Students Protest Tuition Increases

Students concerned with the university’s 4 percent tuition increase this year have rallied around a social media campaign to raise awareness about the costs of yearly hikes and to pressure the administration to increase transparency about expenses.

The Facebook page “Hoyas Against the Hike,” has accumulated over 170 likes since it launched in late August and bills itself as a movement “to foster open student dialogue about the recent tuition hike.”
Hoyas Against the Hike Leader Joe Picozzi (COL ’17) said the group’s primary goal is to pressure university President John J. DeGioia to host a town hall to explain the rationale behind the projected increases in tuition.

“We want to give DeGioia an opportunity to explain the hike and explain where this money is going to, because there are resources on campus that do need more funding and I understand the financial pressures we are faced with given the size of our endowment,” Picozzi said. “Our first step is going to be to ask the university to be open and to bring DeGioia to speak to students.”

Picozzi partnered with the Georgetown University Student Association and other student groups to demonstrate to university administrators that students from various backgrounds share concern for tuition increases. GUSA President Enushe Khan (MSB ’17) and GUSA Vice President Chris Fisk (COL ’17) wrote a viewpoint in The Hoya on Tuesday (“To the President’s Office of Georgetown,” The Hoya, Aug. 30, 2016, A3) asking for DeGioia to participate in a town hall with students addressing the hike.

“I think what is amazing is that we have students from all different sides from campus politics,” Picozzi said. “This hike really does affect a lot of students in the middle group who are well-off enough that they don’t qualify for programs like [Georgetown Scholarship Program] but aren’t wealthy enough to pay for it.”

The university announced the 4 percent tuition increase in February as a part of the financial plan for fiscal years 2017-2020. The financial plan lays out the university’s projected financial growth and estimates sources of income and anticipated expenditures, as well as predicting any future tuition increases.

Tuition rose at a slower rate than last year’s 4.3 percent hike, and is anticipated to grow at a steady 4 percent for the next four years.

Picozzi said the hike demonstrates a nationwide trend and believes Georgetown should take a stand against future tuition rate increases.

“We want to change the process to help curb the tide of rising tuition costs nationwide. The university says that Harvard increased the tuition by 3 percent. This is a national trend,” Picozzi said. “My view is that Georgetown is a leader nationwide. It prides itself in producing leaders. And I believe that this is an opportunity for Georgetown to show some leadership in pushing back the tide of rising costs.”

In a joint statement to The Hoya, Khan and Fisk said the biggest issue with the latest increase is the lack of transparency in how funds are disbursed.

“The announcement was made in February immediately after the winter board of directors meeting. However, most students were not made aware of the increase until they received their tuition bills this summer,” the statement reads. “Students saw this increase as coming out of left field. Transparency is clearly an issue here.”

Khan and Fisk said the university owes students an explanation of where funds are going.

“Aside from the stress this puts on middle class students, transparency is the problem that needs to be addressed immediately, and the university needs to speak for itself on the matter. We recognize the strain the 4 percent increase in cost of attendance puts on students who pay full freight. Ultimately, there is great ambiguity about the allocation and purposes of the increase — where exactly is this money going?” the statement reads.

Khan and Fisk said that even though part of the tuition hike will fund the university’s 8 percent increase in financial aid funding — the largest investment in financial aid resources in the school’s history — the university must clarify the nuances of the financial plan.

“The 8 percent expansion of financial aid resources is definitely something to be proud of, but generally, funding and allocation of resources is clearly a nuanced process at Georgetown, and something the university needs to include students in and clarify,” the statement reads.

Christopher Grocki (MSB ’17) said he understands why the university might need to increase funds, but thinks the university should examine whether it is spending money efficiently.

“It’s a classic example of bait and switch. If they were selling you a car and this happened, it would be illegal,” Grocki said. “The reality is that there is nothing wrong with increasing tuition, but if you looked around, you would find a lot of money being spent at this university that is not necessarily spent in such a prudent way, while there are other things that are being neglected.”

Nick Scrimenti (COL ’18) said the university must recognize the significant real-world harms tuition increases cause.

“I talked to one student whose family literally sold their apartment and moved to a smaller home to pay for college tuition. I know people taking out home equity loans, selling precious assets and taking out second mortgages to help pay for college tuition,” Scrimenti said. “When you think about the struggles some people have to go through to get an education, it defeats the purpose and spirit of a Georgetown education.”

Senior Director for Strategic Communications Rachel Pugh was not available to provide comment on Hoyas Against the Hike as of press time.

Correction: This article previously stated the GUSA statement was from Khan only; Khan and Fisk co-authored the statement.

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