Regarding the April 14 WP Magazine article “One Percent U?”:
I was able to attend and graduate in 2010 from George Washington University only because I received substantial financial aid. During my time there, yes, I saw excesses. But never did I ever see anyone having “bottle wars” to drink the most Veuve Cliquot, much less feel ostracized because of my lack of wealth.
What I saw were deeply committed and passionate future lawyers, doctors, politicians, economists and humanitarians. Students were more likely to be ridiculed for lacking an opinion on national policy than for lacking a Gucci purse. GW was a haven, not for the super-rich but for students who were outgoing, relentless and mindful of the impact they could make on the world.
Sophie Zavaglia, St. Louis
Yes, it is disturbing what some parents will let their kids spend at George Washington University, but these instances are not the norm. I had a classmate my freshman year who wouldn’t even speak to me (he came from a very wealthy family, liked to show it off and judged those who didn’t share his background). That said, I realized right away that he was not worth my time.
My true friends from GW are the salt of the earth, as are their families, and that part of the story should not be neglected. As the article mentioned, many GW students are from lower- and middle-income families. They work and go to school, and they are what make the university tick.
David R. Mann, Washington
I was taken aback to read Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, the former president of George Washington University, state so dismissively of prospective students who can’t swing GW’s tuition, “There’s no sin in going to another institution. I would like to drive a Ferrari, but I can’t.”
Where is the message of economic inclusion?
A college education is not a luxury automobile. An education from a school like GW can change working- and middle-class students’ lives in profound ways. Consider the disparate economic impact of the Great Recession on college-educated workers and high school graduates today. So, too, can wealthier students be enriched and learn from students with dissimilar backgrounds.
Leaders of our preeminent universities should recognize the importance of economic diversity and present a welcome message to all students, not shoo those of lesser means from the “Ferrari” showroom.
Mark P. Nevitt, Norfolk
I chuckled when I read the Magazine article on the student wealth disparity at George Washington University. In 1980, I was a middle-class freshman at GW, putting myself through college with financial aid, including loans. Tuition was $3,700, by far the lowest of private D.C. universities. My roommate came from a decidedly upper-middle-class background. He arrived in August in a stretch limousine that his parents rented to transport his effects from National Airport to our dorm.
One evening after the Thanksgiving holiday, we were waiting for an elevator at the library with other students. One student turned to another and commented on my roommate’s tan. He said he had been in Aruba over the break. I didn’t know what or where Aruba was, but I was confident it was sunnier and warmer than my suburban Philadelphia home in November. There were no Mercedes or Bentleys back then, but we had a fair number of sport cars.
Daniel J. Buzby, Alexandria