The University is charging students thousands of dollars more to live on campus than they would pay for comparable off-campus apartments, an analysis by The Hatchet found.
The University estimates that students will pay about the same price for on-campus and off-campus living and requires students to live on campus through junior year unless they receive an exemption or are drawn in a housing lottery. But The Hatchet found that nearby off-campus options are often thousands of dollars cheaper than rooms in at least 14 Foggy Bottom residence halls.
The Hatchet examined the cost and estimated square footage of singles, doubles and quads in residence halls on the Foggy Bottom Campus and three popular off-campus apartment buildings: Varsity on K, Residences on the Avenue and 2400 M Apartments.
To compare off-campus rent costs to GW Housing options, The Hatchet calculated the cost of rent for off-campus apartments for 256 days, or about nine months, to reflect the costs for an academic year.
For Residences on the Avenue, 2400 M Apartments and Varsity on K, utilities are not included in rent. For the Avenue and 2400 M, a one-time amenity fee is required, multiple residents said. These additional costs are not included in the analysis.
Information about amenity fees was not available online for Varsity on K, and the property manager could not be reached for comment.
Here are the main takeaways from The Hatchet’s analysis:
Varsity on K
Apartments at Varsity on K, an off-campus complex located on K Street, include an in-unit kitchen, dishwasher, washer and dryer and access to high-speed Wi-Fi, cable, a game room and a fitness center.
An example one-bedroom unit in Varsity on K offers 565 square feet, and a resident would pay about $10,900 per academic year if they had one roommate. At the same time, an example double in Amsterdam Hall spans about 620 square feet and has one bedroom and a kitchen, costing each resident $16,350 each academic year – about $5,900 more than the off-campus apartment.
A double in Munson Hall, which includes a combined bedroom and living space as well as an in-unit kitchen, spans about 340 square feet – roughly 200 square feet less than the Varsity on K unit – and costs $13,300 per academic year for one resident. Students also have access to free Wi-Fi, an HBO subscription and a gym when they live on campus.
Two-bedroom units at Varsity on K span roughly 840 square feet and would cost a resident $7,812 per academic year if they had three roommates. An example quad in Lafayette Hall spans about the same square footage and includes two bedrooms and a full kitchen, which are connected by a bathroom. The unit costs each resident $11,450 per academic year.
An example quad at The Dakota includes two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a kitchen, spanning a total of roughly 840 square feet. The room costs each resident $14,700 per academic year – nearly double that of the Varsity on K unit.
Residences on the Avenue
Residences on the Avenue, located on I Street, includes access to a rooftop pool, deck and grills as well as a club room, lounge, fitness center and yoga studio.
One layout for a two-bedroom apartment at the Avenue offers about 1,100 square feet and costs a resident about $7,800 per academic year if they have three roommates.
On campus, two similar rooms have less square footage and a higher price tag. An example Guthridge Hall quad includes roughly 700 square feet and costs each student about $11,600 per academic year, while a quad in Shenkman Hall averages about 800 square feet and costs a resident about $15,100 per academic year.
2400 M Apartments
2400 M Apartments, located less than a mile from campus, includes amenities like a rooftop swimming pool, a 24-hour concierge and an on-site Starbucks, but amenity and utility costs are not available online.
One two-bedroom unit at 2400 M, which offers about 1,200 square feet and two bathrooms and would cost a resident with three roommates about $10,300 per academic year.
An example quad in Amsterdam, which includes a living space, kitchen, two bedrooms and two bathrooms, spans about 880 square feet and costs a resident $15,120 per academic year. The unit at 2400 M is about 300 square feet larger and about $4,800 less than the example quad in Amsterdam.
An example Guthridge Hall single, which includes a private kitchen and bathroom, spans about 440 square feet and costs $16,550 per academic year.
A studio apartment at 2400 M, which spans 537 square feet, would cost a resident about $21,000 per academic year – about $4,400 more than the example single in Guthridge.
University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar said officials base GW’s room and board on the “financial needs of the University while keeping costs in line with inflation.” She said for the past “several years,” rates have increased by an average of 3 percent.
Csellar said GW offers students a “variety” of on-campus living options, but officials are aware there are alternatives throughout the District. She said on-campus housing gives students opportunities that they may not experience if they live off campus, like an “engaged” residential community with “ample opportunity to meet new people.”
Csellar said housing rates at GW include electricity, heat, water, sewer, trash removal, internet and cable – which are often not included in off-campus rent.
She added that when comparing housing rates, students should “keep in mind” that GW offers rates based on semester, but off-campus complexes usually offer full-year leases, requiring students to sublet during breaks.
“On-campus living is a great way to prepare oneself for living on one’s own either later during one’s college career, in graduate school or after college,” Csellar said in an email.
She declined to say what feedback officials have heard from students about the costs of living on campus versus off campus and how the University has responded.
More affordable and more amenities
In interviews with 23 students who live off campus, 16 said they chose a nearby apartment because it was more affordable than living on campus or offered more amenities than GW does at the same price.
Senior Pamela Sharma, who lives in Varsity on K, said she found that living off campus offers “significantly more” affordable housing options than on-campus residence halls because her rent includes Wi-Fi and cable costs. She also said she prefers amenities her building offers compared to those at GW.
“HelWell is ridiculously overcrowded all the time and doesn’t have enough machines for the most part, so it’s nice when we want to, we can go and use those amenities,” Sharma said. “We also use other things like the gym or the multipurpose room in our apartment that we can rent out for events.”
Senior Emma Boguski, who lives in a two-bedroom unit at the Avenue with three roommates, said she moved off campus because she and her roommates enjoyed the amenities the building offers, like weekly fitness classes.
“For us, personally, it wasn’t cost, but obviously our parents are more happy paying less money a month for bigger square footage, so they went for it,” Boguski said. “For us, it was really about the amenities and the convenience.”
Parth Kotak, Leah Potter and Ilena Peng contributed reporting.
This article appeared in the January 14, 2019 issue of the Hatchet.