Housing rates continue to rise

By Megan Jones

Student fees will increase $23 for the 2014-2015 school year, and University Housing will receive a 2 percent room and board rate increase, bringing a standard double room with a 12 meal and 15 cafe credit plan to $10,180. Returning students who live in residence halls won’t pay an increased rate.

The University has the third highest housing rates in the Big 10, due in part to interest in newer housing as well as rising costs of business, said Alma Sealine, University Housing director.

“We are wanting to provide the best services for our students in the most cost effective way possible,” Sealine said.

Originally, Housing requested a 4.5 percent increase in room and board rates to accommodate utility and projected food cost increases, which would bring rates to $10,428; however, the Student Fee Advisory Committee, SFAC, recommended no increase.

“Some costs (Housing) can cut, while some they can’t,” said Ed Slazinik, associate vice chancellor of Student Affairs. “You can’t change the fact that there was a drought last year so produce is more expensive now.” 

Slazinik said Housing requested this year’s increase to finance Ikenberry Commons’s new residence hall.

He also said the University could stop building new residence halls, but they have already committed to this building. Housing will return next year to request another two percent increase to cover costs, he said. He added that Housing needs to make $1.5 billion in repairs to its 50 buildings on campus. Without continual maintenance, repairs will cost more in the long run.

Rosa Rosas, graduate student and SFAC member, said Housing’s two percent increase is fair, but she is concerned with continual requests for rate increases.

“The other units in Student Affairs have done a tremendous great job in showing how they cut expenses to save money,” she said. “But the housing unit has not shown students how they plan to do that.”

The committee was concerned with Housing’s “lack of clarity” on how expenses could be decreased, according to its report to Student Affairs. It added that Housing needs to take a look at its luxury expenses, including themed dinner nights with “extravagant decorations and entertainment.”

“No one really knows whether or not those items, like steak dinners, is something students really want or need,” Rosas said.

Sealine said Housing continues to discuss ways in which it can be efficient in its practices.

These continual increases do not compare with other units, such as the Career Center, which have requested no increases, Rosas said.

“(Housing is) a special circumstance, as they construct new buildings and other units do not need to do that,” she said. “However, the increase they are receiving is going specifically to the construction of new dorms, so they have to figure out a way to save money because incoming freshmen are not going to take the cost of extra expenses when the other units are saving money.”

Within their report, the committee expressed concern that next year’s housing rates almost match tuition rates, which could deter students from attending the University.

“I think that it is not the fairest price, considering the fact that it is a public school,” said Heidy Garcia, freshman in LAS. “I know several classmates of mine in high school that planned to attend UIUC but chose not to because of the housing rate.”

Room and board rates are the only source of revenue Housing receives, as tuition dollars are separate and neither the University nor the state contributes. Slazinik added that ten years ago, the University received 85 percent of its funding from the state. Today, it receives 15 percent.

“This is how we’ve survived, but it’s not a trend we want to continue,” Slazinik said.

The general fee rose $26, due to State Farm Center’s renovation, but SFAC recommended decreases of $1 and $2 to the service and health student fees.

Originally, the committee suggested reduction of the Counseling Center’s fee, but Renee Romano, vice chancellor of Student Affairs, spoke to SFAC regarding expansion of the center’s services.

“We have more students coming to our campus with mental health illnesses and we have an increase in counseling needs,” Slazinik said.

Slazinik hopes the University will hire more counselors and he also said they hope to hire another psychiatrist at McKinley Health Center. 

Romano’s report has been sent to Chancellor Phyllis Wise, who will then make her recommendations to the Board of Trustees.

Megan can be reached at [email protected] and @MeganAsh_Jones.