Georgetown, like many other universities, has scaled back on-campus housing amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. A limited number of single bedrooms are being offered to first-year students, some resident assistants and students with special circumstances — including those enrolled in certain academic programs and students with family situations that what would make it difficult to continue school away from campus.
Students who live on campus will pay the full $28,692 in tuition for the semester but will be charged a lower double-occupancy rate for housing instead of a pricier single-occupancy rate, leaders said. Housing and dining fees will also be slashed by 20 percent to account for a shorter-than-normal semester. Students will take a combination of in-person and online classes for most of the semester — which begins Aug. 26 — and then shift to remote learning the week of Thanksgiving.
The discount applied to housing and dining will vary by student but will hover around $2,000.
Officials said all undergraduates will be given a 10 percent tuition reduction if public health concerns prevent students from returning to campus before the start of the semester.
“We recognize the significant investments students and families make to pursue a Georgetown education,” Provost Robert M. Groves and Geoffrey S. Chatas, senior vice president and chief operating officer, said in a letter sent to undergraduates. “We continue to minimize tuition increases, and we maintain our deep commitment to attracting the most promising students regardless of their financial circumstances.”
The announcement comes amid a budget crisis that has hit nearly every college and university throughout the country. In May, Georgetown shared plans to suspend contributions to employee retirement plans, introduce a voluntary furlough program and halt some construction as it prepared to enter the academic year with a $50 million shortfall.
But the decision to slash tuition can be credited, in part, to students who pressured the administration to make concessions for those who will spend much of their time in online classes and away from their peers, which they call the virtual opposite of the traditional college experience.
Jackson Butler, a rising Georgetown senior studying finance and accounting, wrote a petition last month urging the university to lower tuition. He promoted the petition on social media and persuaded roughly 2,000 other students to sign.
“Once your experience is being vastly diminished, you expect the cost, the value to be diminished as well,” he said in an interview. “I think it’s a call for other universities to do the same.”
But the university had a different message for graduate students, most of whom can also expect to spend much of their time in virtual classes.
There was no mention of tuition adjustments in a message shared with graduate students Tuesday, but a reminder that fees are due Aug. 21. In an FAQ about the fall semester costs, the campus said the planned tuition cut for some undergraduates recognizes the fact that they are typically offered on-campus housing. Graduate students are not, the university said.
Henry Watson, who is pursuing a PhD in government, said the university’s announcement is emblematic of a culture that places more emphasis on undergraduate students.
“The graduate students often tend to feel like an aside,” Watson said. “I do think that it’s unfortunate that there’s a discount being offered to undergraduate students but not graduate students. The experience isn’t going to be the same for anyone.”
Graduate tuition varies by program, but a juris doctorate costs roughly $33,000 per semester. A full-time master of business administration degree is about $30,000 per semester.
The university said faculty members have worked to ensure courses can be taught in person and remotely.
“Because this flexibility has been built into the curriculum, tuition and mandatory fees will not be reduced or subject to refunds even if there is a change in the method of instruction during the academic year,” officials said in the note to graduate students.
Students of all walks of university life have clamored for housing refunds and tuition adjustments since the pandemic forced campuses to close in March, arguing that taking online classes in their parents’ homes was not worth full tuition. University leaders hoped emergency federal funding would have provided relief, but the stimulus package passed in March fell about $36 billion short of education advocates’ expectations. D.C.-area schools received about $65 million for direct student assistance.
Georgetown, which has an endowment of about $1.8 billion, is one of a handful of universities that says it is able to discount tuition for some of its students. Princeton University recently disclosed plans to cut its undergrad tuition by 10 percent, setting the cost of attendance at about $48,500 for the coming school year.
But Georgetown’s D.C. neighbors haven’t budged. American University officials told students a tuition adjustment isn’t possible but offered discounts from 18 to 30 percent on activity fees.
George Washington University in its most recent update to the campus said tuition will remain the same, regardless of the format in which classes are delivered. Howard University leaders shared concerns about being able to afford a tuition reduction.
“While other highly ranked institutions have large endowments and have been able to use them to absorb the unexpected costs of the pandemic, Howard University does not have that same luxury or comparable investment resources,” officials said in a statement. “Howard’s tuition is also significantly lower than comparably ranked universities and the University also maintains a very large financial aid program.”