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

Financial Aid Fiasco

Despite Georgetown’s commitment to diversity of all forms, the cliched image of Joe and Jane Hoya as affluent prep school graduates, arriving on campus in new BMWs and going on shopping sprees with their father’s credit card at the Polo store on M Street shows no sign of fading in coming years.

Increasingly in debt and lacking an endowment comparable to that of its peer institutions, Georgetown is less and less able to offer financial aid packages competitive to those of other universities. As a result, accepted students who would need financial aid are opting to go to other schools after comparing financial aid offers. Out of the students accepted to Georgetown, 52 percent of those students who do not need financial aid choose to come – a number that roughly corresponds to the university’s 48 percent total yield rate – while only 41 percent of those needing financial aid choose Georgetown. This 11 percent disparity reflects Georgetown’s inability to compete in regards to financial aid.

Although Georgetown promises to meet all students’ full financial need, it offers financial aid packages consisting of scholarships, work-study arrangements and loans. Unable to cover the student’s full financial need with university-sponsored scholarships, Georgetown uses these loans to make up the difference. Many other universities, however, offer solely or almost solely scholarships, eliminating the need for students and their families to accrue debt during college. When faced with the prospect of going to a school like Princeton – which announced in 2001 that they would no longer give loans – or going to Georgetown and graduating an average of $18,000 in debt, the choice for any financially-conscious student is obvious.

Georgetown practices need-blind admissions, meaning that the admissions office does not take the financial situation of a student’s family into account when making their decision. But if students are not able to go to Georgetown without facing a burdensome debt after graduation, this well-intentioned rhetoric does not stand up to reality.

The university has been developing plans to address this issue, including proposing a targeted fundraising plan with alumni and lobbying Congress to halt a measure to eliminate Perkins loans, a proposal that would if passed exacerbate the university’s current financial situation. The university should be commended for recognizing the importance of this issue and taking steps to address it despite its own financial turmoil.

Socioeconomic diversity is of critical importance to the university’s future as an institution. And that any student would be admitted to Georgetown and then be unable to afford to attend is an unfairness out of line with Georgetown’s mission of social justice.

Georgetown’s failure to measure up with its financial aid packages also harms its ability to remain competitive and attract talented students from all socioeconomic backgrounds. Students from lower income levels, many of whom have already overcome adversity to get to college, provide a fresh perspective and can contribute greatly to the Georgetown community.

Higher education has made progress in breaking down the divide between the rich and the poor strata of society. But as Georgetown continues to be mired in debt of its own, its unfortunate choice to pass this along to its students in the form of loans will lead to an inequitable loss in diversity, a loss that detracts from the character of the campus and the Georgetown experience. If the university does not make guaranteeing comprehensive and competitive financial aid packages a priority, then at least for the near future it looks as though the new Lacoste store on M Street will have no trouble staying in business.

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