The $50,630 Question Is an education at George Washington University worth it?

What most schools call freshman orientation is a different animal at the George Washington University, the most expensive college in America. There, it’s known as Colonial Inauguration, or just “CI,” a three-day whirlwind of ice cream socials and casino nights.

CI is one of the university’s selling points. When high schoolers tour the campus, the guide from the GW admissions office is likely to include mention of the event among the experiences that set the school apart from its competitors: In addition to the prospect of spotting presidential motorcades and studying at the Lincoln Memorial, you’ll get to enjoy the laser-light show at Colonial Inauguration.

The six-minute-plus neon extravaganza includes the Hippo, GW’s unofficial mascot, bowling, playing tennis, kicking a soccer ball, lifting weights in the fitness center—to the strains of the theme from Star Wars and the Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star.”

Willie Castro, a subcontractor for Audio Visual Imagineering, who created the show and has been tweaking it each year for more than a decade, says a show like GW’s costs about $2,500 per minute to produce. Throw in labor costs and other fees, and the university has paid a robust five-figure sum over the years to build a precious campus commodity: tradition. “Nobody seems to be tired of ‘Video Killed the Radio Star,’” says Castro. “Every year I say, ‘You guys don’t want to change it, so you must love that song.’”

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The student newspaper, the GW Hatchet, has written exhaustively about Colonial Inauguration and its extravagances, which have included engraved chocolates deposited on the pillows of incoming freshmen. When GW stopped giving out GWopoly board games a few years ago, the Hatchet reported the move saved the college $30,000. An analysis of the wardrobe of the Colonial Cabinet, the elite pack of wild-eyed, hyper students who lead the orientation, found that the crew’s khaki shorts likely cost the university about $4,000 each summer.

“Most colleges view orientation as a simple half-day event where students can buy books and sign waivers. GW, as you will quickly learn, has much more of a ‘Go big or go home’ attitude,” wrote sophomore Diana Kugel in the Hatchet. “While the laser light show may be superfluous, all of the fuss and preparation that goes into CI is effective in its efforts to make newly accepted students feel welcome. And while sometimes GW does overdo it when trying to uphold a certain image, you may as well get used to things being done on a large scale.”

At GW, that realization starts with tuition. Last February, GW announced its tuition and required fees plus room and board would cost $50,630 for this year’s freshmen, the class of 2011. It was like the day a barrel of oil hit $50—everyone saw it coming, but seeing the number on paper was stunning.

“When that word came out, you panic a little,” says Michael O’Leary, senior associate director of GW’s admissions office, who’s among those tasked with promoting the university. “You sit down and scratch your head and say, ‘How are we going to deal with this?’ And then you move forward.”

“[University officials] pointed out that it was the lowest percent increase,” says Hatchet editor Jake Sherman, referring to how this year’s freshmen will pay 3.8 percent more than last year’s freshmen. “But it’s almost been PR suicide for them. It’s pretty unbelievable how they’ve tried to spin it.”

But as public-relations challenges go, record tuition isn’t necessarily the hardest one to explain. That would be why the school ranks much lower on the various surveys that gauge its market value. The latest U.S. News & World Report rankings for “America’s Best Colleges,” for instance, considers GW only 54th in the country. In 2006, it was 52nd.

GW has, however, risen through the ranks of large-land-holders in the District by dint of its legendary expansion. In 1912, GW had a single building in Foggy Bottom, at 20th and G Streets. Now it owns most of a five-block area loosely bordered by Pennsylvania Avenue, 23rd Street, E Street, and 20th Street. Much of the growth has occurred in the past 15 years.

This year, the university decided to take itself to another level. It sought permission to nearly double the size of its campus by building up 2.5 million square feet within its boundaries. In contentious zoning hearings, university officials argued that the allure of GW is tied to its wonderfully situated campus in view of the White House. Neighbors likened the 20-year building plan to plopping an Empire State Building in Foggy Bottom, albeit one spread out to conform to the District’s hallowed height laws. In the end, the school received permission to pursue its expansion, subject to further zoning approvals.

GW also pissed off Foggy Bottom residents when it leased its old hospital site on Pennsylvania Avenue, one of the largest empty tracts of land in the District, to a developer for the next 60 years. Plans include two rental residential towers and a commercial office tower, which is expected to house a law firm. The university won’t say how many millions it is making off the deal, but in “go big or go home” fashion, GW said it plans to build a new science center, dorms, classrooms, and research space with the cash infusion. Through all the expansions, the university has sustained vicious attacks from Foggy Bottom activists and their brethren across town. Whether the venue was a meeting of the local advisory neighborhood commission or a city zoning panel, the complaint was usually the same: The school’s big shots were rapacious land-grabbers determined to turn residential Foggy Bottom into a cul-de-sac.

GW’s thirst for land has become something of a business problem in recent years. In 2003, 25 percent of the assets in the school’s endowment consisted of illiquid property investments off campus. Endowment managers have since reduced that number to 15 percent, the better to maximize the endowment’s utility.

