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Proposal suggests 6-percent housing rates increase

For the more than 3,000 students living in on-campus housing, even though they face increased housing rates every year, the proposed increase for next year may come as a surprise.

The Department of Residence Services will recommend to USF’s Board of Trustees a 6 percent increase from this year’s housing rates, which would be the largest increase since 1997.

USF raises its housing rates each year to account for cost of living increases, utility charges and to fund maintenance to the residence halls. The average increase during the last five years has been a little more than 3 percent.

Tom Kane, director of Residence Services, said the reasons for the increased hike are beyond USF’s control.

According to Kane, Higher prices for electricity, natural gas and sewage add to the rising cost of living, which will account for an anticipated 2.5 to 3.5 percent increase in rates for the next academic year, Kane said. Academic overhead, the other misc. costs, as well as funding used to pay university employees and funding for residence hall renovations, make up most of the difference.

“When, in 18 months, natural gas prices go up 100 percent like they have recently, it doesn’t give us much of a choice,” Kane said. “I don’t think a lot of people understand that Residence Services is an auxiliary; we don’t get any money from the university at all.”

Another consideration reflected in the proposal is some students’ housing contracts. Students living in the Magnolia Apartments sign nine-month contracts that include paying for rooms during winter break and two extra weeks before and after the academic year.

A contract for Magnolia runs from Aug. 15 to May 15 and allows them to stay during breaks, Kane said.

“We know a lot of freshman don’t want to stay; they go home during breaks. Under the proposal, we would be giving them the option of paying for the same academic year contract as residents in other halls.”

The change will cause an increase for all students, though, as Residence Services has to compensate for the lost funds, Kane said. USF will not renew its lease with Fontana Hall, but will open new residence halls when the Maple Apartments and Maple Hall II open in the fall. Residence Services said the residence hall reshuffling was not a cause for the higher increase.

Peggy Dorvil, chief of staff for the Residence Hall Association, said the RHA’s Executive Board is behind the proposal and that the board members understand the reasons behind the increase.

“All of us feel differently about the prices,” Dorvill said. “We do know why the increase is necessary, and we are endorsing the proposal. Overall, it is up to the trustees to decide. Being the voice of the students in the residence halls, we feel like we carry a lot of weight, and if they could find any way to decrease the rate, I’m sure they would follow it.”

Kane said the proposal, which was completed by Residence Services in December, will likely be voted on in early May. He will wait about two more weeks before bringing the proposal before the Board of Trustees so he can gather more feedback.

“No one ever likes a rate increase, but based on the circumstances, people understand why it has to be done and I think the students will accept that we have to do it,” Kane said.