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Sunday, July 12, 2020

Price of living on campus set to rise

Room and board is about to get more expensive on Western’s campus. The Western Board of Trustees unanimously passed a measure to increase housing and dining costs by 3 percent during its meeting Friday, April 10.

The new rates will be implemented at the start of the 2015-2016 school year for students living in all campus residences, including Birnam Wood apartments. The increase translates to a $43 per month increase in costs for a double room and 125-meal dining plan, or $10.62 per month for a Birnam Wood apartment.

Of the total revenue, $995,000 will be coming from room and board fees. The 3 percent increase is the lowest increase in the past 10 years.

In addition to compensating for inflation, funds generated from the rate increase will pay for renovations of Kappa and Nash residence halls, which include new flooring, painting and fire sprinkler installation.

“Sometimes when we do these renovation projects and whatnot, students don’t readily see what’s behind the walls,” Director of University Residences Leonard Jones said. The increase will cover cost increases resulting from extended dining hours, the details of which are to be determined, and Western’s new     contract with Aramark.

“It’s a modest amount, but we plan for that,” Jones said.

Adoption of the measure by the board is the last step in a long process that included votes by Residence Hall Association (RHA) members and informational meetings in residence hall lounges. The Associated Students Board of Directors also approved the increase by a vote of six to one. Associated Students President Annika Wolters was the single dissenter in that vote.

“While I understand [the board’s] actions, it’s still disappointing to see the cost of education and the cost of attendance increase at any level,” Wolters said.

During the meeting’s public comment time, Wolters spoke out against the increase.

“The biggest concern is what changes we will see with this 3 percent increase, and I believe that’s why we see a bigger group of students here today because we are curious as to where this money is going to go,” Wolters said, “I will be voting against every fee increase.”

The increase is consistent with a pattern of 3-4 percent increases in housing and meal fees over the last 10 years, and projections provided to the board by Senior Vice President and Vice President for Enrollment and Student Services Eileen Coughlin anticipate 4 percent increases each year through 2021.

Their dedication and commitment is to help keep the university residence rates low, Coughlin said. She, along with Jones, presented the measure to the board.

“I hate voting for these things. We all want to see this place be totally accessible to every youngster that has the qualifications to get in,” trustee Ralph Munro said. “But I have to vote for it because I think the system’s got to move on.”

Coughlin pointed out that Western’s costs remain lower than the average costs of housing and meals at all other Washington state public Universities.

A year of housing with a 125 meal plan at Western costs $9,952, compared to costing $10,385 at Eastern Washington University, $10,521 at Washington State, $10,557 at University of Washington and $10,983 at Central Washington University.

Jones noted multiple opportunities students had to give input on the rate increases before they were adopted, including evening meetings at individual residence halls and larger Residence Hall Association member meetings. He said that most halls were represented, but could not say whether a representative from all residence halls attended the RHA meetings.

“We pretty much open up the books to them and explain some of the things we’ve done in the past and more importantly some things we’re trying to do in the future,” Jones said. “We take it to [RHA], it’s not a binding vote but students give us a thumbs up or thumbs down. General response was thumbs up.”

When asked about the approval process for fee increases like this one, Wolters expressed some frustration.

“My only concern is what would have happened if the AS Board didn’t pass [the fee increase]. I’m semi-confident that it would have gone to the Board of Trustees anyway,” Wolters said.

Wolters called on students concerned about fee increases to make their voices heard at each part of the process.

“I’d like to see more students involved at every level to any degree possible.” Wolters said. “Know what fees you pay for and know what fees are increasing or up for increase, and then attend those meetings where that discussion is taking place.”

The next Board of Trustees meetings will take place at 3 p.m. on June 11 and 12 in Old Main 340.

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