A Student Association referendum that would include Metro passes in student tuition passed in 2016 – only to be rejected by the University. With 73.5 percent of students in support of this change, administrators refused to implement it, claiming it would be unfair to add $250 to students’ tuition bill.
A spokesman for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority said at the time that the group would work with GW in the future should its position change, and the organization may have a vested interest in pushing this program now, as it has seen a decline in young riders. A recent study concluded that since 2016, Metro use has declined by more than 30 percent among people ages 18 to 29.
While this issue has largely sat on the back burner for the past two years, with a new president helming the University and WMATA seeking young users, it is the perfect time for students to revive the discussion about including unlimited Metro passes in students’ tuition.
Two years have passed and under a new leader, students may have the standing to push for this affordable solution again with more success. University President Thomas LeBlanc has spent his tenure thus far vocalizing a focus on student satisfaction and affordability, so students should rekindle the discussion about how to make transportation around the city accessible to all. By implementing a form of discount for students using the Metro, the University can help alleviate transportation costs students face on a regular basis.
When comparing GW to its peer universities, it is the most expensive for everyday costs and the price of transportation is among the main factors contributing to that standing. Getting around the city is a major expense for the GW community, with more than half of undergraduates spending more than $100 per year on Metro transportation, and graduate students spending upwards of $400 a year, according to the report.
Among GW’s 12 peer schools, many in urban environments, including the University of Miami – the institution LeBlanc formerly led – and Boston and Northeastern universities, offer some form of discount to students using public transportation. Only a few miles away, students at American University receive unlimited Metro access included in their tuition that tacks on just $136 per semester. While its location is more secluded than GW’s, the program provides access for all students to take full advantage of internships around the District and explore other opportunities to engage in the community.
GW will always be renowned for its location in downtown D.C. and the unique experiences it provides students. With that in mind, it is disappointing that Metro fees remain a barrier for students to travel off campus. The lack of access creates a dynamic where not everyone has the ability to commute around the city and this can affect students on a social level, but more importantly, it can hinder some students’ career advancement by limiting their access to internships, which remain a critical part of the GW experience. With LeBlanc mentioning affordability and the student experience in multiple settings, it now appears to be a perfect time for the dialogue of Metro cards to once again be the focus of students across campus.
Considering LeBlanc’s emphasis on the student experience, which can be seen in tangible changes including raising the credit limit and increasing the meal plan to fit students’ needs, he may be open to exploring options the University has to alleviate the price of public transportation for students.
With a combination of WMATA seeking young riders and a president focused on the student experience and affordability, now is a crucial time for students to once again seriously advocate for discounted, unlimited Metro access.
Jacob Tafrate, a freshman majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet opinions writer.
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