March/April 2008

GW Launches Five-Year Plan Addressing Affordability and Cost

In February, GW’s Board of Trustees announced approval of a five-year plan to address affordability and cost for undergraduates. Central to the plan is the University’s commitment to moderate tuition increases, improve fundraising efforts for student aid, provide additional funding for institutional grants to incoming freshmen, lower the average student debt burden upon graduation, and continue its fixed-tuition/ guaranteed financial aid program.

“The affordability of higher education is a pressing concern for American families,” says GW President Steven Knapp. “We are committed to moderating overall costs and to preserving the benefits and predictability that our fixed-tuition program offers students and their families. Our goal is to reduce our tuition dependency as an institution by bolstering philanthropic support, especially for student aid. This shift cannot happen overnight, but this plan is a first step.”

GW’s fixed-tuition/ guaranteed financial aid program, in place since 2004, locks in the undergraduate tuition rate for up to five years. As a result, returning sophomores, juniors, seniors, and fifth-year undergraduates will see no tuition increase in the 2008-09 academic year.

Tuition for freshmen entering in fall 2008 will increase 3 percent, reflecting the current rate of inflation. This price ($40,392) also will be locked in for up to five years under the fixed-tuition program. In conjunction with fixed tuition, the University will continue its guarantee that need- and merit-based institutional financial assistance will remain at least at the levels awarded at the time of the student’s initial enrollment. If further need is demonstrated, the amount of aid could go up but it will not go down.

GW will provide $118 million in institutional financial assistance for undergraduates in 2008-09. This amount includes a $6 million increase in institutional grants for incoming freshman.

The University also offers 50 percent tuition discounts for siblings. “My twin sister and I are both glad we came to GW,” says Allison Huggins, Class of 2008. “We picked the University for a variety of reasons, including GW’s strong programs in international affairs and journalism, internship opportunities, and faculty. We both received scholarships, and the family grant made attending together much easier. We have enjoyed it so much we are thinking of staying in D.C. after graduation.”

Sondra Huggins, GW parent of the twins, says, “The idea of sending two children simultaneously was pretty scary. The family financial aid package coupled with the fixed-tuition guarantee made it doable. We have been delighted with the girls’ experience and our own. The girls are extremely happy at GW—in terms of their academic experiences, social lives, internships, etc.”

Another element of the plan is the University’s goal to quadruple fund raising for student aid from $10 million to $40 million annually within five years. The University also will reduce the cost of housing on 1,000 beds by approximately 19 percent this fall as a suggested option for incoming students demonstrating financial need. Depending on housing selections, overall costs (tuition, fees, housing, and food) for incoming students will range from a decrease of 0.6 percent from the current figure to an increase of 2.8 percent, the lowest increase in recent University history.

The plan also will reduce by more than 30 percent the average debt burden at the time of graduation (from $29,000 to $20,000) for incoming freshmen demonstrating need. This goal will be accomplished, in part, by increasing the caps on the amount of institutional grant aid incoming students receive to up to the full amount of tuition for qualified students and by eliminating the requirement that parents fund $2,000 above the expected family contribution.

“We are encouraged to receive this thoughtful, reasoned, and comprehensive plan that will begin to moderate costs while maintaining value for students and, ultimately, enhancing GW’s prestige and reputation,” says W. Russell Ramsey, B.B.A. ’81, chairman of GW’s Board of Trustees. “Higher education is at a crossroads, and this plan sets a course in motion that will position both GW and its students for future success.”

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