The RHA Senate passed a resolution Tuesday in support of a mandatory student fee to cover unlimited Metro rides for on-campus residents during the 2017-18 academic calendar. The proposed fee, which would amount to $260 a year, mirrors a similar pilot program recently enacted at American University. While this editorial board understands the financial burden increased fees can place on the student body, we believe the net monetary and logistical improvements facilitated by this proposal outweigh its risks.
This university regularly touts its proximity to Washington when recruiting potential applicants, and for good reason. Our nation's capital provides unparalleled opportunities for employment in both the public and private sectors, spurring much of the student body to commute to various internships in the greater D.C. area. Some majors require these internships, or offer experiential classes, but at the cost of public transit. As a result, many students already pay large out-of-pocket Metro costs, with transportation prices at peak rates potentially surpassing $100 a month. The proposed subsidized metro fee would mitigate these expenses, rendering trips far more affordable for current D.C. commuters. Additionally, the universal fee would allow an even greater number of students to seek valuable professional experience in the city, including many who were previously deterred by prohibitive costs. The initiative would also decrease the student body's collective environmental footprint, as a similar program at American University could prevent over 400,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year.
This initiative might not benefit all students. Individuals who do not need to use public transportation to Washington would not be allowed to opt out of the program, saddling some with unnecessary expenses for access to transportation they may not use. The program would only apply to on-campus residents, leaving many students living off-campus to deal with the same current pricey commuting costs. Though fee waivers would still apply for students with financial need, this editorial board encourages the university to explore an avenue for those who don't anticipate making trips into the city to opt out of the fee as well.
Despite inevitable drawbacks, a universal student Metro fee would be beneficial to this university's overall welfare. The incentives are clear, the disadvantages are limited and a precedent has been set by over 200 universities nationwide. It's time this university climbed aboard.