Housing rates changes indicate a bigger financial issue

The cost of tuition is the most important factor for many students applying to college. For students applying to GW, they face about a $71,000 cost of attendance – and that figure will continue to rise.

Housing factors into the cost of attending GW. Officials announced last month that they would establish five tiers of housing ranging from $10,120 to $16,400 and will remove the cheapest housing options like Thurston Hall, which cost a mere $9,530. These housing rates might seem like small increases relative to the overall cost of attendance, but a few hundred dollars can be a big sacrifice for students who already struggle to afford GW.

Raising housing costs makes it harder for low- and middle-income students to attend the University, especially considering GW’s relatively high tuition cost. Housing prices should not be going up, they should be going down. The University should work to bring down the cost of housing to make the University more affordable.

The increased housing costs are part of a larger affordability issue at the University. There is no use in pretending – GW never shed its reputation as a school for rich white kids, and its ever-rising cost of attendance proves that administrators do not wish to overcome the reputation in the coming years. In addition to housing, the University is cutting enrollment and fixed tuition. These changes could lead to rollbacks in financial aid and shrink the University’s revenue. Faculty were right about University President Thomas LeBlanc’s plan to cut enrollment – we might as well return to “the days of old, when GW was known primarily as a rich white kids school.”

LeBlanc’s decision to eliminate fixed tuition will drive away students intimidated by the high price tag and further GW’s reputation as a rich school. Especially at a school with such an enormous price tag, the promise of fixed tuition is appealing to low-income students who are assured that prices will not rise and they will be able to attend the school of their choice until they get a degree. Floating tuition presents a threat that the cost of attendance will rise, which discourages lower-income students who cannot afford the potential increase.

Financial aid lessens the burden for some, but the University does not meet full demonstrated need. Earlier this academic year, LeBlanc said he would not leave out the possibility of reducing the amount of financial aid given out to students to make up for the loss from cutting enrollment. By doing so, he would devalue prospective students from low-income households who rely on financial aid to attend school.

GW has a reputation of putting rich students first. We are trying to become a smaller institution with increased tuition and housing rates, which will only exacerbate the issue. The University is on a trajectory to become less diverse and less affordable, which would backtrack issues officials have tried to work toward. Officials have attempted to increase diversity with recruiting trips to urban areas and plans to improve the campus culture. Their reluctance to tell the truth about plummeting diversity rates exhibits a lack of care toward students other than the rich, white kids who have always attended GW.

The issue of diversity on campus has caused a great divide between the administration and its students. If the administration truly wants to change its rich kid reputation, then they should start by addressing the classist policies which have allowed it to persist for so long. But the University is raising the cost of housing instead of bringing it down.

Nicole Caracappa, a freshman majoring in archaeology, is an opinions writer.

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