Newsroom

News and Analysis

Tag

Tuition

University President Steven Knapp at an event for the Confucius Institute in the fall. Erica Christian | Photo Editor

University President Steven Knapp at an event for the Confucius Institute in the fall. Erica Christian | Photo Editor

University President Steven Knapp will join about 140 higher education leaders at a White House summit Thursday to unveil new commitments to help low-income students attend and finish college.

The day-long event comes as President Barack Obama promotes plans to make college less expensive and easier to complete for low-income students. The University announced this afternoon that it will release its own affordability plans Thursday morning, along with dozens of other colleges that are on the closely-guarded guest list.

The White House has pitched several ideas to colleges already, encouraging them to set goals for increasing the number of Pell Grant-eligible students, create cohorts specifically for low-income students and improve science and engineering learning outcomes among low-income students.

Knapp has said he’s committed to lower college costs throughout his six-year tenure, increasing the percentage of students who receive Pell Grants from 9 percent to 14 percent over the last four years.

But GW has its own mixed record on college affordability. Its 2010-2011 sticker price tuition ($44,148) was the fourth-highest in the country, according to this year’s Department of Education report. But its net price ($27,793), which includes how much it gives out in financial aid, was lower than most of its competitors and other D.C. area schools.

Its average student debt (about $33,000) is higher than the national average. Only about 1.5 percent of students default on those loans though, which beats the national rate by a wide margin.

  • Permalink
  • Comments (3)

GW now admits that it factors in financial need before sending out all acceptance letters – erasing the “need-blind” label it trumpeted for years.

But look back a little farther, and you’ll see the University has a long history struggling to sell itself and its price tag. Here’s a look back at some of the important background to GW’s admissions process and pricing strategy.

Stephen Joel Trachtenberg

Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, who was University president for 19 years, presided over huge increases in tuition. Hatchet File Photo


Under former president, a surge in tuition
GW, led by former University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, came under scrutiny in 2007 when it became the first university to charge more than $50,000 for cost of attendance.

Students pointed to small spending sprees on laser light shows at Colonial Inauguration and GW’s double-decker bus that drove through campus for admissions tours as signs of excess.

Tuition and cost of attendance quickly surged from $25,000 in 1987 to $51,000 in 2007 (accounting for inflation).

Trachtenberg also told The Atlantic last year that most students wouldn’t mind high tuition because “people equate price with the value of their education” – comparing universities with vodka brands that price themselves higher to create the illusion of quality.

Administrators like Trachtenberg also justified the rise in price by pointing to the fact that GW relies heavily on tuition to fund programs. (GW’s other sources of income, like fundraising and endowment, are smaller that a lot of other top private schools.) He argued that higher tuition could then pay for better professors and facilities to help improve the University.

Trachtenberg retired in 2007 after 19 years of stretching GW’s campus footprint, increasing selectivity and strengthening its endowment.

University President Steven Knapp, right, took over in GW in 2007 just as its price tag crossed the $50,000 threshold. Hatchet File Photo

University President Steven Knapp, right, took over in GW in 2007 just as its price tag crossed the $50,000 threshold. Hatchet File Photo


Trying to contain the damage
With that price tag also came a reputation of being a “rich-kid school,” which has still lingered despite efforts to tackle affordability.

GW instituted a fixed-tuition program in 2004 that locks undergraduates into one price until they get their degree. Administrators point to this policy the most when defending GW’s high tuition and cost of attendance.

The University also rolled back merit aid in favor of more need-based scholarships in 2007. Since then, GW has touted that about 60 percent of students receive grant aid and is prioritizing financial aid as a key part of its upcoming fundraising campaign, expected to total at least $1 billion.

Associate Vice President and Dean of Admissions Kathryn Napper announced she will "retire" last December – a month after GW has faced scrutiny following the announcement that the admissions office had been inflating data for more than a decade. Hatchet File Photo

Associate Vice President and Dean of Admissions Kathryn Napper announced she will “retire” last December – a month after GW has faced scrutiny following the announcement that the admissions office had been inflating data for more than a decade. Hatchet File Photo


A history of admissions dishonesty
But some of those cost-containing efforts during University President Steven Knapp’s tenure have come in the backdrop of controversies in the admissions office.

