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

GU Struggles to Meet Financial Need

As tuition climbs higher and higher, the cost of financial aid has skyrocketed. Georgetown, heavily in debt, has been unable to offer financial aid packages comparable to peer institutions. As a consequence, poorer students may be less likely to come to Georgetown.

“This is a competitive issue and a social justice issue,” Charles Deacon (C ’64), dean of admissions, said. “Georgetown can’t compete for some of the best students.”

From 1994 to 2004, the number of students receiving Georgetown scholarship has declined from 40 percent to 35 percent. About 325 fewer students are receiving scholarship compared to a decade ago.

University administrators and professors interviewed for this story expressed concern that students’ rising costs threaten the university’s socioeconomic diversity.

At last week’s faculty convocation, University President John J. DeGioia stated that one of the big questions facing Georgetown is “How do we ensure that an education like that provided at Georgetown will be accessible and affordable to a more socio-economically diverse student body?”

Georgetown already commits to need-blind admissions and meeting the full-need of accepted students.

A “need-blind admissions” program ensures that the admissions office does not consider a student’s financial situation. Students are evaluated primarily on merit, with special considerations for legacy, athletics and diversity. Students are never turned away because the university does not think it can offer anymore financial aid.

By “meeting full-need,” Georgetown guarantees, once students are admitted, that the university will offer financial aid to cover the full cost of admission beyond what the student’s family can afford.

According to Patricia McWade, dean of student financial services, Georgetown and many other schools with highly competitive admissions use the Consensus Approach to Need Analysis, a formula that determines how much is needed for different families. Georgetown’s commitment to full-need already costs about $40 million annually.

But despite need-blind admissions and meeting full-need, Georgetown financial aid has not remained competitive. The difference between Georgetown and other schools is the type of aid offered.

At Georgetown, a financial aid package consists of scholarship, work-study and loans. Lacking the resources to offer extensive scholarships, Georgetown depends heavily on loans to meet full-need.

In 2001, Princeton became the first school to announce that student loans were a thing of the past. Using their extensive financial aid resources, Princeton has replaced loans with scholarship.

In 2004, Sidney Frank, an alumnus of Brown University, donated $100 million dollars so Brown could eliminate loans for needy students. By contrast, this single donation is the size of Georgetown’s entire financial aid endowment.

“Our competition is doing things to improve access for first-generation college students,” McWade said. McWade pointed to Harvard, which has stated that students will graduate about $8,000 in debt, compared to Georgetown’s average of $18,000.

Students who need financial aid, but are intimidated by the debt, are rejecting Georgetown in favor of other schools.

This was the story of Matt Hidalgo, who applied and was accepted to the School of Foreign Service’s class of 2008. Hidalgo was a senior in high school from Riverside, Calif., and was looking forward to coming to the SFS.

“It was definitely my first choice,” said Hidalgo, who intends to study international relations.

Hidalgo, however, also was accepted at Princeton University. And then he received the financial aid offers in the mail. At Georgetown he would have to take out about $7,000 a year in student loans and a work-study job, in addition to loans his parents would take to meet the expected family contribution. At Princeton his financial aid offer was entirely grants.

“I seriously would have looked at Georgetown [over Princeton],” Hidalgo said. But after receiving the financial aid offer, “I just couldn’t even look at it.”

Decisions like Hidalgo’s appear far too common. “Yield on kids with financial aid has eroded,” Deacon said.

This year, Georgetown will admit about 3,100 students to the class of 2009 and expects about 1,500 to enroll, a 48 percent yield rate.

The yield figure, however, is substantially different for students who need financial aid. Only about 41 percent of students who need financial aid come to Georgetown, compared to 52 percent of students whose families are wealthy enough that aid is not an issue, according to Deacon.

Georgetown’s inability to offer competitive packages has increased the difference in the yield rates. Georgeotwn’s weak packages have also affected current students.

Jay DeLoatch (COL ’08) was stunned when a re-evaluation of his family’s financial situation meant that he would need more than $2,000 annually above what his had already budgeted. DeLoatch was already carrying more than $9,000 a year of loans. His step-father balked at taking out any additional loans.

DeLoatch went to the Office of Student Financial Services repeatedly, hoping to work out a solution. But more loans were the only option.

“Now, I’m just waiting to hear my financial aid package for next year,” DeLoatch said. “If it’s not better, I’ll be forced to transfer.”

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