Housing and Dining rates to be determined, renovations continue

Debby Hernandez, Administration Editor

Housing and Dining Services is working on finalizing the possible 2 percent increase on room and board rates for the next academic year, while making plans to finish renovations this year and begin others next fall.

Mark Hudson, the director of Housing and Dinning Services, said the Bond Revenue Committee has reviewed the possible increase.

“They said certainly if the minimum wage goes through, 2 percent is reasonable, but they also are supportive of our capital projects we want to continue to work on,” he said. “They said if (it) doesn’t go through, maybe we should still do 2 percent to raise money to try to keep working on projects, because that benefits the students as well.”

He said while legislators might not act upon minimum wage this year, they could do so the following year, which would affect budget for the next academic year.

Hudson said the committee was also fine with the possibility of not having increases.

“Maybe if we do a 0 percent increase, it helps us be more competitive in the market of recruiting students, and that’s good too,” he said.

Housing and Dinning did not increase room and board rates this academic year, keeping the same costs from the 2013-2014 academic year for a 15 meal plan at $9,358; the 12 meal plan at $8,996; the 10 meal plan at $8,670; and the seven meal plan at $8,300.

In the past five academic school years, cost increases for room and board have gone down.

During the 2010-2011 academic year, rates increased 6.25 percent, with the15 meal plan costing $8,584, and the seven meal plan costing $7,616.

By the 2011-2012 academic year, the cost for a 15 meal plan increased by $300 and the seven meal plan went up to $267, making it a 3.5 percent increase.

Increase in costs continued to decline from a 3.5 percent increase in 2011-2012 to a 3.25 increase in 2012-2013, raising costs for a 15 meal plan by $289 and the seven meal plan by $256.

Last year, costs increased by 2 percent, raising prices for a 15 meal plan by $184 and by $162 for a seven meal plan.

Hudson said other variables need to be reviewed before deciding on a possible increase, such as pension reform and health costs.

“If they decide the solution is to pass those costs back to us, then we have to figure out how to cover those costs,” he said.

He said renovations in residence halls will depend on how the variables affect the budget, but a 2 percent increase will help finish projects.

Hudson said a floor and a half of room renovations have been completed in Lawson Hall, and residents will move to these new rooms while their current ones and others are being renovated.

“Our goal is by the end of the spring semester, we would have finished three more floors of renovated rooms. That would leave two floors left; our intention is to do them next summer,” he said.

Possible renovations for fall 2015 include lobbies, floor lounges and furniture treatments.

Hudson said the big renovation project for the fall 2015 academic year will be Pemberton Hall.

“Probably what would happen during the year is we will continue on Pemberton Hall room renovations, so we can continue to make progress on getting that building to where we want it to be,” he said.

Hudson said major projects typically are done in the summer.

“It’s a little unique we’re working in these rooms during the year, but we are in a good position to do that because we have available space,” he said.

Housing and Dining has conducted surveys on what students in residence halls think needs to be renovated.

“There is a process by where we are currently evaluating input from students to do a priority list,” Hudson said. “Our surveys indicate that we have some of the most satisfied residents for the services they get.”

He said one suggestion was to enhance the Thomas Hall convenience store.

“One of the challenges is the room it is in does not have running water in it, so it limits what you can do in it,” Hudson said.

He said one idea is to get running water into the room to install things such as a quick coffee machine.

Hudson said Eastern remains among the top in low room and board rates.

“Eastern remains one of the very best bargains for room and board in the state,” he said.

“We are amongst the very least expensive in (residential state universities).”

Debby Hernandez can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].