GW is apartment hunting for at least 500 more beds before this year’s housing lottery, postponed until late March so officials can ensure housing for all students who request to stay on campus.
Many of the 2,500 students who arrived as freshmen in 2001, GW’s largest class yet, will seek campus housing as rising juniors this year. The University is struggling to find housing for them and next year’s freshmen and sophomores, also expected to top 2,000 students each.
With a new 700-bed residence hall scheduled for completion in fall 2004, GW is looking for a temporary fix to accommodate a burgeoning undergraduate population.
“Clearly, in terms of accommodating the projected demand, we are going to need to find some other (housing) option for next year,” said Robert Chernak, senior vice president for Student and Academic Support Services. GW’s undergraduate enrollment has increased by more than 1,800 students since the class of 2003 entered GW.
He said the University has been negotiating with several different housing companies during the last few weeks to find a facility before the spring housing lottery in an effort to prevent a waiting list.
GW is attempting to prevent a situation the school faced two years ago when it confronted a 400-person waiting list following the 2001 housing lottery. The University went on to lease the City Hall and Pennsylvania House residence halls during the summer of 2001.
“We are examining a lot of possibilities,” he noted, stressing that the University is looking outside Foggy Bottom for facilities in the District and Virginia. He said the University would like to comply with the “spirit” of a Board of Zoning and Adjustment ruling demanding GW house students in on-campus facilities or outside Foggy Bottom.
“We won’t stop looking until we find the necessary number of beds,” he said. He added that the University hopes to find one facility to accommodate the shortage of students but that it may end up acquiring multiple housing facilities in a few locations.
“We are one year short in terms of having (the) available (housing) we need,” he said, referring to the 700-bed “Superdorm” residence hall currently under construction on the corner of 23rd and G streets.
“(GW) might be looking for a one-year solution, unless something came along that was a good deal … we might try to negotiate something longer than one year,” Chernak said.
He said facilities acquired this spring could be used for graduate or staff housing in the future after undergraduate housing commitments are met.
He said the One Washington Circle and GW Inn hotels in Foggy Bottom will remain commercial properties.
Chernak acknowledged that GW has known about the need for extra housing since the University admitted the record class of 2005, which included 300 more students than expected.
“You knew you were going to have a bit of a problem when you let in that class,” he said. Chernak said he expects the University will have confirmed facilities by the beginning of March.
The housing selection for juniors and seniors is set for March 30, with sophomores set to pick April 6.
Director of Housing Services Andrew Sonn said he is not involved in property acquisition and added that “we continue to explore options for maximizing housing opportunities for students who want residence hall housing.”
GW had originally planned for students to sign online Intent to Return forms and receive lottery numbers in early February and select housing at the end of that month.
However, while GW officials decided over break to postpone the selection process, Sonn said the school is still considering making ITRs available in mid- to late February.
“We’re still looking over the dates … and seeing if it’s viable (to make ITRs available in February),” Sonn said, noting that he is speaking with University technology officials to ensure that Banner Web is prepared for February due dates.
Residence Hall Association President Emily Naden said GW’s need for additional housing “is news” to the student group. The RHA acts as the student-body liaison to the administration and compiles an annual proposal of housing needs and preferences for the administration.
“GW should not need the beds … based on last year’s trends and allowing for conservative estimates,” Naden said. “It’s interesting who they plan to house (in a new facility).”
Some students expressed concern about the prospect of living in University housing far from campus.
“Under no circumstances could I understand compensating for a mistake by having to commute,” freshman Carmi Arbit said. “What GW needs to do is allow sophomores to live off campus so housing shortages are no longer a concern.”