GW admitted last fall that it inflated admissions data to U.S. News & World Report, which booted GW off its coveted rankings.

Admissions officers had counted the top-credentialed incoming freshmen as being in the top 10 percent of their high school class, even if the high school didn’t report class rank. Kathryn Napper, former head of admissions, stepped down a month after that news broke and her former office was stripped of record-keeping power.

GW chose not to replace her position, as it was already planning to hire a new administrator, Laurie Koehler, to lead both the admissions and financial aid offices. Koehler, who took over this summer, was the first administrator to talk about the need-aware policy.

Napper had for years repeated in interviews that GW is need-blind, meaning it does not factor financial need into admissions decisions.

  • Permalink
  • Comments

This post was written by Hatchet reporter McKinley Kant.

Graduate students will pay as much as 10.5 percent more in tuition dollars next year as programs across the University raise rates to fund salaries and aid.

The increases are set to bring in an additional $10 million in revenue, of which several million will support graduate aid, which is most merit-based, administrators said this month. The overall hikes were approved by the Board of Trustees in February, but specific programs set individual rates throughout the semester.

Tuition in the Elliott School of International Affairs’ master’s program will rise 7.5 percent next year. Hatchet File Photo

While administrators insist the University has maintained historically low graduate tuition rates, many of GW’s tuition hikes approved this year top the national average increase of about 4 percent the last two years.

Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Planning Forrest Maltzman said the increases will allow GW to funnel more tuition dollars into aid, helping recruit better graduate students. Unlike undergraduates, graduate students do not have a fixed-tuition plan.

“I would hope that having a healthy amount of graduate aid is important to bring in the best students,” said Maltzman. “In most instances, GW’s graduate tuition tends to be lower than its peers and is significantly lower than our undergraduate tuition. Over time, the University is interested in closing these gaps and investing much of this in aid and in our academic programs.”

The steepest increases will hit off-campus programs like the Arlington-based graduate statistics program, which is made up almost entirely or Chinese students. That tuition jumped 10.5 percent to $1,400 per credit – or to nearly $34,000 for the 24-credit master’s degree.

Master’s students in the Elliott School of International Affairs will owe $29,620 for next academic year after a 7.5 percent tuition increase. But the Elliott School remains the cheaper option for a master’s degree in international affairs compared to Georgetown and Johns Hopkins, which cost almost $15,000 and $11,000 less per year, respectively.

The GW Law School will see tuition rise 3.9 percent, which will keep tuition about $6,000 cheaper than Northwestern University’s legal program, though GW remains one of the most expensive law schools in the country.

The School of Medicine and Health Science’s 3.5 percent tuition bump makes the University slightly more expensive than Northwestern University’s medical school. The college has been one of most expensive to not break into U.S. News & World Report’s top-50 for research.

The School of Nursing, which saw a 10 percent increase last year, will raise tuition for graduate programs by 6.9 percent.

Maltzman said the University increased aid packages for graduate students so most would not have to pay more because of the tuition hikes. GW School of Business graduate students called out the college last year for failing to warn them about increases.

“We are sensitive to the price increases,” Maltzman said, “and one of the things we did do is look at everyone who had aid and we adjusted aid packages to make sure the awards they had enough to cover the new tuition.”

The tuition increases will also fund salaries and rapidly increasing health benefits, University spokeswoman Jill Sankey said.

  • Permalink
  • Comments

University President Steven Knapp sat in a Faculty Senate meeting Friday. He said in an interview after that he thought the story failed to note the public service achievements of GW students. Cameron Lancaster | Hatchet Staff Photographer

University President Steven Knapp criticized the Washington Post story that painted a damning picture of GW students’ lavish lifestyles, calling the piece “a very distorted characterization of our students.”

Knapp said in an interview Friday afternoon that the 2,350-word story failed to note GW students’ public service achievements. He pointed to the high number of graduates who enter the Peace Corps and Teach for America as evidence of their larger ambitions.

