Trustees approve 2012-13 room and board rates

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- With expenses including food and utilities costs projected to rise, the Board of Trustees Friday, Jan. 20, approved a modest increase in room and board rates for the 2012-13 academic year. The average room and board rate, including a standard double-occupancy residence hall room and the most common meal plan, will be $4,495 per semester, an increase of 2.86 percent or $125 over the current year's rate of $4,370. This is the second-lowest percentage increase in the last 20 years.

"The 2012-13 room and board rate proposal takes into account changes in annual operating expenses as well as the costs associated with the overall maintenance and upkeep of the facilities," Gail Hurley, associate vice president for Auxiliary and Business Services, said.

Hurley said food costs are projected to increase by 4.5 percent in 2012-13. These costs likely would be higher, but the foods purchasing unit has implemented several cost-control initiatives, including backhauling to save on food transportation costs; purchasing directly from the manufacturer when possible; consolidating food purchases across units to get better pricing; and monitoring cost trends to buy and store products that are apt to escalate in price.

Switching suppliers of some food items enabled the unit to save an additional $315,000 in food costs without sacrificing quality.

"We have also made strides in consolidating foods purchasing across a number of units. This has resulted in savings for us as well as the units we are supporting which include the Nittany Lion Inn, the BJC, the Penn Stater and both day care centers," Hurley said. She said projected reductions in food costs come in at 26 percent on average for the child-care centers and 10 percent for the Bryce Jordan Center.

Other factors causing an increase in rates for next year include increases in utility rates, maintenance, supplies and services. Overall, expenses are projected to rise by approximately $5.3 million next year.

Housing and Food Services is a self-supporting auxiliary enterprise. Money paid by students and guests for food and lodging are the only funds used to pay all operating expenses, building loans and interest payments, as well as costs for major maintenance and facility renewal. State funds are not used for construction, maintenance of facilities or the operations of the housing and dining program.

"We are pleased to report that recently completed renovation projects include the conversion of Simmons dining commons to residential space, and the refurbishing of Pollock dining commons. Both of these projects were paid from Housing and Food Services reserves without the need to incur debt," Hurley said.
Projects for 2012-13 include the renovation of the Port Sky Cafe at Altoona; phase I of security camera installation in the residence halls; and additional wireless Internet coverage throughout the residential program.

Hurley said that while deferred maintenance remains a high priority, the budget allows for $26 million for this purpose, which is a decrease of 1.2 million. "Although our needs in this area have not diminished, we understand the press to keep rates as low as possible for our students and their families. The deferred maintenance area is the portion of the budget that is most flexible and where we can make a modest decrease short term," Hurley said.

Deferred maintenance projects include the replacing of aging elevators. To date, 26 elevators have been replaced at a cost of $5.2 million. There are 37 remaining to replace, at an estimated cost of $8.4 million. Other deferred maintenance projects include replacing outdated electrical systems and replacing student room items including mattresses and microfridges.

Hurley said at a future meeting she will seek board approval of a renovation of South Halls. The area, constructed in 1957, is home to more than 1,000 residents.

"These halls are in dire need of updating, particularly when it comes to the bathrooms, windows, heating, cooling and plumbing. Students and staff are looking forward to this project," Hurley said.

Penn State's room and board rates consistently fall in the lower tier of rates among Big Ten schools and other select institutions. The University operates 75 residence halls and five apartment complexes accommodating more than 18,800 undergraduate and graduate students. Residence halls are located at University Park, Altoona, Beaver, Berks, Erie, Greater Allegheny, Harrisburg, Hazleton and Mont Alto.

Other housing rate changes specific to various campus living units can be found at http://www.hfs.psu.edu/rates/ online.

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Last Updated January 24, 2012