WILLIAMS & ALI: A Seat at the Table

For the 2016-17 academic year, Georgetown’s tuition was projected to rise between 4 and 7 percent. At its maximum, this potential rise in tuition would have cost students an additional $3,363 a year — a hefty price tag for an already expensive educational experience.

The fact that the rise in tuition was as low as it was — less than 4 percent — was due in large part to student outrage on the issue. After all, what right did the administration have to keep raising tuition? This kind of student engagement is exactly what we see as necessary to holding the university accountable on the cost of attendance — the biggest issue facing Georgetown at the moment.

In our administration, we plan to institute a number of reforms, including a Tuition and Affordability Policy Team, to analyze the spending of the university and work with organizations on campus to develop students’ spending priorities.

So much of the discussion of this issue, understandably blurred by frustration, fails to take into account the realities of Georgetown’s financial situation. Georgetown does not have the deep pockets of its peer institutions, but it regularly works to provide as many resources as possible to students.

Specifically, for a school like Georgetown with a startlingly small endowment, its dedication to meet 100 percent of demonstrated financial need should be applauded and understood as one of the primary allocations of the university’s budget. As two students actively involved with the Georgetown Scholarship Program, we would be amiss if we failed to appreciate this incredible gift.

These rising tuition costs do not specifically affect scholarship students like us or students who are particularly well off. These changes hit middle-income students the hardest, and these are the students who need be most engaged in future discussions of spending and affordability on campus.

Socio-economic diversity has become a buzzword meaning only low-income students, but true socio-economic diversity takes into account many different perspectives as equally important, including those of middle-income students. This is one of the reasons we are advocating for more frequent town halls on the wide array of issues that affect every student on this campus.

As a part of our platform, we are advocating for the creation of an Affordability and Access Residential Student Hub to continue many discussions on true socio-economic diversity on this campus. In the mold of Red House, focused on designing a new Georgetown, this hub will focus on issues related to socio-economic inclusivity and financial transparency for the university.

As members of the Advisory Board on Affordability and Access, we know that these discussions are often kept in administrative meetings rather than open forums, and that policy recommendations are lost in bureaucracy rather than implemented. By opening up these discussions, we plan to allow for proper transparency on the university’s finances so that the administration can be held accountable for the money that students are providing to receive an education.

Tuition affects everyone, and we want to ensure that more student voices are heard in these discussions. It is time for you to have a seat at the table.

Garet Williams is a junior in the College running for the Georgetown University Student Association presidency. Habon Ali, a junior in the School of Foreign Service, is his running mate.

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2 Comments

  1. Mr. Williams is a leading member of the GUSA Executive. Ms. Ali is a GUSA Senator. Why have you not already made effort to implement these reforms? All you are suggesting this is to launch more working groups. That seems easy enough.

  2. The Real SFS 2016 says:

    This op-ed is fundamentally dishonest. Until last night Garet and Habon didn’t care about tuition.

    Just go to their website or Facebook page. Their three themes are “Inclusivity,” “Transparency,” and “Resources.” None of the bullets they have under those themes deal with tuition.

    I thought they might have something on their website but their platform doesn’t even mention tuition. I went to all three pages with their platform information and hit CTRL F and searched for “tuition” on all three and the word doesn’t appear once.

    Try it yourself.

    As of 6:30PM on Februrary 21st there is absolutely nothing there involving tuition or saving money for students, but I suspect they’re working to change it to cover themselves, or will after reading this comment.

    Garet and Habon say in this op-ed that tuition is the biggest issue at Georgetown. Then why don’t they have a single thing in their platform about it? Why have they never mentioned it until now? Why didn’t they speak out or try and doing something before today?

    Fact is they’re bringing it up now because that is what Mack and Matthews are focusing their campaigns on it and made the debate all about that issue.

    Last August when students were hit with the 4% increase and told tuition would increase 4% for the next for years as well, on top of the cumulative 18% increase that occurred over the previous four years, both Garet and Habon were silent.

    In fact, Garet’s bosses, Enushe and Chris, (he’s one of their deputy chiefs of staff), said the increase was “necessary” and that students would “tangibly benefit” from the increase.

    Here’s the article: http://www.thehoya.com/2016-2017-tuition-sees-increase/

    When it was initially announced last August Chris Fisk even made a defense for the administration in The Hoya and said they were doing a “remarkabl[e]” job with the tuition issue. . . .

    “Georgetown, rather remarkably, manages an incredibly difficult relationship between a tight financial situation and its commitment to meeting 100 percent of demonstrated need,” Fisk said. “It’s important to understand that this year’s tuition increase is also accompanied by the university’s aspirations to expand need-based financial aid.”

    “Additionally, it’s important to point out that the rates of Georgetown’s annual tuition increases have been declining, and our student body has been successfully pushing the university to provide more services and to better our campus in a number of ways, like housing renovations, expanding academic programs, etc., but the money to do these things needs to come from somewhere,” Fisk said.”

    Here’s that article: http://www.thehoya.com/tuition-sees-4-percent-hike-for-2016-2017/

    It wasn’t until students outside of GUSA started protesting that GUSA actually jumped onto the issue, though they ultimately did nothing, to borrow a word from Enushe, that was “tangible.”

    The simple fact is Garet and Habon never even bothered addressing tuition until last night and in today’s op-ed because that’s what people were most vocal about at the presidential debate. It’s as if they don’t are about it and are only bringing it up now because it has finally gotten through to them that this is what people care about.

    Garet couldn’t even properly address the issue at the debate. He said the university should be “applauded” for managing tuition and financial aid at the debate. Those are his exact words. Watch the video. And his running mate Habon didn’t address it in the VP debate, she just kept talking about diversity and representation and how they were going to make GUSA more inclusive and force clubs to hold diversity audits to make sure they are representative enough.

    There is a reason why GUSA is considered out of touch. It’s because they don’t realize their constant call for administrators and programs raises costs which are then transferred to students. They don’t realize that halting tuition increases means halting the continued increase in spending the administration does. That includes huge salaries for administrators (the top ten highest paid employees at Georgetown collectively make about $12 million each year) which need to be frozen. And that includes more efficient spending and reducing the costs of unnecessary programs.

    Garet and Habon and the rest of GUSA don’t even properly manage student activities fee money. GUSA spent hundreds of dollars on things like ice cream sandwiches which were mostly eaten by GUSA members, or free New York Times, doesn’t actually benefit students and only help those who want the New York Times. And each year they fight against reform efforts to allow students to determine where that money goes so that GUSA insiders can control it instead.

    The worst thing though is that when tuition goes up GUSA’s first response is exactly the same as Garet’s in the debate, which is to explain the administration’s decision to students and be the administration’s representative to students, as opposed to the student’s representative to the administration and an advocate on behalf of students.

    I can’t vote any longer but I would vote for Mack or Matthews. Both those guys from day one have talked about keeping tuition from increasing and more efficient spending and figuring out ways to save students money, whereas Williams has been all about meaningless buzzwords. Garet and Habon are jumping onto it just because they see how upset everyone is now.

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