“Students come here not to party but because they want to change the world,” he said.

The story, published online Thursday and slated for the Post’s Sunday magazine, highlighted the efforts of the Knapp administration to curb tuition growth and cut costs, in part to rollback the University’s pricey reputation.

But the story was also anchored in anecdotes of $1,000 bottle services, expensive cars and class division on campus. It has garnered nearly 170 online comments and lit up social media, as GW students mostly railed against the story.

Knapp, who spoke to Post reporter Annie Gowen for the story, said Friday that he thought it was unbalanced.

“We don’t simply draw students from the upper echelons of society,” Knapp said. “Almost two-thirds of students are on some form of financial aid. That was mentioned in the article but it didn’t appear to me that the reporter actually sought out students who are representative from the other communities from which we draw.”

The story also mentioned former University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, who was dubbed the “high priest of runaway college inflation” by The Atlantic last fall. Trachtenberg helped quadruple the University’s endowment and make GW twice as selective, but also doubled the sticker price of tuition during his 19-year tenure until it became the most expensive university in the country in 2007.

The Post story noted that the growth had the unintended consequence of carving out a class divide at GW.

Trachtenberg said in a phone interview Friday that he raised the sticker price to improve the University and create a pool of tuition funds that could subsidize financial aid for other students. But, he said, he thought the story was “entertaining.”

“I read these articles and I think, ‘Why should I be embarrassed the school got better and why should I be embarrassed we have rich students?’” he said. “That kids live robust undergraduate social lives, I believe that. I was 18.”

 

  • Permalink
  • Comments (5)

Hatchet File Photo

GW is flooded with party-loving rich kids who perpetuate a class divide on campus, and the University is trying to stave off that reputation. That’s the subject of a 2,350-word Washington Post story Thursday.

The piece delves into the rising costs of higher education and how GW has been dogged by its spot as the highest-priced university in the country six years ago. And thus, there are tales of clubs, vomiting and pricey bottle services – as students who can afford that tuition bill look to make Foggy Bottom their urban playground.

Here are some highlights.

The two-year-old luxury apartment complex The Avenue is the backdrop of one part of the story:

One recent gray afternoon, the tables at the outdoor cafes [outside the Avenue] were full, and at the Whole Foods, dozens of GW students lined up to purchase sushi and other fare with their GWorld ID cards. Students lounged on the rooftop deck at the Residences on the Avenue, a luxury apartment building with some of the highest rents in the city.

When the Avenue opened two years ago, its management company had hoped to market the place — with a marble lobby, concierge and sweeping views of the Washington Monument and Potomac River — to young professionals, even instituting quiet hours to discourage students.

They were banking on parents being unlikely to pony up an average $3,900-a-month rent for their kid’s college living quarters. They were wrong. The management company won’t say how many residents are college students, but residents say dozens live in the 300 or so apartments. Reviewers on Yelp complain about parties and noise.

By last spring, “it was becoming dormy,” said Katie Ross, 22, a journalism major and the daughter of two New York lawyers who “loves” her studio apartment and her school. “One night there was vomit in the elevator.”

And University President Steven Knapp spoke with a Post reporter, discussing how he has worked to keep tuition prices down, added more financial aid and pushed to become a premier research university since he took the helm in 2007:

Knapp said he wanted to focus on the affordability of GW “from the day I arrived. We had gotten a reputation as being an expensive school.” He formed an innovation task force that has identified in $50 million in savings. And the university has tried to keep tuition increases around the level of inflation for the past six years.

This year freshmen paid $56,660 for tuition, room and board and fees, roughly equal that of Georgetown University ($56,682) and only slightly above the $53,455 of American University. (At GW, freshmen pay a fixed-price tuition that stays the same throughout their tenure.)

“We’re really making an effort here to make tuition more affordable,” Knapp said.

