Three weeks ago, Forbes magazine unveiled a new ranking of top colleges in the United States, and Georgetown University’s placement in the list may come as a surprise to many a proud Hoya. Instead of a lofty position in the Top 25, a rank we’ve grown accustomed to after holding it for 19 years in another noted listing (the U.S. News and World Report) Georgetown ranked number 76. The drop results largely because the ranking included the average amount of debt students graduate with.

Though this news is shocking, the shock may wake us up to a long-ignored problem: Students at Georgetown are graduating with staggering student loans, and the administration is not doing enough to address the issue.

The cost of higher education is a burden felt at all schools across the country, but it is one felt especially at Georgetown: Out of the 569 schools ranked by Forbes, Georgetown is listed as the third most expensive university. The Office of Student Financial Services at Georgetown estimates costs for the 2008-2009 school year to be around $50,000, a figure that has increased given this year’s 5.5 percent tuition raise and 5 percent raise in housing and meal plan rates.

According to the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, the database Forbes used to determine the amount of debt students accumulate, the average Hoya who received financial aid in the 2006-2007 school year took on $5,728 in student loans. If roughly the same amount is taken out by the same Georgetown student over four years of postsecondary education, he or she is faced with a daunting debt at the end of his or her undergraduate career that will only continue to build. Even middle- and upper-middle-class Georgetown students, who may not have to face the drastic decision of dropping out of college because they can no longer afford to attend school, are handed student loans they will still be paying off years after graduation. And that daunting prospect is what lies ahead for those who are lucky enough to receive student loans and grants, which has become more and more difficult in recent years.

There are, of course, both federal and institutional mechanisms available for students on campus who need help paying college bills. However, with the failure of subprime mortgages, these have become less and less accessible. We do not mean to suggest that Georgetown is doing nothing for its students during this crisis. Georgetown offers student grants, various Georgetown alumni groups around the country raise money for students, and the Student Employment Office is available for students who want to find a job on campus, whether or not they have been awarded a Federal Work-Study. We applaud efforts such as the Georgetown Fund, which was created less than two years ago by alumni to help, among other initiatives, to subsidize student tuitions.

All of these initiatives to help students tackle the problem of paying their tuition bills are a good start, but clearly the Forbes ranking shows that other schools are doing more. Unfortunately, Georgetown has a smaller endowment than many comparable universities and therefore has less money to spend on subsidizing tuition. This is a factor all alumni should keep in mind when asked to give money to the university.

As all smart Hoyas, parents and prospective students should know, college rankings should be taken with a grain of salt. Whatever faults the Forbes list had, however, still does not take away from the fact glaring problem it points out that not only hurts Georgetown’s reputation but, more importantly, endangers the well-being of its student population. It deeply saddens us that some of our fellow Hoyas have had to leave the Hilltop because they could not shoulder the financial burden of finishing their Georgetown education. Perhaps this kick to Hoya pride will make the Georgetown powers-that-be realize with more urgency that an affordable education needs to be a top financial priority.

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