Housing rates to increase for 2011-12 school year

Though students who live on campus will see the lowest increase in housing rates within the past four school years for 2011-12, USF offers one of the most expensive dorm rooms among some Florida universities.

Because of increases in operating costs and decreases in revenue, USF residents, except those in the Andros residence halls, will see a 2.6 percent increase in housing rates next year, said Dean of Housing and Residential Education (HRE) Ana Hernandez.

The 2007-08 school year saw a roughly 7.9 percent increase, 2008-09 had about a 6.2 percent increase, 2009-10 had about a 7.3 percent increase and 2010-11 experienced about a 6.1 percent increase.

Yet, even though other universities in the state are increasing their housing rates, USF still has one of the highest starting costs for housing.

For the 2011-12 school year, the beginning price range for USF housing is $2,136 per semester.

According to the Florida Atlantic University (FAU) 2011-12 housing proposal, FAU housing rates increased 3 to 6 percent and start at a slightly higher $2,683.75 per semester. University of North Florida housing rates increased 3.12 percent and start at $1,960.

Hernandez said the high cost of dorm rooms, as well as next school year’s increase, is necessary to compensate for an increase in labor and utility costs, the creation of new programs in residence halls and a loss of revenue and income.

The 2011-12 housing rates, which were finalized by the Board of Trustees in March, range from about $2,136 to $3,448 per semester.

“The rates are going up in order for us to be able to provide the residential experience that the residents have come to expect,” she said. “We’re expanding some of our programs and amenities, as well as addressing loss of income from loss of interest revenue (and) the increase in utilities and other costs.”

Hernandez said HRE anticipates a $285,000 loss in interest revenue, which is determined from investments and debt and future rate increases.

Freddy Williams, a junior majoring in criminal justice, said he’s lived in Delta Hall for three years. He said he takes out loans to live on campus and pay for other expenses such as textbooks.

“I do have to watch my spending very much,” Williams said. “I run on $40 a week, which in today’s time is not enough to even fill a tank (of gas), but I have to do what I have to do to get my education.”

Despite the increase in costs, Williams said he hasn’t noticed any improvements in the building.

“The costs still go up,” he said, “but there’s no compensation.”

Hernandez said a portion of the increases will pay for new Living Learning Communities, where students studying specific areas, such as Business or ROTC, live together and participate in academic activities.

Money also will go toward new roommate matching software and the renewal of a cable contract in residence halls. She said the cable company will depend on the revenue collected from students July 1.

The Andros dorms didn’t see a rate increase to provide students a more affordable housing option, Hernandez said.

“We just wanted to maintain cost there as best as we can, and we felt that that was the best place to keep it intact (because it is the oldest dorm on campus),” she said. “We try to offer a variety of price points in our housing and make it a value for (students).”

Christopher Schaier, whose daughter, Leah, is a freshman majoring in education, said he plans to pay $5,024 annually for her Cypress Hall Suites dorm room.

“I am never pleased when rates go up,” he said. “I think they are pretty high, considering the size of the rooms and that there are two people in a bedroom, four people to a suite. $2,000-plus would get a very nice apartment in most cities. We are paying more, but not getting anything more for our money.”

According to the USF Housing website, the smallest rooms are in Holly Apartments, with an 8′ by 10′ size, followed by Iota, Kappa, Lambda, Mu and Theta halls with 9’9″ by 10’6″ rooms. Cypress Hall contains the largest rooms, which are 14’2″ by 12’9″.

Hernandez said she’s aware that students are “price-sensitive,” but tries to make the residential experience affordable.

“We want to make sure that the residential experience is something that they can afford and partake in,” she said.