URI receives no money from state or tuition for auxiliary enterprises
Auxiliary enterprises at universities are self-sustaining businesses designed to reduce the cost of education and provide benefits to students. The University of Rhode Island has five auxiliary enterprises: Housing and Residential Life, Dining Services, Health Services, the Campus Store and the Memorial Union. They receive no money from the state or tuition.
According to Vice President of Student Affairs Kathy Collins, auxiliaries were created in the 1970s and 1980s when state support for public education decreased. They are responsible for the operation, renovation and future construction of their facilities, and must maintain and pay for their own staffing, salary, wages and benefits.
Housing and Residential Life’s budget is comprised mostly out of a room fee that students pay. Housing is responsible for 23 undergraduate residence halls as well as the graduate village apartments. According to Alisha Cipriano Cox, director of business operations for housing, 92 to 94 percent of their revenue comes from what students pay to live on campus. This covers all of the utility costs, maintenance, repairs and operations of the halls.
“We’re not trying to generate profit in any way,” Frankie Minor, director of housing and residential life said. “We exist solely on the revenues we generate ourselves.”
Minor is also trying to work with the University to acquire upgraded technology for the learning spaces within the residence halls.
“Some spaces in our residence halls are used for classes, I’m trying to see if I can get the University to put in the same level of technology,” Minor said. “I’ll offer up some of these spaces free of charge if the institution will put in some of these resources. We look at ourselves as a location to benefit others.”
Another auxiliary enterprise at URI is Dining Services. Dining Service’s budget is made up of the funds they collect from students meal plans, cash sales at the retail outlets or in catering. One major project Dining Services funded themselves was the construction of Hope Commons.
“In 2007, we opened up Hope Commons, that was our first large project on campus,” Mike McCullough, associate administrator of food services said. “I believe the facility was $21 million completely funded by the dining department. That was a little bit larger than your average component- it has a store, a retail component, and a dining hall but it’s the largest one we did.”
Dining services has already paid for renovations to Ram Escape, Rams Den and Butterfield Dining Hall through their own budget. Furthermore, dining funded a warehouse and office facility known as the Dining services food distribution center also located on campus.
Another benefit Dining services provides to its students is the ability for their wages to come from within their budget instead of from federal work-study. With federal work-study, the government pays for half of the salary and dining would pay for the other half.
“We also hire a couple of hundred student employees within dining,” JoAnne Stephens, associate administrator for retail operations said. “We only have about 10% of our student employees on work-study.”
Health services, an auxiliary designed to benefit the medical needs of all full-time students at URI, is able to provide free transportation to a nearby hospital, free or reduced cost over-the-counter medication and other health outreach programs.
“No student ever pays for an ambulance transport, there’s no barrier to them getting access to the hospital,” Ellen Reynolds, director of health services said. “It funds EMS- the facilities, the ambulance itself, and some stipends that go along with the individuals that provide those services.”
Reynolds explained that it is Health Services responsibility to ensure students have appropriate health care coverage and are properly educated.
“We never want students to not be able to get a flu shot because they can’t afford it because we know in our community how important that is,” Reynolds said. “Students often don’t have to pay for over the counter medication. We believe in having them at the lowest cost or no cost available to assist students with getting back in the classroom and learning how to manage their own limiting health needs.”
The URI campus store is a major sponsor of first-year student orientation. The campus store provides orientation leaders with polo shirts, backpacks and other gear. In addition, one first-year student at every orientation session is picked to receive free textbooks for their first semester on campus.
“Last year that was $18,000 to cover all that,” Paul Whitney, director of URI campus stores said. “It’s spreading things around to smaller amounts but more students. It’s good to be an institutionally owned store. The corporate focus on why you’re there is much different than if you’re an institutional store. I’m proud of that we remain institutionally operated.”
Whitney also does his best to keep the price of textbooks as low as possible. He uses a “break-even” model when deciding how to price course materials.
“The better decision was that we’re going to break-even meaning, we need to keep our prices lower, particularly in course materials,” Whitney said. “To me, that’s a big part of an institutional store contribution. A private operator wouldn’t do that. We know that we’re lower than a private lease operator. It makes it harder to break even.”
The Memorial Union is another auxiliary that uses money from student fees, rent from retailers and money from events held there to pay for different student events. According to Collins, the Union uses these funds to sponsor events such as First Night and other student programs as well as paying for any maintenance and repairs the building may need.