GW students must once again make a gamble choosing to find housing in the District’s tight real estate market or the University’s limited residence hall options.
“Housing is a huge issue at this school,” said Kristin McLeod, a sophomore living in The Aston. “There just isn’t enough space.”
At colleges with suburban or rural settings, students might live on campus for all four years, but many GW students either choose to move off campus or are pushed off because of limited on-campus choices, McLeod said.
Students said they weigh the decision between living on campus or moving off campus using three main criteria: price, convenience and atmosphere.
Students cited pricing as a major consideration in choosing among housing options. Sophomore James Irwin, a Madison Hall resident, said students living off campus get more bang for their buck.
“The cost of living off campus works out to be about the same as living on campus, and off-campus accommodations are much nicer,” Irwin said. “Plus if you have roommates it could be cheaper to live off campus.”
A two-bedroom New Hall quad costs each resident about $7,490 for the eight-month academic year, while the average cost of a two-bedroom Columbia Plaza apartment ($2,300 a month including utilities) costs each resident $6,900 for an entire year if four people live in it, according to Columbia Plaza officials.
Not all off-campus apartments include utility fees in the monthly price, and many apartments, including apartments in Columbia Plaza, do not come furnished. New Hall and all other on-campus buildings come fully furnished, meaning students do not have to buy beds, desks, tables or dressers.
Another factor students moving off campus should consider is that apartment leases usually cover an entire year, requiring residents returning home for the summer to either pay an extra four month’s rent or find someone to sublet the apartment.
“Dealing with the extra months on a lease is a drawback for underclassmen who typically go home for the summer, but it becomes a plus for upperclassmen who want to stay in the city anyway,” Irwin said.
Finding someone to sublet an apartment during the summer should not be problem, McLeod said.
Even if a student sublets a spot in a two-bedroom Columbia Plaza room for two of the four summer months, he will pay less in yearly rent than a student living in New Hall pays for the academic year – $5,720 compared to $6,900.
Financial aid is another consideration for many students deciding between a residence hall and an apartment because most GW financial aid packages cover only on-campus housing, sophomore Mikey Akin said.
Akin, a Dakota resident, said staying on campus is less expensive for him because financial aid pays for his housing.
“That’s what made the decision for me,” he said.
Sophomore Joe Ardito said the convenience of residence halls made his decision to stay on an easy one. He said internet and cable connections, furnishings and independence all factor into residence hall convenience.
On-campus housing is very convenient in terms of location, said Ardito, a Madison Hall resident.
“Madison Hall is at the center of everything,” he said. “It’s in direct proximity to The Smith Center, Funger, Gelman, The Academic Center and the Metro.”
McLeod said only some on-campus residence halls have convenient locations.
“I live in the Aston, which is farther from campus than some off-campus apartment buildings,” she said.
Rebekah Adamek, a sophomore living off campus in a Potomac Park apartment, said she sometimes feels out of the campus loop. But she said GW’s urban setting includes apartment complexes that are so close to campus there is hardly a difference between living on or off campus.
Ardito said furniture in Madison Hall and the building’s ethernet connection are bonuses to living there.
“Ethernet is so much better than using a dial-up modem in an apartment to connect to the internet,” he said. “It’s faster and you don’t tie up your phone line.”
All of the residence halls offer ethernet or cable internet connections, except for the West End, which provides dial-up modems.
Adamek said she enjoys picking out her own furniture for her apartment, and she feels more independent off campus because University policies do not apply.
Living in a residence hall promotes a sense of community, said Akin, who lives in The Dakota.
Ardito said living with other students in residence halls facilitates meeting new friends.
“Community Facilitators hold floor meetings to make us come together, and we keep our doors open to be social,” he said.
Students said some residence halls offer a more detached community experience than others.
McLeod said there is hardly any sense of community in the Aston because the building houses some permanent residents.
“Living in The Aston is basically like living in an apartment,” she said.
Residents in some upperclassmen residence halls such as New Hall and JBKO said students do not socialize much from room to room in their buildings.
Making the decision to move off campus should not be done hastily, McLeod said.
“There are a lot of factors that play into the decision,” she said. “And once you move off, it’s University policy that you can’t get back on.”