The University raising the cost of room and board is nothing new. Neither is the Board of Regents approving the increases without public discussion. Despite students’ economic concerns, this year is no different.
On May 14, the Regents passed a 3.9-percent increase in room and board rates for the 2009-2010 school year but provided little information as to the necessity of the increase. Without this information, it’s difficult for students to understand why their room and board rates continue to rise egregiously. The regents should make the process by which it decides upon rate increases more transparent and work to invite student input.
The hike in room and board rates consists of a 1.9-percent increase to cover the rising cost of operating expenses and a 2-percent increase for Residential Life Initiatives. The Residential Life Initiatives pays for the maintenence and repair of the residence halls , keeping them in good shape for current and future students. The increase means the price of a standard double in the residence halls will cost more than $9,000 in most residence halls — $334 more expensive next year than it was last year.
This is too high of a cost for students. Many pay their own room and board or take out loans to cover the cost. Should the University continue to raise the rent, it could easily price many students out of the residence halls. In the current economic climate, the University should be taking steps to make college more affordable — and that must extend to housing costs as well.
But the repercussions are more far-reaching than the economic impact on individual students. The residence halls should be home to a socioeconomically diverse group of students. When the halls become more expensive, they are no longer viable options for less wealthy students. As these students are forced to choose inexpensive private housing, there is less interaction between students from different economic backgrounds. This causes de facto segregation on a campus that should instead promote the integration of students with different backgrounds.
What makes the situation even worse is that students don’t even know if these costs are necessary. The vague description of the Residential Life Initiatives provides little explanation. And any debate or discussion the regents may have had on the rates took place behind closed doors. In their public meeting, they approved the rate increase unanimously, without any real public hearing or even debate amongst themselves. But the University’s continued resistance to giving students a chance to express their opinions combined with the regents’ lack of discussion makes it obvious that the University doesn’t care about students’ concerns.
The Regents weren’t taking student concerns into account when it passed a 3.9-percent increase in room and board rates last week. For students, too much rides on the cost of room and board for them to be denied the knowledge of what the regents take into account when approving rate increases. More importantly, students need the ability to comment on it.