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Living on campus this fall? Here’s what you need to know

Why prices are rising, how the room you choose will affect your bills

The front entrance of Higginson Hall on Western Washington University’s north campus on Thursday, July 1, 2021. Higginson Hall is one of the many on-campus residences going up in price. // Photo by Nina Claflin

Western Washington University is raising its on-campus housing prices starting fall quarter, 2021. What does this mean for incoming students, and how can they prepare for this shift?

For the 2021-2022 school year, on-campus housing prices will be based on room style and amenities rather than the traditional pricing model based on occupancy.

The base rate of all on-campus housing with meal plans — except triple rooms — and Birnam Wood apartments has gone up by roughly 4.5% with the change, according to an action item sent to Western’s board of trustees relating to the restructure of the upcoming year’s housing rates, from Western President Sabah Randhawa on behalf of Vice President Melynda Huskey. In previous years the cost of a standard double room with an unlimited meal plan for the length of one academic year was $13,007, while for this upcoming school year it costs $14,018.

Housing prices increase most years, but college counselors like Annie Hayward believe that understanding these costs is important. 

“What I wish more schools would do is break down where housing fees go — cleaning services, utilities, maintenance and updates to the buildings, property taxes if applicable, etc. — and why an increase in costs is occurring,” said Hayward, a counselor at Collegeology, an educational consulting firm that helps students select colleges. “Did one of the dorms need new carpeting? Was mold found? There are a lot of reasons why an institution might increase housing costs and some of them are legitimate and require action.” 

In the document submitted to the board of trustees written on June 11, the change in pricing assignments is explained:

“Our peer institutions offer differential pricing based on room amenities and/or the age of the facility. WWU has retained a long-standing approach of room rates varying only by occupancy (single/double/triple), even though some rooms clearly offer a wide variation in amenities (suites, bathrooms, kitchenettes, etc.)”  

In addition, the document explains why there is a 4.5% increase in pricing. 

“The proposed 4.5% rate increase consists of components to address inflation, the recent impact to System fund balances, and the need to address the identified renovation projects.”

According to the document, Western believes this approach will grant students living on campus the ability to better choose what room, style, quality, number of amenities and more best fits their financial capabilities.

According to the 2021-2022 on-campus housing rate document, hallway/corridor residence halls with bathrooms shared among six or more people are the cheapest, the middle-tier of pricing consists of suite-style dorms with bathrooms shared with five or less people, and suite rooms with kitchens and bathrooms shared with five or less people are the most expensive.

Some students believe Western's housing prices are not reasonable. Sai Krishna Veeravelli, a third-year Western student who lived in more traditional dorms his first year of schooling, plans to live in the university-owned Birnam Wood apartments in fall 2021.

“I do think [the residence halls and apartments] are expensive for what students can afford these days,” Veeravelli said. “My parents are paying for my housing and tuition, but still keeping in mind how much it costs.”

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A map of Western Washington University, not including the new Alma Clark Glass Hall, near the Ridgeway residence halls. // Photo by Nina Claflin

When comparing the costs of on-campus versus off-campus housing, off-campus can be a more affordable option. For example, when looking at the rates of Stateside Bellingham, an off-campus apartment complex serving Western students, a two-bedroom apartment costs around $1,039 per bed. 

Compare this to on-campus housing, where, according to Western’s on-campus housing rates sheet for 2021-2022, a double, standard room with an 80-meal meal plan costs roughly $1,389 per month. Even with this large price difference, according to Western’s admissions website, 88% of first-year students live on campus their first year at Western.

“Could a student live at home or with family? If a student has to live on campus, there are usually levels to housing accommodations and costs,” Hayward said. 

Choosing triple-sized rooms rather than single-sized rooms, for example, or securing a job as a residential advisor can both help lower on-campus housing costs, Hayward said.

“The most expensive plan may not be the one suited to you,” Hayward said. “Don’t be afraid to talk to the school’s residential life and financial aid offices, too. They may be able to help cover the gap in what a student can afford.”

Nina Claflin

 Nina Claflin is a third-year student at WWU studying public relations. She is writing for campus beat, specifically in student news & issues. She enjoys biking, fitness, hiking and reading novels in her spare time. She is also a twin (even though they look NOTHING alike!) She is excited to be on the staff for The Front this summer, and she can’t wait to come into touch with the journalism and campus community! If you wish to contact her, her email is 

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