Senior housing options to shrink as on-campus housing mandate takes effect

Media Credit: Camille Ramasastry | Hatchet Photographer

Seniors hoping to live on campus next year will only be able to live in South Hall or Greek housing.

Student leaders and officials said the reduced senior housing is part of the fallout from a mandate requiring students to live on campus through their junior year that starts next fall. Students also said that seniors who live off campus could lose touch with their undergraduate community a year before graduation.

Shenkman Hall, International House, The Dakota and 1959 E Street, where some seniors currently live, will house only sophomores and juniors next academic year, and Greek housing, which will be more limited, will be the only on-campus housing for seniors except South Hall.

The mandated housing for juniors will bring in an estimated $2.6 million of annual revenue for the University. The mandate was an idea that the Innovation Task Force – GW’s signature cost-cutting and cost-saving group – floated in 2011.

This year, GW will process the majority of housing applications in April, instead of February as officials did last year, which may give seniors less time to find off-campus accommodations if they do not get a spot in South.

Director of Housing Seth Weinshel said the housing assignments process will be evaluated as the department implements the new six-semester requirement. He said South Hall will be available as a housing option for any fourth-year student who applies for it, and freshmen, sophomores and juniors will be prioritized in other residence halls, Weinshel said in an email.

South Hall is among the priciest residence halls on campus: This year, each resident pays $14,670 to live in mostly four- or five-person units. GW Housing announced in an email sent earlier this week that seniors who want to live there will go through a special application process from Feb. 29 until March 2.

Residence Hall Association President Mike Massaroli said even with nearly 900 beds slated to open up in District House for sophomores and juniors, senior housing options had to be cut back to fit the entire junior class on campus.

“We’re stuck in a position where there’s not a lot of flexibility. It’s a necessary byproduct of the three-year housing requirement,” he said.

Next academic year, GW will not re-lease City Hall, where about 380 students live, after its contract with the building expires later this year. And earlier this semester, GW announced it would remove Greek organizations from International House, where members of some fraternities and sororities have historically been able to live on the same floor. This year, 19 freshmen also lived in International House, due to a lack of housing availability anywhere else on campus.

District House will have affinity suites for student groups with dining and living areas. Seven of those units will be for student groups with 16 members, and seven more will house 20 members.

Massaroli said he thought “the vast majority of seniors who want to live on campus will be able to.”

“I think students will be able to find housing. We live in the middle of Washington, D.C. There’s tons of options to live off campus,” he said.

Officials must also consider the size of the incoming freshmen classes when allocating space on campus.
Officials said they plan to enroll between 2,500 and 2,600 students to the Class of 2020, a potentially slight increase to the 2,574 students they enrolled in the Class of 2019. Last year, GW accepted ​45 percent of applicants to the Class of 2019 in an attempt to increase the size of the incoming freshman class by 150 to 200 undergraduate students.

RHA Director of Hall Development Carlee Russell said the lack of on-campus housing for seniors likely won’t be a big concern because many seniors choose to live off campus anyway.

She said it still “should be a University concern” to ensure off-campus residents still feel a part of the GW community and seniors will lose the benefits to living on campus.

“The fact that you have FixIT for every request, or somewhere to go if you lose your key, and just the location being so close to classes, is awesome,” she said. “There’s a certain standard of living that you won’t necessarily get living off campus.”

Last month, GW selected a broker to look into selling the Hall on Virginia Avenue, where graduate students were promised a housing option close to campus several years ago.

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