GUSA and various student organizations are pushing for a large and diverse set of objectives that have one thing in common — all would increase costs. There’s no such thing as a free lunch; demands need to be contextualized and responsibly balanced before students agree to write a blank check of support.
Current proposals brought up recently include expanding the languages offered, hiring additional mental health support staff, and instituting a diversity requirement. All of these things can be objectively seen as good.
Additionally, problems that students encounter on a daily basis demand our attention and the University’s funds. Anyone who has experienced mold, an unwelcome creature in their living space, or the intermittent connection of SaxaNet understands that costly upgrades are needed to make campus more comfortable.
While students demand expensive initiatives and improvements, they simultaneously demand that the school limit its financial flexibility. The divestment movement would jeopardize the future growth of the already small endowment by limiting the kinds of investments the university can make, forcing them to possibly choose less rewarding options.
Similarly, the successful “One Georgetown, One Campus” campaign that took place in the fall of 2013 limited the University’s options for expansion before all of them could even fully be considered. This was despite the fact that satellite dorm options had the potential to lower student’s living expenses and the University’s construction costs — no trivial concern when trying to find affordable housing options in one of the most expensive metropolitan regions of America. Our student body is making significant demands of an institution while tying its hands, placing the administration in an impossible position.
Students have ignored an important question over the course of these conversations surrounding what they want and in what manner: who is going to pay?
Georgetown does not have an infinite amount of funding. Funding comes from federal research grants, the endowment and tuition. With the burgeoning national debt and necessary federal budget cuts attempting to reign in the deficit, research grants have become increasingly limited. Our endowment is another limitation as it already pales in comparison to similar top research universities. According to the National Association of College and University Business Officers, Georgetown’s endowment is less than one-fifth of the size of Notre Dame’s and ranks 66th nationally.
This leaves tuition as the primary source of additional funding. There is no way around the fact that current student proposals, if implemented, would lead to higher tuition.
Increasing tuition further strains those on financial aid and those taking out massive loans to make attendance here possible. It also would hamper socio-economic diversity. Already, less than half of all students receive any sort of financial aid. Ensuring Georgetown is accessible to all admitted applicants is a top priority of the university. It is committed to need-blind admissions and is one of only 62 universities meeting the full amount of demonstrated need of each student. Increasing tuition threatens this status and therefore our ability to attract the best and brightest, regardless of their ability to pay.
Obviously, despite the University’s best efforts, meeting full demonstrated need does not exempt Georgetown students from taking out massive amounts of loans. The average debt of a graduating senior in 2013 was over $24,000. Tuition hikes cause this already astronomical number to increase annually.
Every time we sign on to a petition or fill out a survey expressing support for a new center, initiative, or program — no matter its individual merits — we implicitly consent to even higher tuition. We threaten socio-economic diversity as Georgetown becomes less and less affordable. Instead, we should be demanding our student leaders recognize the financial side of their proposals and actively address them rather than ignoring the costs or leaving that aspect up to the administration.
Balancing the current needs against the long-term consequences and financial health of the university is no easy task and lacks a catchy slogan to rally behind, but is a necessary component of responsible governance.
Mallory Carr is a senior in the College. The Right Corner appears every other Friday.