But, of course, tuition prices still linger near the top. And the Post dived into the party scene one night at the 19th Street club Cities:

Nicollette Slotkin, a freshman from Beverly Hills, is waiting in line wearing a black mini-dress and diamond Chanel necklace and toting a Chanel bag. She’s a self-described “West Coast princess” who came east to George Washington for the chic urban campus and the well-regarded business school.

Her roommate, Regan Nelson, an ethereal belle from New Orleans, has already made it inside the club. Finally, Slotkin makes her way past the first doorman. She’s in!

“It’s so much fun!” she says, her face wreathed in a smile.

Near the dance floor, two groups of students are in a bottle war — each side vying to drink the most bottles of $160 Veuve Clicquot champagne. Kids are hanging on the rafters. The DJ queues up a song by the band fun.: “Tonight we are young. So let’s set the world on fire. …”


 

  • Permalink
  • Comments (6)
Monday, Aug. 27, 2012 2:00 p.m.

MBA tuition hike takes some students by surprise

by admin

The GW School of Business, housed in Duques Hall, raised tuition 4.4 percent for returning students this year, slightly higher than last year’s increase. Students say they were kept in the dark about the increase. Jordan Emont | Assistant Photo Editor

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Aliya Karim.

Business school graduate students are disputing the $1,000 added to their tuition bills this fall, claiming the extra charge came without notice.

An additional $55 per-credit-hour fee was not included in a cost estimate handed out by the Global MBA Program last spring. The estimate, which brought tuition for the two-year program up to $123,085, pronounced the costs “subject to change,” but several students said they were unaware such a change had actually been made.

The Board of Trustees announced the tuition hike in February, but because the 4.4 percent increase is “within the range of the annual increase, [students] learn the rates through the university offices,” Dean Doug Guthrie said in an email.

The increase is also consistent with rates raised by many other business schools across the country. Last year, the business school raised tuition 3.5 percent for returning students.

Shashwat Gautam, a second-year MBA student who mortgages his home in India from the U.S., said he first found out about the increase when his tuition bill was emailed to students this month. He said the extra $1,100 he will owe the school this year will strain his already tight budget, because he applied for student loans using the previous tuition estimate.

“For middle class families from India and different parts of the world, it’s going to mean a lot,” said Gautam, the business school’s graduate representative for the Student Association. “We could’ve planned it better if we had an idea of it.”

Gautam, also the vice chair of SA’s academic affairs committee, said he is pushing the SA to lobby administrators to roll back the costs.

University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard said tuition information is posted on both the University’s graduate enrollment and Colonial Central websites, but that details are not emailed to students because costs differ based on course load. “In addition, students applying for financial aid should be aware of tuition information well in advance,” she said in an email.

Associate Dean for MBA Programs Liesl Riddle sent an email to business graduate students addressing “tuition confusion and clarification” following The Hatchet’s inquiry into the school’s tuition bump.

She said in the email that the 4.4 percent increase falls within the standard practice of a 4 to 6 percent rise between a student’s first and second year, and maintained that the added tuition revenue would go toward expanding programming.

“Admissions sent you an estimated cost of attendance for the entire program when you enrolled and noted that second year tuition was an estimate that would likely change. In addition, the university posts the new rates in late spring for your review,” Riddle wrote.

Allan Simonds, a second-year MBA student, called the email “defensive and condescending,” and said it still did not clarify how the school would use the extra tuition money. “The email really pits the administration against the student body,” Simonds said.

The 4.4 percent increase is “not out of sync with general increases that we’re seeing in North America,” said Dan LeClair, the chief operating officer of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. He said schools might increase tuition for course and curriculum improvement, global expansions, student engagement in the classroom and improved reputations.

Guthrie said in an email that the MBA tuition remained far below neighboring Georgetown University and University of Maryland, and a small increase in tuition would help pay for more student aid and programs, but did not specify which.

“If we want to have programs and student services that compare to those schools, we need also to have the resources that make us competitive,” Guthrie said.

Incoming MBA students will also face a 8.7 percent higher tuition than last year’s students, the steepest climb in an across-the-board tuition increase for graduate programs. New doctoral students in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences and Graduate School of Education and Human Development and masters students in the Elliott School of International Affairs will see an 8.5 percent increase in tuition.

