Estimated cost of attendance to surpass $80,000 next year for most undergraduates

Media Credit: File Photo by Grace Hromin | Senior Photo Editor

The Board of Trustees has approved more volatile tuition hikes during the pandemic as GW's fixed tuition policy phases out and officials grapple with the pandemic's financial impact.

GW’s estimated cost of attendance will surpass $80,000 for most undergraduates for the first time next academic year, officials announced Thursday.

The first-year cost of attendance will increase by roughly 3.5 percent next academic year, and the sticker price for continuing students who do not qualify for fixed tuition will increase by 4.5 percent if they will live on campus and 4.6 percent if they will live off campus. Fixed tuition remains in effect for undergraduates who enrolled at GW before fall 2020, but all other undergraduates will see an annual tuition increase from $59,780 to $62,110 for the upcoming year – a 3.9 percent jump.

“The actual cost of attendance varies for each student depending on the degree program, type of campus housing, meal plan and other factors including books and personal expenses,” officials said in an email.

Updated graduate program costs are expected to be announced later this spring.

Officials had typically increased tuition by about 3 percent annually, but the pandemic-era hikes have included more volatility, with next year’s larger tuition jump following just a 2.1 percent increase in place this academic year.

The Board of Trustees voted more than two years ago to phase out GW’s fixed tuition policy for undergraduates entering in fall 2020 or later, a move experts said would align GW with its peer schools and enable more-sudden shifts to meet revenue needs.

As more students enroll without fixed tuition, GW’s tuition hikes have so far have fluctuated more than in recent years as officials also grapple with the financial impacts of high inflation rates and enrollment shifts caused by the pandemic.

This academic year, only sophomores’ estimated cost of attendance clocked in above $80,000. But starting in the fall, the sticker price for continuing undergraduates who don’t qualify for fixed tuition will grow to $86,500 for those living on campus and $85,200 for those living off campus. The estimated cost of attendance for incoming first-years will be $82,570.

Jay Goff, the vice provost for enrollment and student success, said officials do not expect major enrollment changes this coming year with the added costs due to the increase of financial aid packages. He said officials hope to bring in a first year class of 2,550 students, roughly the same as the class entering in fall 2021. 

“We don’t anticipate any significant changes in enrollment due to the cost increases.” Goff said in an interview. “And that’s largely due to the fact that we will also adjust financial aid packages to assist students with higher financial need.”

Goff said officials looked at costs affected by inflation “across the board” when calculating the tuition increase. He said officials studied aspects of GW’s expenses like personnel, services and utilities to determine which costs were affected by inflation.

Officials have looked to provide more aid for students in recent months, leveraging the end of the University’s bicentennial to kick off a focused fundraising initiative, dubbed “Open Doors,” to provide an additional $2 million annually to Pell-eligible students.

GW has also advocated for the federal government to double the Pell Grant maximum award alongside hundreds of universities nationwide. President Joe Biden called on Congress in his State of the Union address on Tuesday to increase the cap by more than $2,000 from the current $6,495 limit.

“The University will continue to honor its commitment to provide additional need-based financial aid to assist students and families in covering year-to-year educational expenses,” officials said in the email.

Goff said the COVID-19 pandemic played a role in the increase in expenses for the upcoming academic year. He said interim University President Mark Wrighton wants officials to keep affordability in mind when creating new experiences for the student body. 

“We’re just simply trying to see if there are some creative ways that we can create more affordable living arrangements for students,” he said.

Next year’s cost of attendance is also influenced by GW’s new dining plan that is set to take effect in the fall. With officials introducing all-you-can-eat dining halls, students will choose from a range of meal plans that include varying amounts of dining hall swipes and declining balances.

The dining plan cost ranges from $5,400 to $6,200 annually for first- and second-year students, while the cost for third- and fourth-year students ranges from $3,340 to $6,200 annually, which includes an option to continue with the meal plan in place this academic year.

Room costs for first-year students will clock in at $10,320 annually, with roughly one-third expected to live in Thurston Hall this fall following renovations. Second- and third-year students are estimated to have a base room rate of $14,600 annually.

“GW will begin a transformation of Foggy Bottom dining program by introducing on-campus dining within Thurston and other residence halls to provide a more traditional residential dining experience focused on building a stronger community,” officials said.

The cost also includes the new U-Pass fee, which grants students unlimited Metro rides for $100 per semester.

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