With cheaper options off campus, GW must make housing more affordable

Going to GW is expensive – plain and simple. One of the most expensive parts of being a student is housing. Whether a student lives on or off campus, the money spent purely on a residence hall or apartment is significant and the prices are only growing.

Housing rates have been steadily increasing by an average of about 3 percent over the past several years and yet the quality of residence halls has failed to improve. GW estimates that students will spend about the same amount on housing whether they live on or off campus, but an analysis by The Hatchet found that GW’s housing is significantly more expensive than even the swankiest apartments near campus. If GW wants to improve student life, it should find a way to reduce the prices of its residence halls or allow students to choose a housing option that fits their lifestyle and budget.

Administrators are fully aware of the fact that housing prices have been steadily rising and yet the quality of residence halls does not seem to reflect the price that students pay. Students are currently required to live in extremely expensive residence halls without assurance from the University that residences aren’t inhabited by cockroaches, mice and mold. Aside from pests and mold, students are often overcrowded in their rooms and experience delays in maintenance services. All of these challenges have forced students to ask themselves: “What exactly am I paying for?”

GW is situated in an expensive city, so it is jarring that living off campus is often cheaper for students. But despite the fact that students can find cheaper options off campus and acquire better amenities, GW has required freshmen, sophomores and juniors to live on campus since 2016.

Requiring nearly all students to live on campus when there are apartments in the area that are a fraction of the cost of a residence hall room is unfair to students and can put a heavy financial burden on individuals and their families.

Aside from the fact that living on campus is unnecessarily expensive, GW also cannot accommodate the growing number of students required to live in residence halls and has been forced to employ measures like adding extra beds to rooms and re-opening a housing lottery that permits juniors to skirt the on-campus housing requirement.

This year, the largest freshman class in recent history began at GW, which means that more students than usual will be required to live on campus for the next three years. Due to this large freshman class, the University can both better serve students and open up its housing by allowing more underclassmen to opt for apartments and save money while doing it.

Furthermore, upperclassmen shouldn’t be forced to live in housing that increases in price each year. This academic year, the cheapest first-year residence hall costs $9,210 per year. But the cheapest option for sophomores and juniors, at $11,620 per year, is only offered in four out of 15 residence halls on the Foggy Bottom Campus. And even if students want to live in the cheaper residence halls, there is no guarantee that their assignment will line up with the preferences they list on their housing application.

Students want affordable and comfortable housing, but that is not an option for every student at GW. While some students can afford the hefty price tags that come with a bed in District House or South Hall, not all students can afford that and they shouldn’t be forced to live in deteriorating residence halls because of it. GW has been improving the quality of newer rooms on campus and will continue the trend with a new space currently in the works, but that isn’t the solution for all students.

When students fill out their housing applications, the University receives data that tells them what students want based on the preferences they select. GW should respond to these desires by creating housing that fits what current students can afford, not just what will look good in a glossy handout for prospective students.

GW is one of the most expensive schools in the country, and growing housing prices illustrate why it’s increasingly difficult to afford the GW lifestyle. Some of GW’s housing decisions are questionable and put a larger financial burden on the students. To solve this problem, the University needs to consider ending the junior housing requirement and focusing on affordable rather than extravagant housing.

The editorial board is composed of Hatchet staff members and operates separately from the newsroom. This week’s piece was written by opinions editor Renee Pineda and contributing opinions editor Kiran Hoeffner-Shah based on conversations with The Hatchet’s editorial board, which is composed of managing editor Matt Cullen, managing director Elise Zaidi, sports editor Barbara Alberts, culture editor Lindsay Paulen and design editor Zach Slotkin.

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