Upperclassmen need cheaper housing options

As a rising sophomore, it seems exciting to plan for housing next academic year. After not knowing much about residence halls when applying for housing before freshman year, choosing which friends to live with and where is appealing. But after looking at second-year housing plans, I realized the options were more expensive than I had anticipated.

Officials released the 2017-2018 housing rates last month, and the general application period for rising second- and third-year student housing is quickly approaching. A Thurston Hall quad room – like the one I live in now – will be $8,500 per year, and the cheapest second-year option will be a room in West Hall on the Mount Vernon Campus for $10,530. The jump between how much freshman housing and sophomore housing costs poses a problem for me, and I’m sure it does for other students too.

The University should offer a housing option similar in price to Thurston Hall for upperclassmen. Because students don’t have a choice but to live in GW residence halls for three years, the University should consider converting existing residence halls into more affordable buildings for upperclassmen who can’t afford places like Philip Amsterdam Hall or District House.

GW is one of the most expensive universities in the country, but ironically, one of the reasons I chose to come to GW is because I received a generous financial aid package. By choosing to live in a Thurston quad, GW’s cost of attendance was the most affordable of any school’s I was accepted to. But since my options for housing are more expensive next year, GW isn’t as affordable as it once was. I probably should have looked up the housing costs for upperclassmen students before deciding on GW, but I assumed the University’s decision to accept a student with financial needs meant departments would continue making sure every aspect of campus life was affordable for students like me.

Of course, my story isn’t the same as every other student’s. A recent study revealed that 70 percent of students come from families with the top 20 percent of household incomes, and only 2.5 percent of students come from the bottom 20 percent of household incomes. So to some students, the jump from my Thurston room to West Hall might not be substantial. But for students like me, a $2,000 difference makes GW unaffordable.

Upperclassmen residence halls tend to be more expensive because of the amenities they include – like private kitchens and bathrooms – but students don’t necessarily need those extras. At many universities in the U.S., students go four years without a private bathroom or kitchen. While entirely communal spaces may not be ideal, students should not be left with only private options. If GW offered cheaper upperclassmen housing, students who can afford extra amenities would most likely choose them, and students like me could choose basic housing options.

Additionally, the University’s fixed tuition policy can be misleading for students deciding if they can afford the University. GW’s website says, “While you’re juggling classes, internships, student groups and #OnlyatGW moments, you can take comfort in knowing that we’ve taken the guesswork out of financing your education.” After carefully reading the entirety of the emails sent to me from the University over the summer before my freshman year, I understood that the fixed tuition policy only applies to tuition. But perhaps if someone hadn’t read more, or looked into the fine print, students could be led to believe that they would pay the same cost of attendance for all four years, when in reality, their housing costs continue to rise.

For students who have to critically consider how they’re going to finance an education at GW, a variety of housing options should be available to students for the three years they are required to live on campus – not just the first.

Rachel Armany, a freshman majoring in journalism, is a Hatchet opinions writer.

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