Fee waiver policy infuriates students

Some students told GW housing officials and Residence Hall Association leaders this week they are unhappy with the University’s decision to discard the residence hall lottery fee waiver.

“I run into walls,” first-semester senior Aaron Albright said at a Tuesday meeting with Community Living and Learning Center representatives and RHA members. “I’m worried I’m going to be homeless for the rest of the year.”

In previous years, the University waived the $300 deposit that must be paid to request GW housing for students in financial need. The waiver gave financially strapped students longer to come up with necessary funds.

Administrators announced this fall that GW would no longer grant the waivers, said Mike Walker, senior assistant dean of students. He said at Tuesday’s meeting that many students have come to him recently with unique situations, but none have been granted a waiver.

Albright said the fee waiver was his only chance to get a room in a University residence hall.

“There has to be a way for students with extraordinary problems to get help,” he said.

GW administrators sent a letter to students and parents about the policy change last November, Walker said.

“We wanted to give students as much warning as possible,” he said.

Albright said the letter gave him a reasonable amount of time to prepare for the payment. But he said extreme circumstances prevent his family from paying the fee by Friday’s deadline. He also said University administrators gave no indication that they would pull the fee waiver before the letter was sent.

Students who do not include a deposit with their intent-to-return forms will not be given housing for the fall, Walker said. He said students who cannot afford the deposit by the deadline can secure a spot on the waiting list if they pay the fee before April. But Walker said students should try to raise the funds by Friday.

“If I were a student, I’d do everything within my means to scrape up the $300 to reserve housing for the fall,” Walker said.

Albright said he does not think he will be able to afford the fee by April.

RHA President Justin Lavella said he has asked the administration to reinstate the waivers for a long time. This year, some students did not budget for the fee because they did not expect the change, he said.

“This year was the critical year,” Lavella said.

Administrators suggested students seek financial aid for emergency loans. Albright said those loans require that students repay the loan in one month. He said he will be unable to do that.

Administrators in the Office of Student Financial Assistance were unavailable for comment.

Lavella criticized the University’s method of disseminating information about the fee waiver because he said the letters should have expressed more urgency to students who were unable to pay the deposit in the past.

“(Public relations) was handled horribly,” he said. “They should have handled the situation better.”

-Matt Berger contributed to this report.

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