hall, when complete, will be fully equipped with state-of-the-art technologies, but the University can’t forget about the dozens of other buildings in need of improvements. Nearly all GW classrooms are equipped with obsolete technology, according to a 2012 Faculty Senate report.

Great professors, too, are being lured away from GW due to uncompetitive salaries. The University made professor retention a key priority in 2012 after GW feared it would lose top faculty to more prestigious universities that offer higher salaries.

If GW wants to be a competitive research institution, its budgetary focus needs to be on the instruction, an area that directly affects professors and the learning environment. At the end of the day, we are an educational organization, and underfunded instruction negatively affects both the students and the University at large.

Even though we spend excessively on student services, the University still falls short.

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo
Jacob Garber

For instance, the University Counseling Center has excessive wait times and intramural sports face inadequate funding. If the University is going to spend disproportionately more on student services, students should feel assured that these services are going to work well and run smoothly. It seems clear that we aren’t spending efficiently.

At the end of the day, the University needs to cover the basics. Student services can make GW appear vivacious and caring – but it takes much more to cultivate a functional academic institution.

The writer, a senior majoring in English and creative writing, is The Hatchet’s contributing opinions editor.

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