GW has been an expensive university throughout recent history – at one point holding the dubious honor of being the most expensive college in the country. While the University no longer occupies the top slot on that list, attending GW still takes a toll on the bank accounts of students and their families. And now, a tuition hike is inbound – for most undergraduates, yearly cost of attendance is about to cross $80,000.
This tuition hike may well have been merited given the University’s pandemic-era financial woes, inflation or the other justifications officials cited. But increasing the cost of attending GW is less likely to impact the wealthier students. Rather, it is going to make it harder for lower-income students to attend GW unless paired with a strong increase in financial aid. When it comes to making GW a more accessible place for all students to come and learn, the University needs to go forward, not backward. Officials have said they plan to increase financial aid to offset the tuition hikes – but the University needs to go into far more detail about these plans as soon as possible to put students at ease about their ability to attend GW.
Next academic year will be the priciest in history for students. Tuition is climbing by 3.9 percent for students who enrolled after fall 2020 and fall under the new “floating tuition” cost plan. When housing, food and other expenses are factored in, the cost for freshmen is going to be 4.5 percent higher. That equates to thousands of dollars more that students and their families will need to come up with to attend GW.
Higher costs of attendance, obviously, impact students from lower-income backgrounds the most. GW’s reputation as a rich kids’ school often obscures the fact that many students’ families are not wealthy. 35 percent of GW students rely on loans to help pay for college, and nearly half receive need-based financial aid. Further, increased tuition costs tend to make universities less racially diverse – which would be an unacceptable outcome.
Granted, officials have said that the University does not anticipate a drop in enrollment and that higher financial aid packages will be doled out to offset the added cost. Aside from pointing to upcoming fundraising efforts, the University has not gotten specific as to what this increased financial aid could look like. The University has an imperative to release a plan for how it is going to keep students who need financial help from having to pay more. As much financial stress as the University might be under due to inflation and the lingering effects of the pandemic, students have it far worse.
GW is a wealthy, established private university with many resources to offer. It is important that it continues to be affordable and accessible for as many people across the country, so that more people can benefit from the resources it has to offer. The Board of Trustees and administrators need to ensure that no matter what new policy they implement, like the now-obsolete 20/30 Plan, the new tuition hike or the need-aware financial aid policy, that they continue to make GW as accessible to students as possible. The tuition hike is for certain, but the ability to proportionally increase financial aid push might not be.
This isn’t the first time GW has planned to decrease accessibility for students. The 20/30 Plan was an effort to increase GW’s status as a STEM school by reducing overall undergraduate population by 20 percent, while increasing the proportion of students majoring in STEM subjects. One of the plan’s side effects was that it would make GW less accessible to all students at GW but especially for students who were looking to study humanities. This is an example of a history of making the University less accessible to prospective students.
GW has also had a history of not being candid about the admissions process. In 2013, they had claimed that they were need-blind, even though they were, and still are, need-aware. This means that instead of considering students solely on their merits, they take their financial status into consideration when accepting them. Because of this incident, if GW asks us to trust that their new tuition rates, and the subsequent increases in financial aid, will actually benefit the GW community overall, then they need to be more transparent about how this will happen.
The editorial board consists of Hatchet staff members and operates separately from the newsroom. This week’s staff editorial was written by opinions editor Andrew Sugrue and contributing opinions editor Shreeya Aranake based on discussions with culture editor Anna Boone, contributing sports editor Nuria Diaz, design editor Grace Miller and copy editor Jaden DiMauro.
This article appeared in the March 7, 2022 issue of the Hatchet.