The University touts its location near Capitol Hill, the National Mall and world-renowned museums. But most of these attractions are not within a convenient walking distance from campus.
While many students travel off campus for internships or to explore the city every day, the cost of transportation can quickly add up.
Students enrolled at all D.C. colleges must utilize public transportation at some point during their college years, but some students don’t face as large of a financial burden because of the University Pass program. The option gives students access to the Metro for $1 a day on the condition that the pass is purchased by the entire student body. Students at GW advocated for GW to join the program for years, and recently reactivated the efforts by asking for an opt-in version of the program.
In the past, students have pushed for a blanket University Pass system that would result in each student paying an additional $250 on top of their tuition regardless of if they wanted or would use the University Pass Metro cards. But the opt-in method that is currently being discussed is the best plan for students because if they believe that they won’t use Metro services that often, it is unfair to make them pay for it.
When GW initially shot down joining the University Pass program, officials said they were not comfortable tacking on costs to tuition for a program not all students will utilize. But now that students are asking for an opt-in program, it solves that problem by allowing students to decide whether they pay for the service, and the University should support students in their efforts.
Students will likely face challenges while advocating for this program because the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority stated that the option is not ideal for them. WMATA officials said the program is not beneficial for the organization because the only way it can make money off the steep discount is to apply it to a mass number of students, but this doesn’t mean that students or the University should give up on this conversation.
The University has purchasing power in this decision and if officials stand behind students who are pushing for an opt-in program, they could have more sway in convincing WMATA to establish an opt-in program.
An unlimited Metro pass for students would have numerous benefits for students and the University as a whole. GW has pushed for years to become more environmentally friendly – working to become carbon neutral and cut water consumption – and giving students a free, unlimited Metro pass would help the University achieve its goals because public transportation reduces greenhouse gas emissions and improves overall air quality.
In addition to the environmental benefits, the program would also provide significant benefits to the student body. Many students take unpaid internships or opt to volunteer around the District during their time at GW, but transportation costs can make taking an unpaid job even more of a financial burden for students. By giving students a free way to get to these obligations, the University would enrich the student experience at GW and allow all students – regardless of financial situation – to capitalize on the opportunities that make GW so attractive to incoming students in the first place.
Implementing the University Pass at GW is something that students have said they want. GW should listen to its students and now that they have suggested an option that mitigates the University’s concerns, GW should use its power to lobby for students and get them a program that would provide numerous benefits.
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, contributing social media director Zach Slotkin, managing director Elise Zaidi, sports editor Barbara Alberts and culture editor Lindsay Paulen.