The University will offer cheaper residence halls to juniors next year, months after requiring them to spend more money to live on campus.
Third-year students will be able to apply to live in rooms in The Dakota, which has exclusively held affinity housing groups, and Mitchell Hall, which will also be available to sophomores, seniors and transfer students.
The shuffle comes after student leaders urged officials to make on-campus housing more affordable last semester. The University announced last summer it would force juniors to live on campus starting with the Class of 2018, prompting student outcry because residence halls can cost thousands of dollars more than off-campus apartments. The mandate will bring in more than $2 million to the University each year.
Seth Weinshel, director of GW Housing, said last week that those concerns drove his office to open sophomore halls to juniors, which will force some popular living programs out of those buildings.
For years, he said, GW tried to lure juniors to live on campus by offering them the newest properties, which are also the most expensive and fuel the University’s “dorms like palaces” reputation.
“Because some of that choice is going away, [the housing office] needs to be more and we need to be everything to everyone,” he said.
Weinshel said his office was also responding to a report by the Student Association and Residence Hall Association that found last fall that students living in sophomore and junior housing pay about $3,000 more each year than upperclassmen living off campus.
Rising juniors have been drawn to Ivory Tower, with its full kitchens, lounges and basement food court. But quads there cost $12,650 and doubles are priced at $13,800.
Students pay $11,500 for a year in Dakota triples or quads. The hall includes apartment-style rooms and a study lounge on the first floor, decked out with a couch and vending machines.
Mitchell Hall, which offers singles with communal bathrooms for $9,700, is more than 80 years old and has stirred student complaints about leaks, fungus and broken ceilings in recent years.
In another switch, GW will place affinity groups in Amsterdam Hall, which now houses mostly sophomores and juniors. The Focus on Fall Abroad Community, a program that has since 2005 offered Amsterdam quads to students who travel during the study abroad off-season, will move to 1959 E St.
The housing shuffle is one in a series of housing adjustments that GW has made over the last year.
The University moved sophomores into the previously strictly upperclassman Amsterdam Hall this fall once GW began gutting three underclassmen halls to construct the new building known as the “superdorm.” Transfer students were also placed in Mitchell Hall to make room for freshmen in Lafayette.
The $130 million mega-dorm at the center of campus will also make room for upperclassmen now housed in City Hall, which will see its lease expire in 2016. The University agreed to let the lease expire as part of its 2007 campus plan, which promised Foggy Bottom neighbors that GW would work to phase out undergraduate housing far from central campus.
Residence Hall Association president Kyle Webb said the move was part of the University’s commitment to that plan.
“From my perspective, GW is really doing a great job of trying to meet their requirements and fit students’ needs,” Webb said.
In another cost-saving move, students who apply for housing this spring will be able to indicate the room size they would prefer. Weinshel said the old system would try to place a student with one roommate, for example, in a double instead of a quad, even though a four-person room is generally less expensive.
SA president Julia Susuni told GW’s highest governing body in October that students living in on-campus quads pay about $20 more per square foot than students who live in apartment buildings. Plus, residence hall rooms are about 40 square feet smaller.
“GW students are paying more and receiving less when living on campus versus off campus,” she said.
Weinshel said the expenses of building and running residence halls at an urban university justify their prices. The payments cover how much GW shells out for its debt.
“Like everything in life, if you lowered costs on the residence halls, it would mean that you would need to cut something else that the institution already does,” he said. “The cost of doing business in Washington, D.C. is high, and that’s why we just can’t lower it.”
Sen. Omeed Firouzi, U-At-Large, who has criticized GW’s housing policy, said the shuffle would “ensure there will be some cheaper options for students than we initially believed.”
“Having said that, I hope there will still be, as usual, financial help available from the University for students struggling to make ends meet,” he said. Firouzi has proposed that GW allow juniors who receive financial aid to live off campus.
– Brianna Gurciullo contributed reporting.