University considers requiring on-campus junior housing

A University task force is exploring mandatory on-campus housing for juniors as part of a broader effort to raise revenue through residence halls.

A subset of the Innovation Task Force, which identifies areas where the University can cut costs and raise money to allocate toward academic programming, hopes to raise $2.6 million through “housing optimization.”

“We’re considering that. We’re considering everything,” Director of Housing Seth Weinshel said of mandatory third-year housing.

As nearly half of GW’s students go abroad, the spring semester sees a significant housing “melt,” Weinshel said. While fall occupancy commonly reaches nearly 99 percent – about 50 to 75 open beds – spring occupancy in residence halls is closer to 95 percent.

“Increasing the occupancy to close to 100 percent will yield the incremental margin [of $2.6 million],” according to a preliminary report distributed at the Innovation Task Force showcase.

The committee, which invited feedback from staff and students at the event Oct. 27, also discussed implementing higher fees for students who decide to study abroad after receiving housing assignments, as well as discounting prices for students who sign longer housing contracts.

Mandatory third-year housing could provide prospective students peace of mind about guaranteed housing and increase the sense of community, Weinshel said. He cited Duke and Brown universities as institutions that require third-year on-campus residency.

Weinshel estimated that between 1,700 and 1,800 out of 2,350 juniors live on campus. The University has 7,200 beds for its undergraduate population.

“We are a residential institution,” he said.

First- and second-year college students are required by District law to live on campus. Nearby Georgetown University may soon require all of its undergraduate students to live in university housing, the subject of an ongoing debate between the D.C. Office of Planning, neighbors and the institution.

More than 700 students were waitlisted for on-campus housing for the 2011-2012 year, a number that dropped as students studying abroad withdrew their assignments, The Hatchet reported in March.

Weinshel later declined to elaborate on potential changes to the University’s housing policy, directing all questions to Dave Lawlor, co-chair of the Innovation Task Force. Lawlor did not return a request for comment.

Students voiced concern about possible restrictions to third-year housing.

“I live on campus, and I love it,” junior Maddie Hendricks said. “But I know that part of why I love it is because I know I have the freedom to live off campus if I wish.”

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