Even though students swear that living off campus is cheaper than student housing, I had never considered it. Housing at GW comes at a steep price, but I’ve been fortunate enough to have a scholarship that has covered my dining plan and housing fees. As a result, since the beginning of my college career, I had planned on living in residence halls for all four years, which means that I was planning to live in the senior residence hall, South Hall, for the last leg of my college experience. But that changed when I received an email from GW Housing this month.
The email was sent on Feb. 2 to rising fourth and fifth-year students, detailing a timeline for the housing application, housing options and GW’s new roommate system, RoomSync. What caught my eye was that the housing options for fourth- and fifth-year students had seemed to expand. Though the GW Housing website doesn’t state that seniors can live in 2109 F St., the email that was sent out did state that the residence hall was now open to fourth- and fifth-year students. But when I dug deeper, the building wasn’t really available for students in my position.
Although seniors aren’t required to live on campus, the University should be helping its upperclassmen live in cheaper campus buildings when possible. Students often joke that GW is a real-estate company first and a university second because of the steep and rising tuition and housing prices. But not everyone has a housing scholarship and by simplifying the process of allowing seniors to be housed in residence halls other than South Hall – the most expensive residence hall – students could save money and worry less. The current system makes fourth- and fifth-year students pay the highest price when it’s not always necessary. By changing the way this housing system works for upperclassmen, GW would show, in a small sense, that they’re conscious of the expense and stress that goes with finding a place to live.
While I was looking at the details in the email from GW Housing, I noticed something unusual about the application dates. In the housing process, students can rank different residence halls based on their preferences. Both roommate preferences and housing preferences help determine where students are placed. My friend and I wanted to apply for 2109 F St. as our first choice – with South Hall as our second choice – but we quickly realized there was no way to do that. To apply for 2109 F St., which counts as general housing because the residence hall holds primarily sophomores and juniors, my friend and I would have to apply between April 2 and 6. Meanwhile, to apply for South Hall, we’d have to apply between Feb. 20 and 22.
I was confused because I thought that I’d have the opportunity to put both residence halls on my preference list. After contacting GW Housing and asking them to clarify the situation, they said I actually couldn’t apply for both residence halls. GW Housing explained that because 2109 F St. is primarily for sophomores and juniors, seniors wouldn’t be a priority and that my friend and I might not get housed in the hall. We were encouraged to apply for South Hall instead, because it is specifically for seniors, and were told that we had a higher chance of living there than 2109 F St.
Essentially, while the University allows fourth- and fifth-year students to apply for the Mount Vernon residences – Merriweather Hall and West Hall – and Foggy Bottom’s 2109 F St., my friend and I would need to have an apartment as a backup if we chose to do that. So instead, due to the housing application deadlines, we are now reluctantly applying for South Hall as that is our only realistic option. But this isn’t just a problem for us – other fourth- and fifth-year students in similar situations want to live on campus, but are forced to shell out more of their finances or scholarship funds than necessary. I’m sure that students would be willing to live in smaller residence halls to save money. If I’d been able to live in an underclassman residence hall, I could save almost $5,000 a year. For the 2018-2019 academic year, students in South Hall will be paying $19,150 per year with the new meal plan, while students in 2109 F St. would be paying $15,200 per year with the meal plan. If there’s a vacancy in 2109 F St., seniors should be placed there.
Rising fourth- and fifth-year students should be contacted by the University – after underclassmen receive their housing notifications – if there is a more affordable residence hall available. By having a real chance of being placed in these lower-priced residence halls, students might be encouraged to live on campus throughout their college experience instead of looking for an off-campus apartment after their junior year.
Of all the things that students could worry about during their college career, housing shouldn’t be one of them. While South Hall will be my home for my senior year, I don’t think I’ll forget what could’ve been, and what I could’ve saved every time I walk past 2109 F St. just down the block.
Renee Pineda, a junior majoring in political science, is The Hatchet’s contributing opinions editor.
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