Georgetown attempts to balance the need to improve services and facilities for students with reasonable increases in tuition, according to university administrators in a Hoya Roundtable on tuition transparency hosted by Georgetown University Student Association on Nov. 17.
The university increased tuition by 4 percent for this year, in a move that was met with significant opposition from students.
GUSA President Enushe Khan (MSB ’17) and Vice President Chris Fisk (COL ’17) published an article in The Hoya demanding increased transparency around the issue, while the Facebook page “Hoyas Against the Hike,” was liked by over 170 students Sept. 2 since its August launch.
When setting the tuition for the next academic year, Groves said the Board of Directors always aims to minimize tuition, but that becomes difficult given the funding demands in the tuition-setting process.
“You are stakeholders because you are charged this tuition,” Groves said about the students’ investment in the tuition increases. “The faculty are stakeholders. They are paid through the revenue that comes into the university, and all the other staff members are part of that.”
Another cause of Georgetown’s tuition hike originates from the university’s relatively small endowment compared to other major private universities with comparable academic ranking, according to Provost Robert Groves, who gave a presentation during the event.
Georgetown is ranked in the top 25 U.S. colleges and universities per U.S. News and World Report, but has the 61st largest endowment according to the 2016 NACUBO-Commonfund rankings. Georgetown did not begin to fundraise until the late 1970s, about a decade after the Jesuits stopped formally running the university.
Groves said Georgetown’s modest endowment means tuition fees are a more significant source of the university’s revenue.
“If you looked at [percentage of revenue as tuition] for Stanford or Harvard, you would see a smaller portion of their revenues come from tuition,” Groves said. “They have much, much larger endowments.”
Georgetown’s revenues for FY 2016 totaled $1,189.4 million dollars, including 49 percent from tuition and seven percent from endowment income. Total expenses over the same period totaled $1,180.3 million dollars.
Georgetown’s endowment as of June 30, 2015 is approximately $1.5 billion.
Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Christopher Augostini said the university is focusing on overall growth in response to high costs.
“We have to look at the enrollment growth, enrollment growth in particular in graduate programs has increased proportionately to the expenses,” Augostini said. “We have to look at the size of the faculty in terms of the size of the curriculum offerings.”
Groves said the university’s 2016 fundraising efforts will help decrease reliance on tuition for revenues.
“We’ve just finished a fundraising campaign that was the most successful this university has ever had,” Groves said. “1.6 billion dollars, a lot of that money went immediately to paying for operations over the fundraising period.”
Groves said the university is exploring opportunities to expand alternate sources of revenue.
“We are very interested in trying to grow revenues from grants, from research grants,” Groves said. “That’s good for faculty to teach you and for student research assistants. This goes right back in to what we’re doing as a university.”
Groves also pointed to meeting student needs as a central part of the discussions surrounding tuition.
The roundtable featured a PowerPoint presentation by Provost Robert Groves, a student Q&A section and a 15-minute small group discussion of students and administrators to facilitate better dialogue.
The event also highlighted Arrupe Hall, Ryan and Isaac Halls, the Muslim Prayer Room, Cooper and Shaw Fields and the Village C Black Box as recent efforts to improve student life on campus.
The university’s 20-year campus plan outlines future projects designed to benefit students, such as the possible creation of a student life corridor.
Groves said the university must balance tuition costs with campus improvement projects, including expanding Georgetown University Transportation Shuttle services.
“We’ve done a variety of things to try to figure out how we can provide better GUTS service, and that’s been increasing our costs on GUTS,” Groves said. “We’re trying to balance that to essentially offer the services you want without increasing the costs too much.”
During the Q&A session, some students expressed concern over future tuition hikes and if they would surpass the 4 percent increases students have seen in the past few years.
“In our estimates on the out year right now, that number is 4 percent,” Groves said. “But we will revisit that.”
GUSA President Enushe Khan (MSB ’17) said the roundtable was a good format for students to understand tuition increases.
“I think we saw a lot of different students who were generally passionate about tuition setting and the process, so overall very happy with that,” Khan said. “I think [the students’ participation in the roundtable] showcases that the university needs to continue engagement regarding tuition and remember that we are their constituents and they need to answer our questions.”