It’s no secret that the cost of attending a four-year university has increased more than any other time in the last half-century.
Experts like Sandy Baum of the Urban Institute argued in a National Public Radio interview that, “it’s not that colleges are spending more money to educate students.” Rather, that, “It’s that they have to get that money from someplace to replace their lost state funding – and that’s from tuition and fees from students and families.”
A contributing factor to the increase in the overall cost to attend college is the increase in housing fees. Here at the University of Rhode Island, housing fees have continued to increase.
Frankie Minor, the director of housing and residential life, attributes the increase of costs to the fact that, “the department of housing and residential life, at this University, and many others, is an auxiliary organization operation.” Meaning the department receives “no funding from the University or the state.” Making it, “like a self-supporting business here on campus.”
This organizational reality, in the words of Minor, forces the department to rely on students as it’s single source of revenue. With roughly, “92 to 94 percent of our revenue coming from students.”
Meredith LeBeau, a current first-year student, is one of the many returning students planning to live off-campus next year. She like many others is leaving because “it costs too much to live in such bad buildings.” LeBeau also cites the campus’ shortage of parking, along with a need for more independence as compelling reasons to live off-campus next year.
Minor, says that the costs of living here on campus are a reflection of the fact that his department, must, “set our rates, by figuring out the cost to run the department, salaries, upkeep, maintenance. Then project how many students we think will be living with us, and what is the lowest cost that we can offer them, so ideally we can break even.”
Despite the discontent students and families have over the current housing rates, Minor defends these rates as a reflection of, “our rates are going up because our operating costs are going up. Usually, salary and benefits, like health care costs are going up, so we need to pay for that. Utility rates tend to go up over time.” Assistant Director, Alisha Cox, adds that “fixed costs, like personnel and debt services, that’s almost seventy-five percent of our total budget.”
Despite the costs associated, some students like Carley Gomes, a sophomore, stayed on campus this year because “the majority of my friends didn’t want to move off campus just yet.” Nevertheless, Gomes does plan on living off-campus next year because, “it’s cheaper for me to live off campus than it is to stay on.” The ability to, “to an actual home after a long day of classes and having that environment to relax in and unwind, versus having to go back to a cramped space that you share on campus,” is another added benefit Gomes sees in living off-campus.
Minor contends that “that student often just look at their rent, and see that it is cheaper. But they haven’t taken into account other things like utilities and transportation costs. I think that there are a lot of costs that don’t get factored in when students make that initial decision to move out.”
Chris Parisella, a junior living off-campus, he has had almost “a positive experience living off campus this year. My roommates and I have had to pay around $2300 per semester this year, which is fairly cheap. Of course, we’ve had to take meal preparation and higher spending on gas into account, but when compared to the $4000 plus per semester we’d be paying for a dorm, plus the cost of a residential meal plan, so long as we play it smart, we’re saving quite a bit. It’s been a great experience so far.”
Nevertheless, Minor recognizes, that some students feel that, ” it’s just what you are supposed to do as an adult.” Minor also says that some leave because they want more space and independence.
In Minor’s over twenty years of experience as a housing director at the University of Missouri-St. Louis has seen that “that students want different things from their housing at different times. When you get into college it’s about meeting new people, and once they become older, they have met their friends, and now they want a bit more privacy.”
In his personal opinion, he believes that “living off-campus is something every student should do… because I think it begins to teach you independence.” To accommodate this need for construction of the Brookside Apartments, apartment-style housing returning students.
Despite the Department’s efforts to accommodate the needs of returning students, Minor acknowledges that the Department is limited in what it can do because of the,” certain duties and responsibilities, we can’t just look the other way. If that’s important to you to have a beer while watching the Super Bowl, that might influence your choice.”
In addition to attempting to solve some housing concerns, the department is optimistic that their efforts to cut housing costs by eliminating more budgeting inefficiencies.