That endowment just passed $1 billion this summer, but it’s paltry for a school with world-class ambitions. Princeton University, No. 1 on the U.S. News survey, has the fifth-largest endowment in the nation at around $13 billion. (This year, tuition plus room and board at the New Jersey Ivy will set you back nearly $44,000.)

GW’s comparatively shallow endowment means that it relies on tuition to meet 80 percent of its daily operating costs. Without that cash coming in, the university says, it would be bankrupt in a year. The problem has outlasted the 19-year tenure of President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, who succeeded Lloyd Hartman Elliott in 1988 and stepped down this July. “If we had a bigger endowment, we’d have more money. And if we had more money, we could, if we chose, lower tuition or give more financial aid,” Trachtenberg says.

Traditionally, alumni help to pad university endowments. But GW’s alumni-giving is currently only at 11 percent, according to GW’s director of media.

“Some of it has to do with having begun alumni giving programs very late in our history. Some of it is because we were, for many years, a commuter school,” says Trachtenberg, whose total compensation in 2004-05 was north of $700,000, placing him among the highest paid university presidents in the country. “I think these things are generational. You have to have somebody come to the university, they have to have a good experience, then they have to graduate, then they have to pay off whatever those loans are that you made to them, then they go on, and they buy their first house, then they get married, then they have children, then they have to pay for the orthodontist, then they have to pay for the car.”

“And they get to a point in their lives where, God willing, they have surplus, and that’s when people start to look around and decide where they’re going to be consequentially philanthropic. Most people start with their houses of worship.”

Trachtenberg believes cash from GW alumni who graduated during the previous era in GW history, the one led by Elliott from ’65 to ’88, will start flowing soon.

“You have to allow these things to germinate, to gestate,” he says.

The unofficial position on GW philanthropy is a bit more jaded. “A lot of people say GW just doesn’t engender this feeling of giving back,” says Hatchet editor Sherman. “What I’ve heard is that people just feel like they come out of this school and they’re drained of everything they have.”

As far as recruiting future alumni, GW competes with big-name schools for upper-echelon students and, to many of them, the university does offer help. Last year, 20 percent of its students received large merit scholarships, which usually pay for about half of the tuition, not including room, board, and fees.

“Nobody cares what the tuition is,” says Trachtenberg, who is now President Emeritus and professor of public service for the college. “Students who pay the full tuition are a small fraction of the student body,” he says.

In fact, more than 60 percent of GW’s undergraduates receive some kind of financial aid, and the school beats all universities in the dollars-per-student it gives in aid, at around $33,000. Shortly after it dropped the $50,000 bombshell, GW announced it would also cut its merit scholarships by a third in favor of need-based aid.

The rest of the students, or, more likely, their parents, simply write a check every semester. “Obviously you’ve got to have a lot of rich students to subsidize the less rich students. GW will officially tell you, of course, that it subsidizes many students, and that’s true. But if you’ve been to GW, you know it’s a culture of wealth,” says Margaret Soltan, an English professor at the college. “All you have to do is walk up and down 21st Street and see all these fancy SUVs and Porsches and realize that they are being driven by 20-year-olds.”

Taylor Carrington, soon to be a freshman majoring in international relations and Spanish, will likely have to hitch a ride with one of her rich classmates. She will be starting GW with an enormous merit scholarship of $20,000 but plans to graduate with debt. Her parents are helping with some of the overflow.

“My parents both have good jobs, and education is one of those things they are willing to spend money on,” says Carrington, who is from Rhode Island. “I know it’s a lot of money, but my parents were like, ‘It’s an education, so it’s OK to spend.’ I felt like a degree from GW is worth that. I felt like I’ll be able to pay it off as soon as I get out of there.”

Carrington is a beneficiary of Trachtenberg’s brand of educational socialism. “It is how we seek justice on behalf of all our students,” he says. “But you see, all our students aren’t identical. And so what we try to do is treat each student as justly and as equitably as we can. And so it’s a little like a Procrustean bed. You know you have a 6-foot person, and you have a 4-foot bed. The choices, it seems to me, are extend the bed by 2 feet or cut 2 feet off the person.”

“Well, what we try to do,” he says, “is extend the bed. And so we have some students who are paying—what you would call if you’re buying a car—the list price. And we have other students who are getting the car for free. And most students are in between A and Z, between Alpha and Omega.”

Three years ago, GW helped pioneer an idea that is catching on at universities around the country. The school promised the Class of 2008 that it would pay $34,000 in tuition a year for as long as they stayed at the university. The graduating Class of 2004 paid $29,000, 16 percent less.

The fixed tuition promise doesn’t apply to the mandatory room, board, and other fees, and housing at GW is just as expensive, if not more so, than living in an apartment building nearby. (Freshmen and sophomores are required to live on campus.) But the pricing scheme does allow students to know how much they will pay for tuition as long as they stay at GW.

The university insists that under this plan, students do not actually pay the highest tuition in the country because while other universities will raise their tuition by different amounts every year, GW’s will stay the same. By this math, GW is only the ninth-most-expensive university in the country.

