The facts about GW's Voluntary Library Gift

As all students know, paying for higher education can be difficult. In addition to tuition, college students are confronted with the costs of housing, food, books, supplies, and other necessities. In college, every dollar counts. Therefore, criticisms frequently arise from students and parents alike regarding the additional fees that many schools charge their students.

At GW, common fees include the Student Association Fee, which is based on the number of credits a student is taking, and the Matriculation Fee for incoming students. In addition to these, students are automatically charged $50 for the university’s Voluntary Library Gift.

First implemented at GW in 1988, the Voluntary Library Gift was designed to provide the school’s library system with supplementary funds. There is a process for students to refuse the donation, but it is applied to tuition bills as a default. This format of automatically adding the donation causes some students to question whether it is truly voluntary.

Josh Pope, a freshman in the Columbian College, said that he does not disagree with the concept of a Voluntary Library Gift. However, he said that it should be “better emphasized that [the donation] is optional and possible to remove.”

Nirav Kumar, a student in the School of Business, agreed with Pope's stance. He noted that the current format of the donation “lacks consent” because students are not freely choosing to contribute. Kumar explained, “people should have the clear choice to opt in or out of it.”

GW Libraries cites that it is common for colleges and universities to impose a mandatory library or technology fee, while GW’s remains optional. However, it is clear that the Voluntary Library Gift is added automatically to increase students' participation.

According to the GW Libraries website, the money from students’ donations is used to cover the costs of projects such as renovations, installing new computers, furniture repairs, and IT upgrades. These initiatives are certainly important to the library and beneficial to GW’s student body. However, the $50 used for the Voluntary Library Gift could also help students cover the cost of everyday expenses.

If students want to remove the donation from their tuition, GW's Student Accounts Office provides a process for eliminating it. Students must log in to GWeb, then access their statement through the link to Student Account eBill. From the eBill site, click View Current Activity, then "explain Voluntary Library Gift." From this page, students are able to decline or accept the donation.

In justifying the donation, GW Libraries emphasizes that it is “a rare opportunity” for students to determine where their money is used "and have a direct impact on a campus department that benefits all students.”

When GW students pay their tuition for the spring semester, they will be able to choose whether to donate to the library system or opt out. If more students become aware that the Voluntary Library Gift is, in fact, voluntary, they will be able to better decide how their money is used.

Originally published on by Stephanie Gemmell on 10.13.2017.

CampusStephanie Gemmell