Officials to expand needs-based scholarships – The GW Hatchet

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Officials are launching a “targeted initiative” to make GW more affordable for Pell-eligible students with scholarships and scholarships implemented over the next few years.

Donna Arbide, vice president for development and alumni relations, said officials launched a fundraising initiative earlier this month to increase the financial aid budget for students eligible for Pell d ‘about $ 2 million each year to fund grants, loans and studies as needed. packages. She said officials planned in February 2019 to announce a full fundraising campaign around GW’s bicentennial celebrations, but postponed those plans due to limited alumni relations staff, the COVID pandemic. -19 and upcoming changes to the management of the University.

She said officials are delaying the implementation and development of a major fundraising campaign until GW establishes a strategic plan and vision that can align with the campaign. Officials suspended the formation of GW’s next strategic plan when the pandemic struck.

“It’s the hope, it’s that it would be part of one of the pillars of a global campaign,” Arbide said in an interview.

Arbide said the initiative – called “Open Doors: The Centuries Initiative for Scholarships and Fellowships” – is part of a new, broader commitment to make GW more affordable for low-income people students.

“Having a strategic plan drives all parts of the business, enrollment management, fundraising, academic priorities,” she said. “So this is something that we all have to come together and agree on and start building. So I’m definitely going to be a strong partner in this area, so that we can prepare for a major campaign and storytelling initiative. “

The new fundraising pledge comes as the University restructures its administration. Mark Wrighton will replace University President Thomas LeBlanc on January 1, and Interim President Chris Bracey took over this summer to replace Brian Blake, who left the University in June.

“The increased financial aid budget is initially funded by the University and recent philanthropic donations, with the hope that philanthropy will be the main source of long-term funding,” officials said in a statement. earlier this month.

A spokesperson for the University declined to comment on how long the Open Doors initiative will be in place and how much money officials have provided in direct financial grants to Pell-eligible undergraduates in recent years. She also declined to say the size of the current financial aid budget for students eligible for Pell scholarships.

Arbide said she plans to work with the deans, provost and other university leaders to conduct outreach activities with alumni and expand the university’s donor base. She said officials had not implemented any layoffs in her department, but kept positions open for nearly 70 staff after they retired or left to work in other organizations last year. as part of efforts to mitigate the financial impact of the pandemic.

“As more positions have opened up, we just haven’t filled them so that we don’t have to fire anyone,” she said. “So that was a good part of what we did, was that we just toned down through open positions, and now we’re starting to prioritize and fill those positions now. “

Arbide said a major fundraising campaign would also require an increase in staff. She said officials are working to rehire staff from the Development and Alumni Relations Division as the University continues to emerge from the pandemic.

The University celebrated the completion of its last major fundraising campaign in May 2017 under the leadership of former University President Steven Knapp, a three-year campaign that raised $ 1 billion through donations from alumni and community members for scholarships and new teachers.

After officials announced GW’s planned bicentennial fundraising campaign, they began laying the groundwork for the initiative in November 2018 with outreach targets to reach 16,000 past donors, retaining 64% of all. donors and require each staff member to meet with 150 donors each year. .

GW’s total fundraising fell about 17% between FY2019 and FY2020 and only recently started to stabilize, dropping from $ 102.5m in FY2020 to $ 105m. dollars in fiscal year 2021.

Higher education experts have said officials may find it difficult to push forward the finance initiative under interim presidential leadership, but they should also focus on supporting these students with specialist advisers and counseling offices. support for students eligible for Pell.

Richard Richardson, professor emeritus of higher education at New York University, said interim leaders tend to play a limited role in long-term initiatives and strategic planning, which could make it difficult to implement. implementation of a new fundraising campaign by those in charge.

“Some of the problems facing the institution need to be solved by perhaps new ideas and new people, and interim leaders may be the people who can do it,” said Richardson. “But the interim leaders are really limited in what they can do, so it seems to me to be quite courageous of them to come forward with this idea at this point.”

Richardson said the amount of the Pell Scholarship – which stood at $ 6,495 for the 2021-2022 award year – likely wouldn’t make a difference in how accessible GW is to low-income students. He said officials should work “substantially” to ensure funding for the new initiative is complete.

“It would not start to cover the tuition and attendance fees of an institution like GW,” he said.

Matt Diemer, a professor at the School of Education at the University of Michigan, said that while the Open Doors initiative may help expand GW’s financial access to Pell grant recipients, it may not cover the costs of all the services necessary to ensure a quality university experience.

“The Pell Grants are great, and no one will object, but it’s not a quick fix,” Diemer said. “Only the increase in support for the Pell scholarships seems to be a step in the right direction, but it must also be accompanied by other supports: recognizing the culture of the campus, having student support offices, other types of things. which are necessary to help students be successful. “

He added that the university could risk retaining Pell-eligible students without additional help, such as counselors and support desks.

“We’ve been down this path many times before, where the institution recruits diverse students and doesn’t support them,” Diemer said. “Then the students don’t succeed and aren’t satisfied, and it’s kind of a lose-lose all around. “

Henry Smith, alumnus and assistant professor of education at Johns Hopkins University, said the university’s ongoing leadership changes could also be an opportunity for officials to restart their fundraising and fundraising efforts. take more drastic measures to help students.

“I think this is the time for leadership and the University to say, ‘Let’s talk about being bold and doing things that we might never do in another situation like this,’ said Smith. “It’s a rare opportunity to do something like this.”


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