The university gets there by predicting that expensive schools such as Sarah Lawrence, Amherst, and Colgate—which don’t usually compete for the same students as GW—will raise their tuition by 5.7 percent each year. GW thus concludes that its incoming freshmen will end up paying less in the long term.

This calculation, of course, is open to challenge. Last year, Hatchet opinions editor Kyle Spector argued that schools that actually attract the same sort of students who apply to GW—including NYU and Boston University—would have to raise their tuition by much more than they actually did during the last three years in order to catch up with the price tag at GW.

“On balance, GW is marginally more expensive,” concedes O’Leary. “I say that not discounting that we are the most expensive. You can’t beat around that bush. You can’t dispute a price tag.”

When Trachtenberg arrived, a year at GW cost about $14,520, not including fees or premiums for living in better dorms.

“The mandate was, ‘Let’s move the institution to the next level,’” says O’Leary, who began an entry-level job in the admissions office in 1985, about two years before Trachtenberg took over. “GW was still a pretty sleepy place when I got here—not highly competitive, known nationally but not necessarily recognized.”

Now, GW wholeheartedly embraces the maxim that you need to spend money to make money—and to rise in the all-important U.S. News rankings. “That should be No. 1 on the list of anyone at a university, and you do whatever it takes,” says Nicole Capp, president of the Student Association, which governs all student groups at GW. “Paying money for extra professors, having some more adjunct professors…having Division I teams that are doing spectacular—whatever it takes to build the prestige of the university and provide a better education, you do it.”

As she ticks off the characteristics of a first-rate university, Capp is sitting at the Potbelly sandwich shop’s outdoor cafe in the Ivory Tower, one of the university’s newest, classiest dorms, where she is living this summer and next school year. The dorm is one of the reasons GW ranks well on at least one list—Princeton Review’s “Dorms Like Palaces.” Ivory Tower’s carpeted two-bedroom suites with living rooms and full kitchens are the norm for the school’s new dormitories, built along with several new dorms after the city mandated that the university house 70 percent of the nearly 10,000 undergraduates on the Foggy Bottom campus.

The J Street Cafe in the Marvin Center, the de facto student union, is at this moment being renovated for the second time in as many years. Last week, workers were dismantling some of the fast-food restaurants constructed there last summer in preparation for replacing them with more self-serve venues, a return of sorts to the traditional college cafeteria the Marvin Center housed decades ago. Students entering the center’s food court are confronted by a lighted model of the Washington Monument that soars from the basement through an atrium. (The actual monument is a short walk away.)

“Our student-union-style thing, the Marvin Center, has gone through more face-lifts than, you know, Cher. And why?” says Chris Correa, a recent graduate who chose GW over NYU.

Changes have also come to Duques Hall, GW’s new business school building, which now features a classroom built to resemble a stock exchange, with a multitude of screens on which students can play stockbroker. Several students describe it as “pretty cool.”

Kaitlin Muench, a rising junior who spent her summer days working as a GW tour guide and nights as a butler at the Kennedy Center, laughs at the swanky flourishes. “We’ve accepted it, and…it’s just a joke to us here. It’s hard to describe it, but the student population understands that we pay a lot of money, but they’re willing to make that sacrifice. While people joke about it, in the end, they’re happy they’re here,” she says.

But generalizations, as students learn in college, are dangerous. Not everyone is happy with the return on a GW investment. After two years at the university, Kevan Duve bolted. He took a year off and transferred to Columbia University, where he will start as a junior next month.

“GW has been run like a business for a long time.…They believe they are offering a product and that they’re going to charge market price,” he says. “I think students at GW get a bad deal, frankly.”

Duve gave up his GW merit scholarship and will end up owing more than if he had stayed in Foggy Bottom, but he believes attending the ninth-ranked school in the country is worth it.

“The things that [GW puts] money in, they put money in so that people are impressed by it, but it doesn’t necessarily equate to a better education for undergraduates. So I thought that I was wasting my money going to GW. It wasn’t that I couldn’t afford it. It just had to do with how my money was being spent.”

The Education Issue

Contents

  • The $50,630 Question
  • Tier Factor: GW's quest to become one of "America's Best Colleges"
  • A Special Education: How to send your kid to private school for free
  • Cheap Seats: The grass is greener at D.C. public schools
  • Show & Tell: Taking third-graders to bars

Our Readers Say

The real question about the value of GW or any university can only be answered by assessing whether students were well positioned to do the things they wanted to do when they graduated. If the answer to that question is yes, then it's worth it.

By the time I had graduated GW in 1998 I had interned in the White House, for the World Health Organization, for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. I had studied abroad in one country and worked in two more. I was far from unique- my friends worked for CNN, CBS, on the Hill, for NIH, or in private commercial labs. Mostly, what I learned from these experiences was what I did not want to do, but that positioned me so much better than my colleagues at other schools- including the far better-ranked schools I turned down in order to attend GW.

