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GWU won’t reveal how much money it retains in students’ accounts after they graduate

Unclaimed cash eventually goes to the Washington city government

The elite private George Washington University does not refund students’ leftover money on their dining cards after graduation, the total yearly amount of which the school is refusing to disclose in spite of multiple queries from The College Fix.

All undergraduate students living in the residence halls on the George Washington University campus are required to participate in the dining program offered by the university every year. Students who have a kitchen in their residence are required to put $3,140 on their “GWorld” card for the entire school year while residents without a kitchen must put $4,891 on the card.

Those funds roll over from semester to semester and year to year. Yet once a student has graduated or otherwise left the university, the cash remains in the school’s coffers. Students can still utilize the funds at local merchants if they continue living near the school, but if they do not use them for a set period of time, the money is surrendered to local government.

The school’s website states: “If no activity has occurred on a Card for a continuous period of more than thirty-six (36) months, D.C. law requires that the remaining balance is deemed abandoned property that must be forfeited to the city government.”

That law holds that “property presumed abandoned shall be reported and delivered to the District” under most conditions.

School won’t say how much money gets left behind

The College Fix reached out to campus administrators to get more information on why students do not have the option of securing a refund for their unused GWorld funds. The GWorld office, which manages the campus card program, refused to answer and instead directed The Fix to their website. The receptionist for that office told The Fix: “You can find all of the information online.”

The campus media relations office did not respond to emails sent by The Fix. When reached by phone, an official in that office said any answers from media relations would come via email.

According to The GW Hatchet, the university switched its dining hall policy in 2016 to a more flexible plan for students. Since then, residents have been assigned a certain plan and amount of money on their card but with more options than before, including partnered grocery stores, restaurants, food trucks and other vendors near and on campus.

George Washington University freshman Sam Swinson criticized the dining plan policy in a recent article for The Hatchet. “The University’s no-refund policy confines students to the meal plan and forces them to spend cash they may not need to drop each semester. Students have a right to the money they save on GWorld. The University should allow students to refund their GWorld once they graduate or at least be able to use the remaining funds to pay off debt,” he wrote.

Swinson stated in the article that last semester he had $925 extra in his account, an amount that if maintained over four years would total $7,400 by the end of his college career.

“I would technically not lose access to the money remaining in my account immediately after graduation because the account remains active even after students leave campus. But GWorld can only be used at GWorld merchants – which are located in and around Foggy Bottom – and I plan to move away from the District after I graduate,” he wrote.

Remarking on the city government’s claim that the leftover money is considered “abandoned” after a set period of time, Swinson wrote: “This is spectacular fiction. Students are not abandoning thousands of dollars – the money just becomes unusable when they move away from D.C.”

The school mandates that all freshmen, sophomores and juniors live on campus. Tuition, room and board per year ranges from $67,000 to $77,000.

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About the Author
Brianna Kraemer -- University of Colorado at Colorado Springs