Staff Editorial: Hello Commonwealth?

Students requesting University housing next year might get a great view of the Potomac, but there is a chance it will be from the other side of the river.

The record class of 2005, with by 300 unexpected incoming freshmen in 2001, has forced the administration to acquire even more housing for next year as this class continues at GW and subsequent large classes arrive. With the Superdorm not set for completion until fall of 2004, officials say a 500-bed shortage is possible next year.

The University is running out of options in Foggy Bottom. Each year, the incoming class is larger than the graduating class, causing a constant shuffle to fulfill the University’s guarantee of four-year housing and the contested city ruling to house 70 percent of undergraduates within campus boundaries and 1,500 outside of Foggy Bottom.

Administration officials said they would not exclude available property as far away as Virginia in their hurried search for housing. The Board of Zoning Adjustment and community will monitor the situation and will not be happy with any new purchases or hotel conversions in Foggy Bottom.

The housing lottery has been pushed from February to early April to give the administration more time to find a property to add to the list of housing choices. Administrators obviously were not planning far enough in advance if they only recently realized they would need to postpone the lottery.

This is the last in a string of examples of the University finding only short-term solutions to long-term problems. Pennsylvania House and City Hall were acquired last year to handle the immediate influx of students, but incoming classes are still significantly larger than graduating classes. About 1,672 students will graduate in 2003 and be replaced by an expected 2,250 incoming freshman. This will create even more bed shortages.

Administrators have known since fall 2001 that the class of 2005 was going to cause housing shortages before the Superdorm is completed. GW has a tentative growth plan to eventually reach 10,000 undergraduates, but every year will be a mad dash to house the new students unless they look more than a year into the future.

GW should look for long-term policy changes to ease the housing uncertainties rather than depend on a less-than-stable housing market every year. With each new building comes more costs and headaches to provide services like security, internet connections, cable TV, furniture and, if a property is outside Foggy Bottom, possibly transportation.

The University should consider policy changes like discontinuing guaranteed campus housing for seniors, which is unnecessary. Seniors should be able to find close, affordable housing if they really need to, especially if GW sticks more tightly to its policy of requiring sophomores to live on campus.

Many seniors do not need to live on campus to get the most out of GW life and choose to move off campus anyway. This is not to say that some will not stay, and housing could still be available to most of those who wish to. This would allow the University to focus on improving services in its current residence hall inventory. It’s not like many applicants are basing their college choice on a four-year on-campus housing guarantee.

As of now, GW’s property juggling act might very well lead to the first undergraduate residence hall in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

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