GW encouraged me, gave me a ready made network, and allowed me to take courses with practitioners that helped me to put my experiences in perspective. My Shakespeare teacher is an Undersecretary of Energy. My sociology teacher now runs peace-building programs in Palestine. I regularly saw my professors quoted in the Economist or on CNN.

I walked out of GW into a job in my chosen field (international development) and so did the vast majority of my classmates.

Does GW waste money on extravagances? Absolutely. We all were outraged by one form of spending or another during our time there. I certainly had and have complaints about how the university spends it money and the decisions it has made regarding how it attracts students. But the central question this piece fails to address is whether or not I thought the value worthy of the price-tag. I certainly thought it was.
The problem with the tuition issue is that there's truly no way to vett the job colleges do at teaching and actually educating their students. Is any college worth its tuition? That's impossible to know under the current system. Universities need to man up, and allow themselves to be evaluated on how well they graduate well-prepared students. Let's see them prove they're worth the price tag.

I happen to know the commenter above, Mr. Reno Webber, and many of his classmates. Many of them are very talented and very smart, but they probably would have been very successful wherever they went to college. Would they have been unlikely to make similar inroads at other schools with similar levels of prestige and lower tuition rates? It's impossible for me to know, but I tend to doubt it.

The issue of skyrocketing tuition isn't isolated to GW. It's happening at schools all over the country, and for me it's a troubling trend. It seems higher education has lost sight of its mission to educate Americans from all walks of life and to prepare them to be of benefit to society. Instead universities like GW have become unhealthily obsessed with money and prestige, seemingly dead set on formulating itself into a fortress of reckless opulence and elitism. I don't think it's a mission that would make the university's namesake very proud, and it's certainly not a benefit to our country.
The answer to the $50,630 question, simply put, is NO.
I'm glad the writer of this article mentioned the endowment; or, more specifically, the lack thereof. Would Princeton or Stanford's tuitions be as high as GW if there was not such a cushy endowment? Clearly, the answer is yes.

In order to answer this article's title question, it has to be figured by each individual student. For some, who may find that the types of job experience or the people they meet are invaluable, 50 grand may seem like a bargain. Others may find they can get the same experience at a state school.

The key question, then, is how is that 50 grand being spent by the school, and I'm not sure the writer of this article really hits at that. GW is the 2nd largest land holder in DC and does not pay property taxes. Where is all the money going-- to pay the president of the institution? Fireworks for CI? Databases in the library? It would have been a much more probing piece of journalism if you actually got to this nitty gritty, by talking to more people than the incoming freshmen and the front office.
I guess I'll stop complaining about my student loans now.

Cross-posted at http://mattomalley.blogspot.com
The thing people fail to look at when they see the $ 50 K figure and freak is that GWU is one, if not the only, university in the U.S. that LOCKS in the tuition of the students for all 4 years at the exact same rate each year until graduation. This is a relatively new plan for the school.

Each semester or year, anyone attending a college or university is faced with the same uncertainties: will my tuition go up? how high? will I still be able to afford to go here and books?

Under GWU's plan, the tuition rate is GUARANTEED to stay the same for all 4 years of a student's undergraduate education. Thus they do not have to deal with the same uncertainties. Instead, those questions are passed on to the incoming freshman class, who will be able to decide whether or not they can afford to go to GWU well before they begin attending.

So, the question is should not be: is GWU worth $ 50 K? It should be, are you willing to pay a premium to make sure that the cost of your education stays the same throughout your undergraduate career? Not to mention, the cost of living in DC is high already. The school must also be able to buffer those added expenses for paying its professors, expansion of the school via construction costs, etc.
Here is my problem with your article. What did you prove? Does GW spend a lot of money on CI and elswhere? Absolutely. But did you ever interview a professor? Ever interview a student to find out about the world and life experiences they get while at GW? Did you research where students ended up after graduation? It seems your article is just a bunch of fluff.

If you want to know if the tuition for GW was worth it, my answer is yes and if given the chance I would do it all over again.

I graduated in 2004 and I am in a great job that I love. Every single one of my friends had a job after college or had gotten into a graduate program and they are still successful today. The true measure of a college price tag has little to do with what you talked about, but rather how were we educated? What did we do with the education? Are we successful today? It's too bad you didn't think to answer these questions when writing your article.
All I have to say is I'm glad this article was about GW and not the University on the other side of town - American University. I graduated AU's class of 2005, and I have a nice job in my chosen field (marketing). I honestly would have received a better "education" in my field at Indiana University (my state U.) since Kelley School of Business is ranked much higher than Kogod...but that wouldn't have made up for the outside the classroom education that you get at a school like AU or GW and by being in DC.

I feel that schools like AU and GW are caught in the space of being good schools in a market that competes with great schools. There's a lot of students at our schools who could just as easily attended any other top tier school (except for some of the top 10s) - how do you compete with that? And how do you pay for it when you're not Harvard or Duke or Georgetown (for that matter)? As another commenter has said - tuition would be the same price at any other private institution if it wasn't for their massive endowments - and concerted efforts for alumni giving.

