Housing, dining rate increase proposed, new dorm a possibility


Last year, students across the nation rated their residence halls on campussplash.com. K-State landed sixth in the polls, earning an average score of 4.0 on a 5.0 scale. However, starting next year, students may be paying slightly more for that award-winning residence hall experience. Due to the continuously rising food and utility costs, a 3.5 percent housing rate increase is being considered for the 2012-2013 school year.

“The students leaders of the Association of Residence Halls and I talked about the parameters of our costs of doing business,” said Derek Jackson, director of Department Housing and Dining Services. “Utilities, gas, food and electricity are all going up. It is becoming more expensive.”

A 3.5 percent increase would translate into a different dollar amount for each student, Jackson said.

“It depends on meal plan and housing system,” Jackson said. “With the current housing rates, with a standard 20 meal plan and a double room, it will translate into a little more than $200 per student per semester.”

Initially, the proposal was for a 3 percent increase, but that would only cover the escalating costs, Jackson said. Any housing and dining improvements would require additional funding.

“If we want to continue to address other issues to benefit our students in the future, we ask for the 3.5 percent,” Jackson said.

Housing and Dining Services does not receive tax dollars, or K-State tuition dollars.

“We don’t receive any tuition or tax dollars, so we exist on what students pay us,” Jackson said.

One of the elements that must survive off student payments and that is rapidly becoming more costly, is feeding residents.

“When our food costs are going up 8 to 10 percent, we have to meet those costs or cut back on those services, Jackson said. “Also, living in the middle of the country, transportation is a big cost. Things get more expensive because it cost more to deliver products.”

In addition to the food, an increase in water and sewer costs has caused budget strains.

“The city made a decision to double to cost of water and sewer services,” Jackson said. “And Weststar energy, where we get out energy, has posted to the state a 5 or 6 percent rate increase.”

The process of negotiating a rise in housing and dining cost is an ongoing one, Jackson said. The increase proposal was initiated last fall and has been in the process of evaluating for the last year.

Min La, sophomore in finance, served as the Association of Residence Halls treasurer when the program was introduced in fall of 2010.

“Most of the reason that we want to raise the cost is that what we get now is from the increases that were done in the past,” La said. “What we are doing now is to do something for future students. They have been thinking about it for a long time. We want to do something good for our future students.”

The process is expected to be completed by the end of this year and implemented for the 2012-2013 school year, if approved.

“We have a process where the rates go through the board of regents. The board of regents approves the rates in December for all board of regent schools,” Jackson said

For Hannah Yowell, freshman in elementary education, the idea of a housing and dining rate increase is something to consider when deciding where to live next year. Currently, Yowell lives in Boyd Hall.

“It would definitely make me think twice about living in the dorms again, but I don’t think it would close off that option completely,” Yowell said. “It’s nice to live on campus; it’s very convenient to be so close.”

While it may cause students to think twice about where they want to live, Jackson said he believes it won’t deter students from living in the dorms in the future.

“I don’t expect it to drive people away,” Jackson said. “We look at our competitive nature. We don’t require students to live with us. We look at if we deliver the resources at the price point people desire. I feel like we’ve added services and infrastructure that I feel most people are pleased with. I suspect a 3.5 percent increase will not put us out of the range of cost and value.”

According to the K-State website, the cost for a standard double room and 20 meal plan for 2011-2012 is $6,848 per year. To compare, at the University of Kansas, a similar room and board package for 2011-2012 totaled $7,436 a year.

In the midst of talk of raising housing and dining costs, officials are discussing raising something else in the next few years — a new residence hall.

“We are retaining more students in the dorms, and have more incoming,” Jackson said. “There is a stronger desire to live on campus both as returning students and incoming students.”

This increase in students caused an issue this fall, displacing many students from traditional residence halls.

“We had about 400 students in the beginning of the year living in places that are not traditional residence halls,” Jackson said. “We worked with fraternities and sororities to place freshman students into their houses and offered incentives to returning students to live off campus. We also had to turn away about 200 students.”

While there is motivation to build a new residence hall, Jackson stressed that it would not be constructed immediately.

“We are still in the proposing and evaluating stage,” Jackson said. “There is a lot of work to do between now and a final commitment.”

At this point, Jackson said, the important thing is to study the feasibility of the idea and do in-depth investigations of the needs of the campus and students.

“In our proposal, we are looking at the feasibility of the design, what kind of housing we should build to make it appealing to students,” Jackson said. “By the end of the spring semester [spring 2012], we will hopefully be working with an architecture company, talking to students, working with small groups to get to more specifics.”

The entire process is slated to be finished with the dorm open to students by the fall of 2014. The location being currently considered is between Goodnow and Marlatt Halls, on the northeast side of the campus. In concept, the new dormitory would be built in conjunction with a remodel of the Kramer Dining Center, which serves students from Goodnow and Marlatt.

“My desire is not to raise our rates beyond the cost of utilities and labor. I believe we can be efficient not to escalate our rates beyond that. It’s all about making plans that are efficient,” Jackson said.

He also expressed a concern for the current economic state.

“These are tough financial times. I understand the cost of education and what it can do to a family or student. That’s all part of the picture,” Jackson said. “My goal is to make whatever we build support itself with what we’ve got.”