Trent Hagan: Give students five days before charging for housing

Moving out of your college dorm should be a time for celebration. It is a marker of a student’s transition and signals a newfound independence.

And what better way to celebrate such a momentous milestone than with a farewell fee from the University?

But it is also a hard-to-plan decision that often prompts students to hedge their bets by applying for on-campus housing too.

Once housing assignments are released, upperclassmen sometimes aren’t placed in rooms with their desired roommates or in their top housing choices.

Traditionally, students in this situation were given the opportunity to change one’s mind and drop their housing assignments, penalty-free.

But last week, the University finalized its decision to eliminate this already short window of opportunity, and will instead impose an automatic $350 fine on any student who chooses to drop his or her housing assignment.

Director of GW housing programs Seth Weinshel told The Hatchet the new policy is designed to counter the unnecessary housing waitlist inflation GW has seen in recent semesters.

But this should not be the case for upperclassmen who don’t receive their first-choice housing or who aren’t placed with their desired roommates.

Students who get their first, second or third choices for housing might still be justified to want to live off campus if they don’t end up placed with the friends they applied to live with.

I sympathize less with those upperclassmen who do receive their preferential housing arrangements, only to cancel before moving in. Last year alone, there were nearly 100 such cases reported.

Instead of imposing a fee on all juniors and seniors who opt out of their assigned housing arrangements, only those who ended up receiving their first choice should be charged.

Ninety percent of third and fourth-year students received one of their top-three housing choices, University spokesperson Michelle Sherrard said. But the number of students who are placed in a requested dorm and are also placed with their roommates drops to 60 percent of housing candidates, Weinshel said.

Residence Hall Association President Matt Galewski said he believes the fee is tailored to the best interests of the student body – not those of the administration. In October of last year, the RHA general body voted to support the policy change.

“The point of this policy is not to generate revenue, but to make the process fairer – something from which we would all benefit,” Galewski said.

But do all juniors and seniors really “benefit” from such a hard-line tactic?

I doubt it. Students still deserve the flexibility to decide between on-campus and off-campus housing once they have all the information about their options; the fee diminishes that freedom to choose. Such a strict policy prohibits students from making completely informed decisions about housing after they find out about roommates and placement.

My friends often ask me if I plan to live on campus during my junior and senior years. I don’t yet have an answer. But whatever my decision may be, I hope it will be made on my own accord and not in response to a fear of an unmerited penalty.

Trent Hagan, a freshman majoring in political science, is a Hatchet columnist.

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