I feel that my approximately $152,000 degree from AU was worth it. And it's good to see that so many GW alums feel the same way about their school. It's sad that CP chose to report on the superficial rather than on pressing issues in education.
Without commenting specifically on whether or not GW is "worth it" for me, which is a subjective question and won't be answered by this article or the comments after it, I found it interesting that Nicole Capp would say

“Paying money for extra professors, having some more adjunct professors…having Division I teams that are doing spectacular—whatever it takes to build the prestige of the university and provide a better education, you do it.”

I think most would agree that retaining extra professors is generally a good idea for any university, as it decreases class sizes and potentially adds choices to the course catalog, but increasing the number of adjunct professors is definitely NOT what GW should be doing. The adjunct professor issue at GW is a contentious one, with a long and fairly dispiriting history. The University had for years refused to negotiate with adjuncts at all, while their numbers slowly climbed to a current high of nearly 60% of the overall faculty. While GW has finally capitulated to court-ordered negotiation, I believe that the median pay for adjuncts is just $3,200 per course per semester. When I came to GW, the cost per student per credit hour was $950, and I believe it's even higher now. This means that one student taking one 3 credit hour course with an adjunct essentially covers that professor's entire salary. My most recent course with an adjunct had over twenty students in it. All of the adjunct professors I've had have been outstanding, valuable to their students, and underpaid. One of them moonlighted as a server, which he said actually paid more than his teaching job - and he has a PhD.

It is all well and good for parents to pay a premium for education, but they should be sure that the university they're paying feels the same way about attracting and compensating excellent professors.

See www.gwunion.org for more information regarding the Adjunct Union.
I have never given money to the alumni fund. Neither have my friends. Me because I find it ridiculous that the students spend $50K and there are not enough Spanish professors to teach classes. My friends because they are still paying off their loans.

When looking back on my education the cash spent can be justified by one cliche: location, location, location.
Answer: NO.

Because at every possible juncture, GW will try and further bleed you dry. Because location, location, location only go so far. Because when a good number of your professors are not full-time professors, but rather people who like to run their mouths about what they do out in the real world and have no actually teaching skills, you're just wasting everybody's time.

As I wrote to one of the deans at GW after an unfortunate incident involving finances two years ago, "Individuals enrolled at GWU are rarely viewed as students coming to learn at this institution, but rather as profitable goods."

Only eleven percent of GW alumni giving back to the university only reinforces everything negative I have to say--and what feels like the majority of GW graduates I know from many of the different schools within this lackluster institution are also saying--and further states, "We do not support you."
When I attended college in the 1970's, I thought $3,800 a year in tuition was off the hook but not as off the hook and unjustified as the $50k price tag that comes with a GW education which in fact does not land 75% of its students with great jobs.

CP needs to talk about all those GW grads who are still working at Starbucks or The Diner.
I'm a 2005 college graduate.


I'm thankful I went to GW for a few reasons.

1) It helped me figure out exactly the type of person I did NOT want to become. (Can I spot a fake Louis Vuitton handbag from 100 yards? No. Do I care? NO. Besides, those bags are ugly as sin).
2) If I hadn't gone there, I might not have figured out that the political arena is not for me.
3) I met a few great friends whom I adore and still see. Two of them even visited me while I was working in Prague.

I'm thankful I LEFT GW in 2003 for many reasons.

Though the school I transferred to was also private and fairly expensive (albeit not nearly as crazy as GW) they had great scholarship programs.
I was on scholarship at GW as well, but the committees at the school I transferred into reviewed your work thoroughly and increased your award if you showed promise/dedication as you went through more terms. '

My professors all knew my name.

I still regularly have dinner with my advisor, who helped me with EVERYTHING. He took his own PERSONAL time to teach me a semester of ancient Greek in a month so that I could join in the second term of the year and be a better candidate for the study abroad program I wanted. He received no additional pay. I got into both study abroad programs I wanted, and he helped me choose the one that was a perfect fit for me (having worked with professors from both).

Whereas I had several adjunct professors at GW who did not have time for feedback (not blaming them---rather GW for not investing in great people, giving more hours to highly rated professors, etc.), I had professors at my new school who would stop me while I was walking around campus with a suggestion for a direction in which my story/paper/thesis/whatever could go.



Was my time at GW worth it? Totally, but not for the reasons they advertise. I remain disgusted by the bureaucracy and treatment of "lesser" departments at the school. I'd never donate a cent to them. But neither the way they run things nor the large number of people enrolling at those insane prices will change any time soon, in my opinion.
I am among the newest graduates from GW, and I have made some observations in the past few months. Since graduating in May, I have gotten a job, mostly within my field of Geography and for the most part, it is a standard as-to-be-expected entry-level job.
Yet now, I am burdened with a monthly expense of almost $600 to pay back my enormous student loans - that is certainly a hindrance for anyone trying to make it successfully, or even just make it, in today's world. I entered GW as an International Affairs major - something that the school is known for, and my education was not what I had expected. I ended up picking up a second major - Geography - that allowed me to study things much more in-depth, and eventually resulted in a job.
Yet, from the get-go, I was competing with the most (stress, most) competitive and wealthy people from the country. Most of the people that I met Freshman year were from the Northeast, and most didn't know what a loan was. They drove expensive cars and blew their money away.
Now my loans from undergrad are acting like a roadblock to anything else that I may have to acquire debt from: grad school, buying a house, etc. Did I get a good education? Yes. Was it worth almost $170,000? Almost certainly no. I graduated from GW not wanting to give back, not wanting to go back, and not wanting to have to deal with the school ever again.
As a 2004 grad, being at GW opened a lot of doors for me and exposed me to a lot of experiences and individuals who helped me hone my interests and steer me to where I would like to be.

