The sticker price tuition at GW is affordable – for the top 1 percent that is. As of fall 2017, prospective full time undergraduates must spend $53,435 per academic year in tuition and fees. Combined with the cost of room and board, GW is outside the price range for many middle and working class high school graduates. Scholarships can go a long way towards helping students afford these costs. Without the $20,000 annual academic scholarship I received, I wouldn’t be able to attend GW. But for some students, the cost of attendance proves to be insurmountable with or without financial aid.
On Aug. 3, attendees at the National Association of College and University Business Officers annual meeting examined a proposed solution to this problem: tuition resets. Private universities like Utica College and Concordia University have cut their tuition by about a third in an effort to increase student enrollment. According to leaders from both schools, the tuition resets have been a success at these universities. At Concordia, student retention and undergraduate enrollment increased, and student loan debt decreased. Meanwhile, undergraduate enrollment and freshman applications increased at Utica. GW should follow the lead set by these universities and make their cost more accessible to low and middle income students by implementing tuition resets.
Unfortunately, because GW is roughly 60 percent reliant on tuition, it would be much more difficult for the University to implement tuition resets. Concordia compensates for this issue with a low cost and low discount model. While Utica performed years of research on the impact of these resets before they even considered them. To make this a possibility, GW should find places to cut costs to compensate for the loss of tuition revenue that would result from tuition resets.
The best way to do this would be to cut expenses that don’t enrich the educational experience of current and future students. For example, Colonial Inauguration trimmed costs considerably this year. Incoming freshmen don’t need their parents and siblings to attend separate programs to teach them about the college experience or simply keep them busy.
The University could continue this promising course of action with reductions in many areas that seem small, but add up. Prospective students receive seemingly endless advertisements and pamphlets, but social media and campus tours are more effective for high school seniors. By cutting these, the University can decrease marketing costs.
Costs for renovations can also be cut, as students do not always need state-of-the-art facilities. Older residence halls do not require extensive renovations on an annual basis. My small freshman room in Mitchell Hall was perfectly adequate living space for a student just starting college. And as a last resort, the number of class and discussion sections for a course can also be decreased to make slightly larger class sizes. Although the number of students in an introductory class can sometimes be overwhelming, students must keep in mind that classes at public institutions contain far more students in far less engaging courses. Moreover, fewer class and discussion sections force students to plan ahead to get the courses they need and exercise time management skills for the next semester. The larger classroom sizes would build confidence, as students may need to answer questions in front of a massive crowd of peers.
Of course, major budget cuts would make low tuition resets a feasible possibility. But smaller fund trimming is more reasonable since the University is already making cuts. In 2015, former University President Steven Knapp announced that all administrative units would undergo budget cuts of three to five percent from 2017 to 2021.
Although tuition resets have been criticized for dropping prices down to what most students pay with aid, there are many students who would benefit from the cost cut and future students would find the University more reasonable.
Tuition resets may be difficult to implement but the benefits are worth a shot. Cutting extraneous costs will bring the University closer to being able to implement tuition resets and making efforts to lower tuition shows students that GW cares about affordability. The University has already developed efforts to attract lower-income students, like going test-optional and upping student dining plans, but without lowering tuition, GW will continue to struggle to meet the needs of its students. This will do nothing to help those currently enrolled or entice high school graduates who would struggle to afford this expensive institution.
Diana Wallens, a junior majoring in criminal justice, is a Hatchet opinions writer.
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