Georgetown University President Dr. John DeGioia, along with his counterparts Dr. Ángel Cabrera from George Mason and Dr. Steven Knapp from George Washington, addressed members of the Economic Club of Washington, D.C. Wednesday morning. The panel, moderated by the Economic Club’s president David Rubenstein, discussed the current state of higher education in the United States, with the panelists sharing experiences from their own universities and the problems many institutions of higher education face.
The group discussed a wide range of issues, including those surrounding the college application process like university rankings, standardized testing, financial aid, and racial and socio-economic diversity.
During the discussion on financial aid, DeGioia stated that, although the total cost of attending a private university is around $60,000, 55 percent of students are on financial aid, and the school’s admissions process is need-blind with a commitment to meet full financial need. According to DeGioia, the university provides more than $110 million in undergraduate scholarships every year.
The panel also discussed problems in higher education such as issues with educational access, cost, and a decline in funding of public higher education along with concerns about student well-being with problems like drug and alcohol abuse and sexual assault.
“Every case is a tragedy, and what we try to have in place is a safety net to catch our students at risk and to recognize and address the challenges,” DeGioia said about sexual assault on campus. President Knapp added that all three universities have increased training sessions at orientation in an effort to eradicate sexual violence, something Knapp said would not have happened ten years ago.
Additionally, the panel discussed the concerns of their graduates including employment outcomes and rates of graduate and professional school attendance.
According to President DeGioia, 15 percent of Georgetown graduates attend graduate school immediately after attending graduate school, and about one in four Georgetown students stays in the D.C. area upon graduation.
During the panel, the university presidents also discussed their own professional paths. “I was minding my own business as a graduate student in 1982,” DeGioia said of the moment when Father Timothy Healy asked him to be his assistant. “I did not know I was making a vocational decision.” DeGioia said that he was “surprised as anybody” upon being given the opportunity to become the first lay president of Georgetown whose 47 previous predecessors were all priests.
The conversation ended with the presidents offering advice to incoming freshmen. “The most important that happens during an undergraduate’s career is they engage in the work of formation: the formation of their intellect, the formation of their heart, the formation of their soul,” said DeGioia. “The idea of the university is that the best way to frame the work of formation, in our context, is around knowledge…and the best guidance for that are our faculty and then their conversations with one another.”