That being said, I have zero desire to give another penny to the University. (Not that I have any extra pennies to give, thanks to student loans.) If, in 40 years, I find that I have a few extra million lying around, GW might have to name a new building for me. But until then, my extra pennies will go to people and institutions that actually need my help.
Kudos to Ned for pointing out the absurdity of Nicole Capp’s comment equating exploitative labor practices with the prestige of the university. While I don’t know Nicole personally and I assume that her comment is one that stems from ignorance of the working conditions of adjuncts at GW rather than an complicity with or allegiance to the morally problematic stance of the university regarding wages for adjuncts (as well as for janitors and food service workers), as the SA president she should know better. In the end, it appears that plenty of GW alums feel much like many adjuncts do about the institution because after all, students and adjuncts are both treated as if they are disposable by the administration’s policies. Here is one more piece of evidence that supports allegiances between students and exploited workers at the university—we should all (together) be demanding better and more respectful treatment, demanding that the university interrogate the hegemonic business model and reconsider education as not just another market commodity. An undergraduate institution that produces at the lowest price possible and sells at the highest price the market will bear cannot have the highest quality education in mind while simultaneously worshipping at the altar of the almighty dollar at any cost.
Kudos to Ned for pointing out the absurdity of Nicole Capp’s comment equating exploitative labor practices with the prestige of the university. While I don’t know Nicole personally and I assume that her comment is one that stems from ignorance of the working conditions of adjuncts at GW rather than an complicity with or allegiance to the morally problematic stance of the university regarding wages for adjuncts (as well as for janitors and food service workers), as the SA president she should know better. In the end, it appears that plenty of GW alums feel much like many adjuncts do about the institution because after all, students and adjuncts are both treated as if they are disposable by the administration’s policies. Here is one more piece of evidence that supports allegiances between students and exploited workers at the university—we should all (together) be demanding better and more respectful treatment, demanding that the university interrogate the hegemonic business model and reconsider education as not just another market commodity. An undergraduate institution that produces at the lowest price possible and sells at the highest price the market will bear cannot have the highest quality education in mind while simultaneously worshiping at the altar of the almighty dollar at any cost.
The article's headline was very clever, but not a question the article really addressed. In fact, I am not sure what the point of the article was except to try to knock down the school. Is the writer a graduate of GW's journalism program ? I hope not. That would be a poor reflection on its academic quality.
GW's tuition is less than a thousand dollars more than Georgetown's! What's the big deal? I went to GW. Yes, it seriously sucked paying so much money to go to school there. But that's the sacrifice of going to a good school in a big city. Education - like anything else - comes at a premium. I remember having friends who working three jobs, went into debt, bankrupted their families, etc. to pay for tuition. I thought they were idiots. If tuition is so high, why pick THE MOST EXPENSIVE SCHOOL to attend? You don't get something for nothing. Nobody got fleeced - you knew what it was gonna cost before you enrolled. If it's too expensive, go to one of the many state schools ranked higher.
Having graduated from GW in 2005 and currently completing graduate school at Columbia University, the main thing I notice is that for all that people pay for an education at GW, the university seems to place more of an emphasis on spending money on areas that are not necessary to the health and vitality of a first class university. First, Gelman Library is horrible and needs to be renovated. I have always felt that the library should be the heart of a university and Gelman is a sad, sad place. They got rid of the main floor study room to put in a Starbucks instead. Please. There are two other starbucks within a few blocks of H Street. Second, GW spent a ton of money constructing nice townhouses for Greek organizations instead of using it towards fellowships and scholarships... I'm sorry, but that is just a plain waste of money. If GW wants to be in the top 50, it had better use its money towards improving its academic programs, not towards social activities. Third, the university is a bureaucratic mess. It takes forever to talk to someone if you need something and when you do, he or she is likely to bungle it.

I have to say that after being at Columbia for a year, I notice an immense difference between the two universities. In order for alumni to give back to the school (and thereby increase potential for scholarships and whatnot), there has to be demonstrated progress towards academic improvement - NOT improvement of unnecessary things like exclusive townhouses and laser light shows at CI. At Columbia, the university raises money to lower the cost of tuition for students who are financially needy and to renovate academic buildings.

