The Office of Housing Services recently released its guidelines for the housing selection process for the 2004-05 school year. These guidelines represent many positive departures from the controversial plan Housing Services presented to students last year, but officials must still address chronic problems in this year’s housing selection process.
This year, it appears Housing Services stuck to its word and responded to student feedback. First, GW has broken with precedent and will allow students who elected to move off campus to return to on-campus housing. Also, GW will experiment with the idea of co-ed housing, offering the option in the Scholars Village townhouses. GW is also making further moves to expand Greek-letter on-campus housing options by converting at least one Scholar’s Village townhouse for Greek use and by exploring the possibility of having all-Greek floors in University residence halls.
These changes clearly reflect the urgency of the situation in which GW finds itself. At one point last year, GW analyzed the numbers and felt that it would face a serious housing shortage for the 2003-04 school year. As a result, GW pursued the purchase of a new residence hall in Rosslyn, Va. However, when the Intent to Return forms came in, the administration found that a large number of students elected to live off campus. A bed surplus now exists that deprives the University of more than $1 million in revenue. This fact, coupled with the need for GW to come into compliance with the city zoning ruling mandating GW house 70 percent of its undergraduates on campus, forced GW’s hand to make its housing options more desirable so students would opt to stay on campus.
Despite these efforts, GW must do more to alleviate problems still present in the system. One way to make on-campus housing more attractive is to evaluate the rates GW charges for on-campus rooms in comparison to off-campus alternatives. Many upperclassmen will find a cheaper alternative than a room in City Hall or New Hall, which costs more than $9,000 per person per year. By offering more competitive prices, GW would entice many students to remain on campus. Housing Services must also correct the chronic problems plaguing the selection process in general. Because of the litany of issues over the past few years, many students would rather find housing off campus than deal with the frustrating system. Upperclassmen who recall the re-assignment of housing numbers last year and the continual uncertainty over which residence halls would be available for each class may decide to opt out of on-campus housing to avoid similar confusion this year.
Housing services has instituted some promising new changes, but it must not become complacent. If the University wishes to make up for the enormous revenue it is losing by not filling beds, it must provide a product capable of competing in the D.C. real estate market.