In addition to the extra tuition revenue, the business school is also receiving $9.4 million in cash from GW through 2014 – the largest investment in the history of the school.

Business school administrators have been busy both in D.C. and China in the past year, linking MBA students in planning the District’s economic development plan and opening up master’s programs in Suzhou. The business school also added four online graduate programs this summer.

“I do think and hope the extra money will go to benefit students and the school, and especially to increase our rankings,” Neha Shah, a second-year MBA student, said. “I also don’t realistically expect that I will personally get to enjoy these benefits in my last year as a student.”

The business school’s graduate program fell five spots to No. 57 in the U.S. News and World Report ranking in March.

Business students have soured on administrators’ communication effectiveness in the past. In Bloomberg Businessweek’s survey of undergraduate business students, many at GW cited issues of communication for administrators as one of the school’s problems.

“There are bright spots, but they have a long way to go,” Simonds said. “They should begin with better communication, more transparency and less squandering of money.”

- Cory Weinberg contributed to this report.

  • Permalink
  • Comments (7)
Friday, Feb. 10, 2012 12:45 p.m.

Board raises tuition by 3.7 percent

President Stephen Knapp

Managing the rate by which tuition increases is a priority of University President Steven Knapp. Hatchet File Photo

Updated Feb. 10, 12:51 p.m.

The University’s highest governing body unanimously approved a 3.7-percent tuition hike Friday, raising next year’s tuition cost by $1,632.

Tuition and fees will stand at $45,780 for all incoming freshmen and undergraduate transfer students during the 2012 to 2013 academic year.

The increase falls in line with a four-year trend of increasing tuition by about 3 percent annually – reflecting University President Steven Knapp’s goal to shake off GW’s reputation as the nation’s most expensive college. Last year, tuition rose by 2.9 percent.

Knapp said the slightly larger increase will fund staff expansions in the University’s revamped career services as well as financial aid.

“We are making some investments with the new revenue. Of course we’ll continue to develop our academic programs, but also we’re making some new investments in student life and career services,” Knapp said. “We think that’s really important for adding value to our undergraduate student experience here.”

Tuition and fees stood at $44,148 this academic year – about $4,900 more than where they stood five years ago, internal data show.

“Obviously we’re staying the course with moderation of our overall tuition costs at the institution,” Executive Vice President and Treasurer Lou Katz said, citing inflationary pressures and market basket schools as factors in the decision.

Katz said the University’s price increase is below those of peer schools, who increased 3.8 percent last year when GW upped it tuition and fees 2.9 percent.

The Board of Trustees decides tuition and fee increases annually at its February meeting. The amount does not include room, board and lab fees.

The University did not rank in CBS News’ 2011 list of the top 25 priciest private institutions in the country. New York University, the only market basket school on the list, ranked third with $56,787 for room, board and tuition.

Continuing students will see no change from the fee set when they entered the University – part of GW’s guarantee to fix tuition for 10 semesters.

  • Permalink
  • Comments (1)
Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012 12:20 a.m.

Obama underlines college access in national address

by admin
President Barack Obama, HIV, AIDS

President Barack Obama addressed college affordability and access in his third State of the Union address Tuesday. Hatchet File Photo

This blog post was written by Hatchet Reporter Mary-Ellen McIntire.

President Barack Obama emphasized the importance of education in solving the nation’s challenges in his third State of the Union address Tuesday.

Obama also noted the rising cost of college attendance and called on lawmakers to provide financial relief to students.

He urged Congress to stop interest rates on student loans from doubling, as they are set to do in July, and to permanently extend the tuition tax credit his administration created.

The president also called on Congress to double the number of Federal Work Study jobs in the United States over the next five years. GW faced $400,000 in federal funding cuts for work-study positions last semester, forcing departments to pay a higher percentage of student salaries – a unique move as peer universities chose instead to slash the number of  jobs available.

“States also need to do their part by making higher education a higher priority in their budgets,” Obama said.

He called on colleges and universities to keep tuition costs down, warning, “If you can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down.”