Was my time at GW worth it? I enjoyed it immensely but honestly, I was frustrated by the lack of an academic environment. Most students don't care about learning. Was it worth all that money? Well, now that I am probably off to work in finance, sure, I guess I can say that it was because it got me to where I am today. Will I donate to the university? Definitely not to the main university "slush" fund, but probably to a specific program at the Elliott School.
What an unfair and unbalanced attack of my Alma Mater. I love GW and so do many of my fellow alums. Why this slam piece? I will never read the Washington City Paper again. Shame on you.
Yes, there were some excesses during the Trachtenberg administration, but in its recent history, GW has made tremendous strides. I am extremely proud to be a GW alum and I look forward to improvements being made at the University under our new president, Dr. Steven Knapp. This article was an unfair, unbalanced slam piece.
I just graduated after four years at GW and I'd have to say my time there was undoubtedly not worth 50,630 dollars. Indeed, it was worth much, much more. I took classes with professors who were sometimes world-renowned and almost always helpful, interesting, and extremely knowledgable and practiced in their fields. Overall, the facilities and infrastructure of the campus are top notch as well (a fact I appreciate much more after traveling around the country this summer, visiting many colleges and universities that look more like asylums or glorified high schools). The student body is also extremely active, engaged, and connected in Washington's favorite pastime, politics (whether it's the presidential primaries or the student council elections), which is priceless for a lot of Colonials.

In addition, people often forget when considering GW's high tuition costs, that's partly just the downside of attending a school located in the heart of the nation's capitol. Sure GW has a higher tuition than its competitors. The article specifically mentions Amherst, Colgate, and Sarah Lawrence--which I believe are located in rural Massachusetts, rural New York, and suburban New York respectively. The costs of operating a large university (just like the costs of living) in such areas are, obviously, far less expensive. When it comes time to calculate the complex utilitarian calculus or reconsider the wisdom of attending GW for its admittedly high tuition costs, the answer will certainly be a little bit different for every student. In the long run, though, the frills of CI probably won't change many peoples' minds either way, nor will the thousand or so dollar difference between attending GW as compared to the next most expensive university in the country. As long as GW remains in the top slot, though, it will continue to get the most attention on this front. Couldn't we just as well ask whether American University is worth $31,425, if Catholic is worth $28,990, or if all our many universities nationwide are giving students what they're paying for?
The point is that GW invests huge amounts in meaningless fluff like light shows while their students get crippled with debt. All style. No substance. GW is excess personified and continues to breed irresponsible leaders who will spend oodles on drivel. They can hide their budget as a private school. Open the books and people would be stunned. Anyone see the write ups of Tractenbergs going away parties?
As Trachtenberg once joked, "we're running a major buiness corporation here-- we do management and real estate... and we do a little education on the side."

GWU's inappropriate and symbiotic relationship that T-berg developed with our DC government over the years has created a real economic black hole in the host neighborhood of Foggy Bottom-West End. And students like Nicole Capp--who is most likely on scholarship--have traditionally been nothing but mouthpieces for GW's administration.

Steve Knapp, who is an educator not a wannabe CEO, may be able to undo some of the damage wreaked by the current crowd but probably not as long as T-berg is lurking in the shadows and his flock of PR attack dogs and supplicants remain in place at the university.

To see the long range impact of T-berg's "vision," check out the History section of the University of Hartford website where he was President until 1987--the year the market crashed. UofH had to spend years afterward unwinding the wildly leveraged and risky position he left the university in with his unfettered expansion policies. Deja vu all over again?
I graduated from GW 15 years ago, and it was expensive then as well -- top 10, for sure. Now we're #1 (!) That's progress for sure.

My impression was that the quality of the professors is excellent, but that Trachtenberg doesn't really 'get' education. He doesn't come across as a scholar. He's more interested in talking about himself and being seen with famous people. He's not someone you think of as a role model.

There's tons of money floating around at GW, and that would be fine if it felt like education was the top priority. But education doesn't feel like it's high on the list.
If you're from an upper middle class family from N.J. or Long Island--and turned down by Georgetown, sure its worth it!
Apparently an education at GW failed to give a number of the commenting alums an appreciation of the concept of "value". Sure, attending GW put you in a good position now, but did it have to cost $200k? Uh, no. It didn't.

