Rising Prices, Failing Values

For as long as I can remember, I have dreamed of coming to Georgetown. After being turned away my senior year of high school, I applied again and was accepted as a sophomore transfer student.

Almost immediately after the shock and excitement of receiving my letter had passed, my heart seized, because I did not know whether the financial aid package would be enough for me to become a Hoya. By the time the deadline to make my final decision arrived, I still had not been informed of the details of my financial aid package.

Despite the intimidation of a potential price tag that my family had no hope of affording, I took a leap of faith and submitted my acceptance papers. While I am deeply grateful for the generous aid I have received from Georgetown and from the George F. Baker Scholars Program, the price of our school is not just something that affects me. It is a serious issue for a large part of the community.

In February, the board of directors decided to increase tuition by $1,920 without the consultation of students or parents. I am proud of the administration’s decision to increase its investments in financial aid and admire Georgetown as a national leader in caring for students at the economic margins. However, this hike hurts the students in the middle.

As reported by US News and World Report in 2014, 39 percent of Georgetown students graduated with loans and the average total indebtedness of graduating Hoyas was $22,464. The majority belong to an overlooked middle faction: those who are well-off enough not to be considered for high-need coverage or for the Georgetown Scholarship Program yet not wealthy enough to write a check for the whole tuition. Students have acknowledged this issue in publications and social media, such as the Facebook page “Hoyas Against the Hike.”

For these students between the extremes, the hike means more loans and more sacrifices from their families. The reported statistics obfuscate the struggles of many Hoya families who have sold precious assets, pursued home equity loans or even taken out second mortgages to cover the cost of attendance.

Increasing the cost of attendance thrusts many students into pursuing career paths that pay higher salaries — at the price of not chasing their own dreams. This trend directly contradicts our core virtue of cura personalis and diminishes intellectual diversity on the Hilltop. Many Hoyas enter Georgetown determined to pursue noble aspirations in science, literature or politics. Then, after only weeks on campus, it makes sense that some could become consumed in a culture of pursuing high-powered and high-paying career paths only. Though some enter their college careers with such pursuits in mind, for others these aspirations arise as a consequence of financial and cultural pressures on campus. Rather than finding their identity in college, many Hoyas lose their sense of self to financial pressures.

University leaders must determine if a Georgetown education is merely a product or an experience defined by self-discovery and intellectual growth. As a community, we must evaluate if we are realizing our mission. Our Jesuit tradition of magis devotes us in service of others to reach for more, to seek depth and meaning rather than to strive for superficial success. By raising tuition, administrators have failed the students whom they aspire to serve.

Persistent tuition hikes erode the value of a Georgetown education. While I acknowledge the national trend of steepening college tuition, here, on the Hilltop, we pride ourselves on producing leaders. It is time for Georgetown to become a national leader in pushing back against rising tuition costs nationwide. Student leadership on campus has called for University President John J. DeGioia to host a town hall to discuss the hike. Such efforts are a powerful first step in opening up dialogue not only for the Georgetown community but also for students and administrators nationwide.

Joseph Picozzi is a senior in the College.

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