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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Knapp vows to lower tuition

University President Steven Knapp said he plans to lower GW’s tuition, saying it negatively impacts the University’s image and leaves students piled in loans, in his first address to the Board of Trustees Friday.

“I am personally not happy with seeing this institution at the top of the list of price,” Knapp said at the meeting of the University’s highest governing body.

Without taking GW’s fixed tuition policy into account, GW is the most expensive private institution in the country. Knapp spoke about the impact of negative media attention that linked GW’s decreasing U.S. News and World report ranking with the University’s increasing cost.

A formal recommendation on increasing GW’s affordability will be issued at the February meeting of the Board of Trustees, the University’s highest governing body.

The public admission of dissatisfaction with GW’s price is a departure from the position of former University president Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, who often dismissed the cost as necessary.

“(The price) leads to the dangerous perception that we’re costing more than we’re worth,” Knapp said.

In an interview with The Hatchet, Knapp said the affordability of GW could be affected by increasing financial aid rather than by decreasing the total tuition.

“The debt burden on our students needs to go down,” he said.

One of the trustees thanked Knapp for supporting a decrease in tuition, especially after the Washington City Paper printed a front-page story that was highly critical of GW’s tuition.

Knapp said he also wants to make the school more accessible for students of lower income levels.

“We don’t want to do things that just look better to the media,” he said.

Lydia Thomas, chair of the academic affairs committee of the Board of Trustees, said GW’s high cost impacts the retention rate of students. She said between 75 and 80 percent of students graduate within six years, a percentage she said is too low.

“We must get into the eighties,” she said.

Thomas continued, “We believe that we are losing students . because by the time they get to their fourth or fifth year, their loans are tapped out and they just can’t pay any longer.”

Robert Chernak, senior vice president for Student and Academic Support Services, said GW will be increasingly focusing on raising money for need-based scholarships and will work to cut costs by increasing the efficiency of the University.

“I think there’s a greater try to do a better job in raising funds specifically for financial aid,” Chernak said.

He added, “We’re going to try to do a better job than we have traditionally done.”

Chernak said about a third of the students who leave GW between their freshmen and sophomore years leave for financial reasons.

He said the percentage of need-based aid that comes in the form of grants rather than loans is consistent with the schools in GW’s market basket, but the University’s high price makes it so that students still end up paying more for their education.

“We’re relatively normative, but we’re also very high priced,” he said.

Between 75 and 80 percent of aid is distributed through grants, and the remaining amount is offered in loans, Chernak said.

Donald Lehman, executive vice president for academic affairs discounted GW’s high cost and said families are having difficulty affording the increasing costs of private universities across the country, not just at GW.

As administrators expected, about 100 fewer people accepted merit aid packages, Chernak said, but there was not a subsequent increase in the number of people who picked up need-based awards.

Lindsay Corcoran contributed to this report.

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