Students on campus, and especially the often-overlooked Department of Fine Arts and Art History, will benefit immensely from the deal. The new campus spaces will provide new academic facilities and cultural experiences that will only enrich campus life. There is no doubt that this deal is great news for our university.
But, what’s the catch?
As part of the deal, GW will pay nothing for the Corcoran facility itself. In exchange, the University will shoulder nearly all of the renovation costs, which could range from tens of millions to as high as $130 million. Add into the mix the additional cost of temporarily relocating the college and artwork during renovations, and hiring new employees beyond their extended one-year contracts, GW could be looking at an incredible sum, adding pressure to existing fundraising efforts.
Current campus construction projects already include a $275 million Science and Engineering Hall, $130 million Superdorm residence hall, $75 million School of Public Health and Health Services, and a yet-to-be released pricetag for the demolishing and rebuilding of Square 75A, a commercial office space on Pennsylvania Avenue. The University already has $1.4 billion in debt and is expected to pay $60 million in loan interest this year alone.
These many campus construction projects have continued alongside increases in student costs of attendance. In the past 10 years, the University’s tuition sticker price has climbed 20 percent from $39,260 to $47,343, adjusted for inflation, and continues to be one of the most expensive in the country. The undergraduate financial aid budget reduced by $2 million last year, despite growing concerns from students about how they will pay off an average of $33,399 in college loan debt.
Although new fundraising efforts could perhaps pique the interest of new donors interested in the fine arts, the Corcoran saw a 50 percent drop in fundraising over the last seven years, coupled with a 60 percent drop in visitor flow. Counting on renewed interest, now that many feel the spirit of the Corcoran will be lost in the merger, is risky—and future GW students may end up footing the bill.
It would be ideal if a single or group of large donors will cover the costs of this expansion. Let’s hope a sizeable donation will emerge, much like the $25 million gift from an anonymous donor that is helping fund the new GW Museum and Textile Museum. However, this is, of course, easier said than done.
While the Corcoran expansion will no doubt enrich our campus culture, the large upgrade costs should come from private donors, not further unsustainable tuition increases. With an April 7th deadline set to finalize the details of the Corcoran collaboration, we’ll be waiting to see what the University decides to do.