Proposal for increased housing rates tabled

Analicia Haynes, Senior Reporter

The Board of Trustees tabled a proposal to increase housing rates by 2.3 percent for traditional residence hall and Greek Court housing. 

However, the Board did approve a “no change in fees” for University Apartments and University Court. In other words, they did that to “identify that there are no increases in those rates,” said Joseph Dively, vice chairperson. 

The increased rate proposal came before the Board during its Jan. 24 meeting and was tabled until the April 24 meeting. 

It calls for a 2.3 percent increase from current rates for room and board for fiscal year 2021, but it was tabled because the Board wanted to look at all the proposed fee and tuition increases at the same time during the April meeting. 

Board Member Martin Ruhaak recommended that the proposal be tabled, citing that the challenge would be the disadvantage of not evaluating all the proposed increases and fees at the same time so they can determine what the overall “broader impact” would be on students. 

“I think the challenge with this is … approving expenditures and fee increases now and then having a separate evaluation for tuition and fee increases in April,” Ruhaak said.

Board Member Joyce Madigan agreed with Ruhaak and said board members want to look at the “total package” of proposed fee and tuition increases, such as the proposed increase for the Grant-in-Aid fee that was already tabled for the April meeting, at the same time. 

But by approving the no change in fees for University Apartments and University Court, members and Lynette Drake, the interim vice president of student affairs, said this would give Housing and Dining some certainty as well as help with marketing efforts. 

The Proposal Explained

The proposed increase in per-semester room and board rates are based on double occupancy in residence halls and depend on the meal plan options that students have.  

For example, a student who lives with a roommate in a double room in one of the residence halls and has the seven-meal plan option currently pays $4,447 per semester. The proposed increase for this option is $103 and if approved the student will pay $4,550 starting in fall 2020.  

Summer room and board rates will also increase as well. 

“With this increase, Eastern continues to offer one of the lowest costs of housing rates in the state,” Drake said.

Housing and Dining is a stand-alone auxiliary, meaning it has its own budget and Drake said no appropriated dollars are used to operate university housing. 

Housing and Dining Director Mark Hudson said during a Jan. 23 interview that the driving factor for the room and board increase was the minimum wage increase.  

This year’s minimum wage increase was built into this fiscal year’s budget (FY20), Hudson said, which cost Housing and Dining about $90,000, and next year’s increase adds about $364,000 to the FY21 student payroll budget.  

Housing and Dining has a $21 million budget planned for next year, and it includes a personnel budget of about $7.4 million.

Other factors that influenced the rate increase include an increase in energy costs and performing several projects to enhance the on-campus housing experience such as accelerated Wi-Fi enhancements and buying new mattresses for all the residence halls.  

Other Business

The Board also approved the purchase of new simulation lab equipment needed for the new nursing program. 

The equipment includes new interactive manikins and a simulation system for a “high quality experience” for new students in the new School of Nursing. 

Paul McCann, the interim vice president for business affairs, said this is a significant purchase because it is one of the first things needed to move forward with the nursing program. 

“This is a fairly complex purchase and this first part is a market basket of items that we need to pass the School of Nursing’s inspection later this summer,” McCann said. “We are buying only the items we need at this time.”

The agreement will have a contract term of ten years, and the initial purchase is about $200,000 and includes a five-year maintenance agreement and related Consumer Price Index increases, according to the Board reports. 

For the entire term of the contract, the total estimated price will not exceed $1.4 million.

McCann said the funding for this purchase comes from local and gift funds. 

At this time, it is unknown where the new lab will be housed. 

Analicia Haynes can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].