I went there for law school, graduating in 2000. We paid an enormous amount in tuition while suffering perhaps the worst physical plant in DC (besides UDC). Libraries across campus were a complete mess, and I'm not sure how it was elsewhere, but the IT in the law school was suicide inducing. I don't know a single member of my class who has even the slightest inclination to donate a cent to GW. And that's true of +90% of the GW grads I meet and talk to about this.
I didn't finish college. I decided after my first semester to go into the military. This was 1984. I retired from the military in 2004 and have continued my successful life and am working in D.C. In those years, I managed to accumulate some college credits along the way, but with two wars and numerous deployments world-wide, I never finished my degree. Here's what I see now... I just quite a six-figure job I had for two years working as a contractor, in order to take a more secure government job making about $21K less. My point? If you are young and starting out, you have a good option if you can't afford college (aside from trying to pick the most expensive one then complaining about the costs), go into the military. With it's education incentives, it's worth it. I didn't take advantage but I grew up in a different era. Education was not as important then as it is now. Luckily, I get by with my level of experience, so I can compete for and demand a six figure salary based solely on my experience. If I was ten years younger, I'd need the education to back it up. Long story short, we all hate the "rich kids" who don't have to worry about loans and car payments and tuition costs, nor worry about "do I buy notebook paper or that loaf of bread?". You will be facing them for the rest of your life so you have to learn to see through that. Money is not the key to success, happiness is. Don't pay $50k for a degree if you can't afford it. Employers mainly look at what your degree and experience combination bring to them, not the name of your school.
Sadly, I'm a GW Grad. I was a freshmen in 1993 on a full tuition scholarship. Or so I thought. I don't know what Dana Kittle is talking about.The tuition was not locked in for all 4 years, when I went there. My scholarship didn't increase with the tuition from year to year. I had to pay the difference. I'm not from a wealthy family. I put myself through school. The additional tuition, room and board left me with 40K in college debt.

On top of it all, my degree was in engineering. I promise you, GW is not funneling any money into engineering undergraduate programs. For my major, it's better to go to a state school or a private school that funds its engineering program. I cringe every time I realize I could have gone in-state to Purdue, a top tier engineering school for 3K a year in tuition and 2K in room and board.
I am a second year graduate student at the Elliott School and I can say that I hold no pride in being a GW student.

I received my B.A. from Trinity College in Hartford, CT, a school which is a true academic institution. GW, on the other hand, is concerned solely with dollars and dividends. Recently, they charged me $7 to have a transcript sent from one GW office to another (literally across the street), a task that only took the secretary a click of the mouse. This is just a small example of the sad and ludicrous way that GWU is managed. Administrative officialls are grossly overpaid and the quality of professors is poor. In my now 3 semesters as a graduate student I have had 2 professors I view as quality academics. While at Trinity, I never had to think about poor professors, teaching quality was a top university priority.

I could continue for days. A close friend of mine spent a semester abroad at a top university in Canada, but cannot transfer any of the credits to GW because of the difference in tuition she paid in Canada. GW does not question the academic integrity of the institution, just the price tag. To transfer the credits from her enriching experience abroad she must pay a prohibitive $17,000. How is this just?

The University hospital's MFA is run like an old world empire. If one examines their internal management they'll see that they have expansion and the absorption of other hospitals and medical facilities as a top priority. Howard Hospital was recently conquered! Not to mention, they have $30,000 Microsoft Touch screen computers in their waiting rooms, which serve no function but to allow patients to watch digital fish swim around and to play low-minded games with the touch screen. Investment in health or unnecessary luxury?

I'm sad to say GW is truly a rotting educational institution with a flashy gold veneer; where money and bureaucracy take priority over academic enrichment. It is no wonder why their alumni giving rate is below 10%, noone is proud to be from GW, noone wants to give back. My memory of GW will be like that of the ostentatious individual at the cocktail party who thinks that appearance can compensate for lack of culture and class. I have no plans to give a single cent back to GW, and I look forward to the pleasure of giving back to Trinity College, so that other individuals can receive the quality education I received there.
I think it's fairly easy to reconcile why most of the "angry" GW alums are so, and why there has been little donation. First of all concerning the "paltry 1 billion dollars endowment", it should be noted that GW has a higher endowment than Georgetown, and with its landholdings in the city (as everyone knows the extreme value of dc real estate) land revenue will cause endowments to increase in the future. The reason why giving at GW has been fairly low is that by all accounts, the University was quite frankly shitty during Elliot's tenure from 65-88, and the university from that time, really has no connection to the present school. Although I pay only room and board at the university, I understand the schools biggest downfall is its tuition, and coming from a very middle/lower middle class town I understand 50k is crazily steep for an education. However, I assure you that when my generation (im currently in the class of 2012) graduates from GW, we will be able to donate back to a great university that put us in a position to succeed. I've been accepted to NYU Law as well as Columbia's public policy school and feel like GW's Elliot School played a major role in that. I don't like the rich kid culture at GW at all, but feel it is overstated by many because it is an easy thing to complain about. When it comes down to it GW's defining stereotype to me is more political nerd than rich kid (when someone fairly under the national radar comes to campus like David Plouffe it sells out in exactly the amount of time as when Al Gore and Hilary Clinton come). I am looking forward to donating to the school because I have fallen in love with it, and don't want it to be in the top 10 for tuition in the future, I wish more people had access to GW as it is such a great place to learn and discover.

Last note to the other posters:
I support the adjunct profs' as I think they are mistreated by the university, and as much value in real world experience as they bring, i would still prefer full time profs....

The GW alum who majored in Geography and is upset he is riddled with huge debt compared to his earnings....What do you expect when you only get a Bachelors in a degree with no real career path? That has nothing to do with GW...Geography is a fairly easy major and I don't think another institutions name on a degree in an easy major like geography would really have helped you all that much..

To the poster above me, Trinity Sucks. I'm from right by the school, please don't compare Hartford to DC.

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