Obama said he has met with a group of college presidents whose schools had successfully lowered tuition. Some colleges redesigned courses to help students graduate quicker, he said.

Students opting to save money by cutting their final semester has been a trend at GW, although statistics are not available because the University does not officially track students who leave a semester early.

“Higher education can’t be a luxury,” Obama said. “It is an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford.”

Obama also addressed the importance of pre-college education.

While tight budgets have forced states to fire thousands of public school teachers, Obama said that a good teacher can increase the lifetime income of students.

“Give them the resources to keep good teachers on the job, and reward the best ones. And in return, grant schools flexibility: to teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test; and to replace teachers who just aren’t helping kids learn.”

Obama also proposed that every state require all students to stay in high school until graduation or until they turn 18 years old.

“When students are not allowed to drop out, they do better,” Obama said.

The emphasis on education policy in the national address is a continuation of Obama’s “We Can’t Wait” campaign. Launched last October to address student debt, University administrators said few GW students would benefit from the plan.

  • Permalink
  • Comments (1)
Saturday, July 2, 2011 4:13 p.m.

GW ranks high on federal tuition list

The Department of Education ranked GW No. 8 among private four-year colleges for highest tuition as part of a new federal initiative to help students and families better understand the cost of college.

GW’s tuition for the 2009-2010 academic year, the year data was compiled, was $41,655, nearly double the national average for private four-year not-for-profit institutions.

Bates College, Connecticut College and Middlebury College took the top three spots respectively.

The Department of Education program also allows students to compare the total expense associated with each college after tuition, books and on-campus housing using the newest numbers available. The estimated real cost of attending GW during the 2010-2011 academic year was $55,625. The costs for other District universities were comparable, with Georgetown costing $56,485 and American University costing $52,065.

“These lists are an important part of the Administration’s work to make college costs more transparent and to boost college affordability and accessibility,” a press release about the rankings reads.

The University has battled its reputation as the most expensive school in the nation since 2007 when it topped multiple lists for its cost of attendance. Administrators have pushed back against this notoriety, citing GW’s locked-in tuition rates. When a student enters GW, their tuition does not increase for five years, which means they will still pay their freshman-year rate while their peers at other institutions face tuition increases annually.

“Our no surprises tuition guarantee helps students and their families plan for and manage college costs and has been well received,” University spokeswoman Candace Smith said in an e-mail. ”The fact that continuing undergraduates do not see any change in their tuition is especially important in this time of economic uncertainty.”

Smith did not respond to questions about how the new ranking affects the University’s expensive stereotype, but warned that many lists oversimplify the costs of college attendance. The Department of Education website recognizes the University’s tuition program with a note on GW’s page, but does not qualify its ranking on the tuition list.

  • Permalink
  • Comments (1)

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Gabrielle Marush

The Board of Trustees voted unanimously to increase tuition by 2.9 percent at their quarterly meeting Friday, an increase on par with GW tuition increases over the past few years.

The increase brings the cost of tuition to $44,148 for all freshmen and transfer students entering the University next academic year.

The increase is $1,243 more than the class who entered this fall pays. The percent increase is slightly less than the 3 percent increases the Board has approved for each of the last 3 years.

The $44,148 amount excludes additional fees for labs, room and board.

The cost will not change for continuing students due to the University’s fixed tuition policy.

“The plan has really come into its own at this time of economic uncertainty,” University President Steven Knapp said of GW’s fixed tuition policy, which guarantees that a student will pay the same tuition for at least 10 semesters. “We’re trying to keep tuition growth as low as possible. We want to get off that list of most expensive universities.”

GW is one of few universities who use a fixed tuition program, which Knapp said has received little attention from national media. Although the first year’s tuition is more expensive than some of GW’s market-basket schools, the overall cost of a GW education is on par with the national average due to the plan, Knapp said.

The average increase in tuition and fees for GW’s 42 basket schools has been 3.8 percent every year over the past 5 years, according to a University news release. This makes GW’s 2.9 percent increase less than that average.

  • Permalink
  • Comments