Living in Washington, D.C., presents nearly-unlimited opportunities that too often go unappreciated by Georgetown University students. Bound by the ties of classes and clubs, we find ourselves wondering whether a trip into the District is worth the time and money.
This problem can be simply addressed: The university should join the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s U-Pass program, providing fully subsidized Metro cards for all full-time undergraduate and graduate students.
Students at participating universities — which include American University and schools with programs in D.C., such as Syracuse University and Carnegie Mellon University — receive unlimited rides on WMATA’s Metro and bus lines at no additional charge. In exchange, Georgetown would pay one dollar per student per day during the academic year.
Affordable transportation would provide students with much-improved access to D.C. Georgetown is already isolated due to its lack of a Metro stop, but enrolling in U-Pass would actively encourage students to take advantage of the Metrobus or venture to the Rosslyn, Va. or DuPont Circle Metro stops, easily accessible by bus through the Georgetown University Transportation Shuttle.
Georgetown understands the importance of getting off campus — or, at least, it recommends the practice.
The “Campus Life” section of Georgetown’s website encourages students to “visit museums, theaters, concert halls and famous monuments and landmarks.” The university adds, “Students also do community service in the city and hold internships at numerous nearby cultural and civic institutions.”
Students who wish to work and serve in D.C. can reasonably expect Georgetown’s support. Helping students overcome cost barriers is well within the purview of a university that advertises its location during tours, on its website and as a characteristic that sets it apart from academically comparable options.
American, which hopped on board soon after U-Pass launched in the fall of 2016, saw widespread student participation. Its program, open to all undergraduate and graduate students not enrolled online or studying abroad, saw a 90 percent participation rate, according to The Eagle, American’s student-run newspaper.
Georgetown’s opposition to joining U-Pass centers on tuition-related concerns.
“Because UPass requires enrollment of all students — whether they use pass or not — and is typically funded by adding to students’ tuition bills, Georgetown does not participate in UPass,” Rachel Pugh, the university’s senior director for strategic communications, wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Instead, Georgetown has invested in free GUTS buses connecting our campuses with the Metro system, free SafeRides, and discounted fees for bike sharing programs.”
While these transportation options each serve an important purpose, none of them provide enough financial security for students interested in interning or exploring other aspects of the Washington-metropolitan area. While Georgetown provides buses to Metro stops, one round-trip on the rails runs in the area of $5. With a U-Pass, this same price tag covers an entire week of unlimited travel on both bus and subway.
Further, the university need not worry about increasing tuition. When American entered into its U-Pass partnership, the cost of attendance cost of attendance was not raised, according to its website. Instead, U-Pass was included in financial aid packages, and American included the service — which costs $136, based on the university’s schedule — in its “estimated cost of transportation.” Georgetown could pursue a similar remedy by allocating some money formerly used for GUTS into a budget for U-Pass benefits.
WMATA has expressed a continued interest in working with Georgetown on a U-Pass partnership.
“Metro has had conversations with Georgetown University about the U-Pass program and how Georgetown students may benefit,” WMATA spokesperson Sherri Ly wrote in an email to The Hoya. “We are open to continuing discussions with the University about opportunities to give the Georgetown community affordable options that encourage transit ridership.”
The Hoya’s editorial board is composed of six students and is chaired by the Opinion Editor. Editorials reflect only the beliefs of a majority of the board and are not representative of The Hoya or any individual member of the board.