GW Launches University-wide Scholarship Fundraising Initiative to Increase Support for Undergraduate and Graduate Students

University will also increase the undergraduate financial aid budget by an estimated $2 million annually to enhance aid packages for students who qualify for Pell grants starting with the Class of 2025.

October 4, 2021


On Friday, the George Washington University launched a new fundraising initiative to engage the entire GW community in increasing scholarship and fellowship support for students, Board of Trustees Chair Grace Speights, J.D. ’82, announced during Our Moment, Our Momentum: The GW Centuries Celebration Weekend. The new initiative has already raised funds enabling GW to devote increased support to students who qualify for Federal Pell Grants.

With the culmination of GW’s bicentennial celebration during Our Moment, Our Momentum: The GW Centuries Celebration Weekend, the scholarship fundraising initiative – Open Doors: The Centuries Initiative for Scholarships & Fellowships – lays the groundwork for the university’s third century by strengthening the university’s focus on increasing access to a GW education. The initiative will increase attention on the need for increased support, offer outreach to the broader GW community and coordinate targeted fundraising across schools and colleges.

“This is just the beginning of our work to ensure that GW opens the doors of opportunity for the most talented students around the world. We are making scholarships and fellowships a major fundraising priority to ensure every future leader has the same opportunity,” said Ms. Speights during Saturday’s Bicentennial Bash. “In fact, from Centuries Celebration Weekend registrants alone, from you, we’ve already raised more than $30,000 for scholarships and fellowships.”

In addition to the Open Doors fundraising initiative, the university is making a long-term commitment to increase financial support for students who qualify for federal Pell grants and their families. Beginning with the class of 2025, the university will increase the financial aid budget for students eligible for Pell grants by an estimated $2 million annually to provide enhanced need-based grants, loans and work-study packages that will cover most of the direct costs of a GW education and allow families to avoid parent loans beyond their expected family contribution. The increase in the financial aid budget is initially being funded by the university and recent philanthropic gifts, with hopes that philanthropy will be the principal funding source long-term.

“As one of the first in my family to attend college and as a scholarship recipient myself, I know that affordability and financial aid are major factors for students in choosing a school,” GW President Thomas LeBlanc said. “This fundraising initiative will provide consistent, ongoing support for talented students, making us a stronger university for years to come.”

This year, the George Washington University is providing more than $232 million in direct financial grants to undergraduate students during the 2021-22 academic year. In addition, a portion of recent philanthropic gifts are being used to assist students whose families have been financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The investment is part of the university's ongoing commitment to make a GW education available to qualified and dedicated students from a wide variety of backgrounds. GW’s 2021-22 financial aid investment represents an increase of more than 61 percent since 2011.

 “We know that opening doors for our current and future students is a real priority for our donor community,” said Vice President of Development and Alumni Relations Donna Arbide. “Since 2017 we have raised more than $111M for scholarships and fellowships at GW, and we know that is just the beginning of a major commitment to creating opportunity, reducing student debt and ensuring a strong future for GW. I am thrilled to see the university commit to this coordinated effort on behalf of our students.”

Pell Grants are direct funds available to undergraduate students whose family income falls below $60,000. Award amounts are determined annually by the U.S. Department of Education and are tied both to an individual’s expected family contribution and to their enrollment status.

More students who qualify for Pell grants have enrolled at GW over the past decade. The total number of Pell Grant eligible students at GW has grown by 29.5 percent, from 1,280 students in 2011-12 to 1,623 students in 2020-21.

 “We are excited about this effort and the positive impact this initiative will have on students and families,” Vice Provost of Enrollment and Student Success Jay Goff said. “We need to ensure that our students have access to all the opportunities available to them, and this scholarship initiative will ensure that we open doors to the world-class education that can only be experienced at GW.