April 10, 2008

Rising costs result in housing rate increase

by Eric Welch

CARBONDALE, Ill. — The Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees, meeting in Edwardsville, today (April 10) approved a fee increase for University Housing on the Carbondale campus.

The increase, which averages 7.5 percent, will provide a means for University Housing to address lingering repairs, inflation and state regulations.

"We have a lot of deferred maintenance, and we need to comply with the state's sprinkler mandate," said Julie Payne Kirchmeier, director of University Housing. "We are going to be installing sprinklers in Thompson Point, the Triads, and University Hall. It's expensive and the state isn't helping us pay for it."

Kirchmeier also cited minimum wage increases and the rising costs of food and energy for bringing about the fee increase.

"We try to reduce as much as possible, but we are a 24/7 operation," she said. "We don't stop, and we can't turn the lights off at the end of the day."

In comparison with other Illinois universities' housing fees, SIUC will remain highly competitive. University Housing will actually offer the most affordable housing of all public universities in Illinois in 2008-09, making it attractive and practical for students coming to SIUC.

Students will see several benefits, such as improved maintenance of their residence halls and apartments, less confusing billing and a revamped contract system.

The new contracts will offer differential rates for the various residence halls according to their location and amenities. For fiscal year 2009, University Housing will offer three room rates – one for Brush Towers and University Hall, one for the Triad buildings and one for Thompson Point.

"We've tried to help students control their own costs and be able to plan for their education," Kirchmeier said. "The differentiated rates will allow them to choose what best meets their individual needs and not pay for things they don't want."

Students will also have their choice of dining plan rates, separate from room rates, giving them added flexibility. In addition to 19, 15 and 12 meal-per-week plans for residents, the new Block-20 dining option will provide apartment and off-campus students with 20 meals throughout a semester.

Throughout the entire process of rethinking room and dining contracts, students had a hand in what the finished policy would look like. The Residence Housing Association and the Residence Hall Advisory Board, which are composed of students living on campus, met with administrators several times to discuss how the plans would best benefit students.

Another new option will allow students to contract for two years at a time, exempting them from any additional increases in the second year of the contract. This will not only save students money, it will help them and their families better plan for paying for their education.

Included in the proposal approved by the board is the temporary closing of part of the Triads in University Park due to projected occupancy falling short of expectations. The closure will lower costs, and rooms will be reopened as needed.

The Southern Hills apartment complex will also close its doors in 2013. Updates needed to meet the Illinois sprinkler mandate will not be cost-efficient, so the buildings will permanently be taken off line in five years. The complex will remain open and fully maintained until then.