HERSHEY, Pa. — As is typically done at the March meeting of the Penn State Board of Trustees, a presentation on room and board rates for the upcoming academic year was presented today (March 6).
Penn State’s Board of Trustees Committee on Finance, Business and Capital Planning recommended approval of the rates for the 2014-15 academic year. The full board will vote on the proposal on Friday (March 7).
If approved, the average room and board rate, which includes a standard double room and the most common meal plan, will be $4,885 a semester, a 4.27 percent increase over 2013-14.
The increase addresses a projected rise in food and utility expenses, as well as necessary facility maintenance, said Gail Hurley, associate vice president for Auxiliary and Business Services.
Housing and Food Services is a self-supporting enterprise. Money paid by students and guests for food and lodging are the only funds used for all operating expenses, building loans and interest payments, as well as costs for major maintenance and facility renewal. No state or tuition funds are used for construction, maintenance of facilities or the operations of the housing and dining program.
Food costs are expected to increase by 2.3 percent. Initiatives to contract directly with suppliers and other cost-control efforts helped to keep the increase lower than Consumer Price Index forecasts for next year, Hurley said. The aggregate increase for utilities is projected at 3.75 percent, with the largest increases expected in gas, sewage and water.
The largest increase is in property expenses, most of which comes from deferred maintenance for facility renewal and new construction. Those costs are estimated to be increasing by $4.3 million, or 7.21 percent.
Other expense increases for 2014-15 are expected in maintenance, supplies, salaries and wages, and Residence Life operations. Overall expenses for Housing, Food Services and Residence Life are projected to increase by about $8 million.
Hurley said that there is a need for upgrading on-campus living facilities in order to remain attractive to potential and returning students, especially with the proliferation of off-campus apartments.
“We have a large and seriously aging inventory that lacks some critical student amenities, such as in-room wireless capability, air conditioning, flexible furnishings and bathroom privacy,” Hurley said.
She said Penn State has had a plan in place for a long time, but the process is slow because of the “financial impact of taking a significant number of bed spaces off-line at any one time." Hurley said the projects that have been completed have been “extraordinarily successful.”
The newly built Chace Hall as well as two of the four old South Halls buildings up for renovation are finished and occupied. The rest of the renovations and upgrades to Redifer Commons should be finished by December.
“With the completion of this project, we will have renovated 1,049 bed spaces in South Halls, bringing the total number of new and renovated spaces to 23.5 percent of our 13,500 undergraduate spaces since 1966, the year East halls was completed,” Hurley said.
A rolling 10-year plan also envisions renovations to University Park’s East and Pollock halls, which encompass 23 buildings — 14 in East and nine in Pollock — with a total of 6,300 beds.
“Our goal is to do two buildings per year or about 600 beds annually,” she said.
The University also is in the process of upgrading card access readers, installing networks for in-room wireless capability and installing surveillance cameras in public areas and entrances as part of the 10-year plan. All three projects are expected to be completed by the end August at the University Park campus.
The projected completion date for the card access changeover and in-room wireless at other Commonwealth Campuses is the end of summer 2015. Housing and Food Services facilities at those campuses already have functional video surveillance cameras, but they will move to a new central system as they are replaced.
Additionally, Housing and Food Services is looking to provide on-campus housing and dining at Penn State Abington and Penn State Brandywine.
Penn State room and board rates regularly are in the lowest tier among Big Ten and other select schools. University residence halls and apartments accommodate more than 18,000 students at University Park, Altoona, Beaver, Berks, Erie, Greater Allegheny, Harrisburg, Hazleton and Mont Alto.