Students are beginning to consider their housing for the fall, but some upperclassmen may be left paying for on-campus housing they do not want.
Officials increased the on-campus housing requirement from two years to three years in 2013, saying the policy would enhance students’ academics and social life despite students speaking out about the new requirement. Students were right when they first raised concerns about the policy – upperclassmen are forced to buy a housing and meal plan unless they receive an exemption to live off campus.
Two years is a sufficient amount of time to develop a sense of community on campus and find academic success. Adding another year to this requirement is excessive because it deprives students of the freedom to choose their housing for an additional year, which could subject them to higher housing expenses and a meal plan they may not want. Officials want students to live affordably, offering free printing and laundry credits and adding money onto the meal plan. But if administrators really want to make the University more affordable, they should revert back to a two-year housing requirement so students can opt for cheaper housing and leave campus in their third year.
Some students wanted a way out of the housing policy anyway and got creative, making up excuses to qualify for an exemption. Students should not need to fabricate documents to opt out of on-campus housing. Officials should allow students to choose between on- or off-campus housing to ensure they have the option to find cheaper housing elsewhere and allocate their own money toward meals.
Part of the reason students are dodging housing requirements could be because they have already found their sense of community and do not need another year to meet new people in residence halls. Students would have already established a sense of community in their first two years on campus, so an additional year will not likely make their sense of community any better. If so many students are already finding a way to live off campus, the University should make it easier for them to do so by changing the housing policy.
The three-year requirement might be reasonable if on-campus housing was cheaper than off-campus housing. Officials estimate rates are comparable to those of surrounding off-campus housing, but a report last year found that on-campus housing is more expensive than off-campus apartments. Students should not be forced into paying for on-campus housing for three years because of its high cost. Students should have the ability to choose the most affordable option.
Pricier housing is not the only added expense from living on campus – it also includes the meal plan. The University requires all undergraduate students living on campus to buy the meal plan, which ranges from about $3,000 to nearly $5,000 per academic year. Students should be able to decide how they want to spend their money on groceries during their third year, but mandating that they live on campus restricts their dining choices.
The cost of the meal plan, coupled with the cost of housing, forces students to pay more. But some of GW’s peer schools give students more housing options. Ten of GW’s 12 peers – Boston, New York, Northeastern, Syracuse, Tufts and Tulane universities and the universities of Miami, Pittsburgh, Rochester and Southern California – require less than three years of on-campus housing. Many universities across the country have abandoned the on-campus housing requirement altogether. GW should at least lower its requirement to two years to match its peer institutions and eliminate a financial burden for students.
Forcing students to spend more money to live on campus is disadvantageous to students who cannot afford high rates. Administrators should commit to making GW more affordable by reducing the on-campus housing requirement to two years.
Laya Reddy, a freshman majoring in political science and music, is an opinions writer.