Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Alumni Donate to New Aid Program

It’s a fact. College lightens wallets – at Georgetown to the tune of more than $40,000 per year. But according to university administrators, there’s help on the way for Georgetown’s neediest students.

In an attempt to alleviate budget constraints that have left Georgetown unable to compete with other prominent universities’ student financial aid packages, administrators have launched a program allowing wealthy alumni to “sponsor” individual students with contributions of $15,000 a year.

Charles Deacon, the dean of undergraduate admissions, has led the effort to develop the program, the first of its kind, which some say could change the way universities fundraise.

Last summer Deacon launched the trial run of the Georgetown Scholarship Program. After one year, $750,000 has been raised and 50 students will be receiving scholarships in the fall of 2005.

Traditionally universities have provided scholarships using funds from their annual budget or from endowed scholarships.

During the $1 billion Third Century Campaign, alumni donated money for 219 endowed scholarships. Despite the success of the campaign, which was completed in December 2003, Georgetown is still struggling to offer competitive financial aid.

With the Georgetown Scholarship Program alumni can sponsor a student with an annual commitment of $15,000. Organizers are seeking alumni willing to commit to the program for five years.

Since $15,000 annually is a large sum of money, groups of three and five alumni can sponsor a student together.

Each contribution is applied to an individual student. According to Deacon, at first the funds will probably go to those students with the most need. $12,000 will be used to replace money that currently comes from the annual budget. The other $3,000 will be used to reduce the student’s loan package.

“The cost to the university of financial aid largely drives tuition increases,” Deacon said. “If this is successful it could reduce the pressure to raise tuition so much.”

Regina Fay Gannon (COL ’90) was one of the first alumni to sign up for the program last summer. “You know specifically what your money is going toward with GSP,” she said. “It helps the lifeblood of the university – the students.”

While an undergraduate, Gannon worked for Deacon in the Office of Admissions. Now she is one of the youngest alumni involved in the new program, chairing GSP for the Class of 1990. Gannon says one of the reasons she sponsors the program is “to give back and help other students the way Georgetown helped me.”

GSP, like most fundraising at Georgetown, is focused around graduating classes. Each class will eventually have a chair that will help coordinate and recruit GSP sponsors from others in their graduating class.

Every year, sponsors and recipients will have the opportunity to meet at GSP receptions. The program will encourage alumni-student connections to the extent that the student wishes it. Students who do not want to be known as scholarship students, or who find sponsorship condescending, will not be required to attend events.

The alumni-student connection is, nevertheless, an important component of the program, according to Deacon. At the annual receptions students and alumni will be able to form a connection. Once the program has grown large enough, Deacon imagines gatherings of all the sponsors from a class with all the students they are sponsoring. Deacon prefers group receptions to one-on-one sponsorships because not all students and alumni would hit it off over dinner.

The program is still in its infancy. But the Provost’s Office, the Office of Student Financial Services and the Office of Alumni University Relations have been paying attention. While there are concerns that GSP could be seen as siphoning money from other fundraising priorities, Lisa Gentil (SLL ’74), national co-chair of GSP, disagrees.

“We hope this will come to be seen as another venue for giving after graduation,” she said. “Some people prefer to give to a building, many others prefer to give to scholarships. They are not mutually exclusive.”

Gentil also believes that GSP will not draw funds away from endowed scholarships. An annual commitment of $15,000 is much different than an endowed scholarship which would be a one-time gift of much greater magnitude, Gentil said.

Gentil hopes to double participation in GSP next year. If 100 alumni sponsored students under GSP it would replicate the effect of a $30 million endowment.

According to Deacon, no other school has attempted an annual-giving approach to financial aid. If the program is successful at Georgetown, he expects other schools will copy the system.

Statistics suggest that Georgetown is not as appealing to students who need financial aid. Georgetown is committed to providing financial aid for all students who need it, and the admissions office does not consider a student’s financial situation when deciding whether to admit. But Georgetown financial aid packages rely heavily on loans, while many competing schools offer more in scholarships. Students who need financial aid are 10 percent less likely to come to Georgetown if accepted.

Gentil, as an alumni interviewer for Georgetown, has been disappointed when highly-qualified applicants declined admissions offers because of poor financial aid offers.

“Those of us who have confronted that personally are especially committed to GSP,” she said. “We have seen first hand the kind of student that Georgetown can lose.”

More to Discover