With the Nov. 1 deadline application just passing for Georgetown University’s early action class, the problem of economic inequality on campus continues to thrive.
According to a 2017 study by The New York Times, 20.8% of Georgetown students come from the top 1% of income-earning households, defined as a cumulative income of $630,000 or greater. Meanwhile, only 13.5% of students come from the entire bottom 60%, quantified as a household earning less than $65,000 annually.
In contrast, 18.7% of students at the University of Pennsylvania come from the top 1% and 16.5% come from the bottom 60%. At Stanford University, the numbers flip, with the top 1% composing 17.5% of the student body and the bottom 60% making up 18.6%.
The immense difference between the percentage of students in the top 1% and the bottom 60% at Georgetown is no accident.
Applicants in the top 1% attend Georgetown at an astounding 10.8 times the average attendance rate. Increased access to tutors, standardized test preparation and academic resources are often blamed for the immense attendance gap.
Even among students with equal SAT scores, applicants in the top 1% are 2.7 times more likely to attend Georgetown — this rate is one of the highest in the country among private universities.
On the other hand, students with the same test scores from the bottom 20% are 0.6 times as likely to attend. Thus, this is not a question of college readiness, but an institutional failure to value socioeconomic diversity.
The Editorial Board demands that Georgetown University repairs its reputation as an institution restricted to the ultrarich by reforming its application and expanding outreach programs.
The lack of socioeconomic diversity at Georgetown is deeply damaging to its status and reputation as a Jesuit institution. Georgetown prides itself on its Jesuit heritage and its commitment to “Community in Diversity,” yet the economic disparities among its student body fail to reflect this goal.
Notorious for its exceptionally wealthy student body, a 2023 New York Times report found that Georgetown ranked number 230 out of 286 selective universities in its share of Pell Grant recipients.
Pell Grants are awarded to students of “exceptional financial need,” and unlike loans, they do not require repayment except under certain circumstances, per the U.S. Department of Education. The university’s disparagingly low ranking in share of students with Pell Grants serves as an indicator that first-generation and/or low-income (FGLI) students are deeply underrepresented at Georgetown.
For many, the lack of existing FGLI representation speaks to Georgetown’s reputation as a home for the rich. The economic breakdown of Georgetown’s enrolled students also has the potential to discourage FGLI applicants from even applying.
Sabrina Perez (CAS ’24), the president of the Georgetown Scholars Program (GSP) Student Board, an organization that creates community and provides support for FGLI Hoyas, expressed her experience when applying due to the university’s reputation of wealth.
“It wasn’t necessarily the acceptance rate that scared me or me feeling like I wasn’t qualified enough, just seeing the price made me feel like it was unattainable. From the aesthetics, to the price tag, to the reputation, low-income students immediately feel like an out-group,” Perez told The Hoya.
For an institution that prides itself on equity, the Editorial Board condemns the university for not prioritizing socioeconomic diversity. FGLI students belong at Georgetown, and it is the university’s obligation to ensure that all applicants — regardless of economic status — feel welcomed.
Michelle Ramos (CAS ’25), a GSP Student Board member, agrees with this sentiment.
“When I am asked to explain what first-generation means and called ‘brave’ for being here, it only reinforces the notion that my identity is not welcomed at Georgetown, but best kept a secret,” Ramos wrote to The Hoya.
The GSP should be highlighted by the university in its information sessions and communications to prospective students. The program provides a wide array of support to FGLI students, and the university must work to bridge the gap between its resources and its reputation.
Improving the school’s reputation entails eliminating the burden the Georgetown application creates, banning legacy preference in admissions and devoting greater outreach to FGLI communities.
Georgetown must maintain its reputation as an elite university due to the caliber of its programs — not the wealth of its students.
One common criticism of Georgetown’s admissions process is that Georgetown is not on the Common Application. The Common App is a standardized application used by over 1,000 universities across the country that allows students to compile demographic information and a personal statement in one place.
Instead of opting for this streamlined platform, Georgetown requires that all applicants use an entirely different interface. In addition to placing the burden of an extra application on high-achieving, low-income students — who already apply to selective colleges at disproportionately low rates — Georgetown requires potential applicants to submit a $75 fee before viewing its specific application questions.
With this nonrefundable fee, Georgetown structurally discourages qualified, low-income students from even beginning the process.
A university spokesperson pointed to the positives of this distinct application.
“Georgetown believes an individual application better reflects the personal experience of transitioning into college. We also believe the distinct application process ensures stronger interest in Georgetown from students who apply,” a spokesperson wrote to The Hoya.
Still, qualified FGLI students may not be able to apply due to the added difficulty and cost of a separate application. As a result, Georgetown is negligently allowing its on-campus economic disparities to be perpetuated.
It is long overdue for Georgetown to join the Common App, and the Editorial Board calls on the university to commit to educational equity by discarding its outdated application process.
For far too long — in fact, since the turn of the 21st century — the wide economic disparities at Georgetown have remained stable. It is time for the university to take action to address it. FGLI students have a place at Georgetown, and it is the responsibility of the administration to make the university welcoming and accessible to them.
The Hoya’s Editorial Board is composed of six students and is chaired by the opinion editors. Editorials reflect only the beliefs of a majority of the board and are not representative of The Hoya or any individual member of the board.