Trustees set room and board rates for 2009-10

University Park, Pa. — Penn State's Board of Trustees Friday (Nov. 21) received an update on planned and completed improvements for Housing and Food Services. As a result of increased operating costs, the board approved an increase of 5.87 percent, or $225 per semester, to the University's average room and board rates for the 2009-10 academic year at all nine of the University's residential campuses.

The average room and board rate — including a standard double-occupancy room and most common meal plan — will be $4,060 per semester.

The increase in rate is less than that of 2008-09, and is part of the 2009-10 Housing and Food Services budget of $165.7 million authorized by the board. Housing and Food Services and Residence Life programs are self-sustaining enterprises and receive no financial support from tuition or state-appropriated funds.

The most significant increase for Housing and Food Services is utilities, with costs expected to increase by more than 15 percent, or more than $2.8 million, which does not reflect a potential additional increase in electric rates should statewide rate caps not be restored. If that happens, Housing and Food Services can expect to see an additional $900,000.00 in expenses for electricity. Double-digit rate increases are anticipated for other utilities as well.

Penn State is appealing the timing of the lifting of its electric rate cap. Originally set to expire in 2011, the cap may now expire at the end of this year.

If the appeal is denied, the board has approved an additional $25 per semester increase to room and board rates. If the additional $25 is assessed, the average per semester room and board rate will increase 6.5 percent to $4,085 per semester, still a lower percentage increase than what was approved for the current year.

"This is still lower than last year's percentage increase and will likely not change our relative position in the bottom third of rates charged by our Big Ten counterparts and other comparable institutions," said Gail Hurley, associate vice president of auxiliary and business services.

Housing and Food Services has partnered with the Office of Physical Plant over the past several years to combat rising utilities costs, most notably through an energy savings program, using energy services companies to design and implement utility savings projects.

"Projects to provide low-flow water fixtures, high-efficiency lighting, programmable thermostats and chilled water upgrades are a few of the projects which have been implemented and will return significant energy and utility savings to Penn State," Hurley said, adding that last year the Altoona campus saved more than $21,000 in gas usage thanks to an energy savings program there.

The room and board increases also allow for continued investment in maintaining and refurbishing the 6 million square feet of housing and dining spaces across the Commonwealth. Hurley noted that about 80 percent of these facilities are more than 35-years old and have significant maintenance needs.

Room charges for an undergraduate student living on campus in a standard double room — the most typical living arrangement at the University — will increase by $135 per semester, from $2,055 to $2,190. The cost for meal plan three — the most common plan of 12 to 13 meals per week — will increase by $90 per semester, from $1,780 to $1,870. These increases bring the room and board cost to $4,060 per semester for this traditional combination. 

Other housing rate changes specific to various campus living units include the following (all rates include utilities):
— Room rates for Nittany Apartments at University Park will increase by $165 to $190 per person, for a range of $2,645 to $3,080 a semester, depending on the type of apartment selected.

 — Monthly rates for the White Course graduate housing will increase by $55 to $65 a month, with one-, two- and three-bedroom family units costing $880, $1,000 and $1,135, respectively, while single graduate student housing will increase $45 to a rate of $700 a month per person for a four-bedroom apartment.

— At Penn State Erie, apartments will increase by $165 to a rate of $2,645 per person each semester for four-person garden units.

— At Penn State Harrisburg, four-occupant apartments will increase $200 to a rate of $3,160 per person per semester.

— At the College of Medicine in Hershey, room rates for University Manor East Apartments will increase by $40 to $46 per month for a range of $808 to $1,045 a month per unit, depending on the number of bedrooms and furnishings. Furnished four-bedroom apartments in University Manor West will increase by $92 a month ($23 per bedroom a month) to a rate of $1,864 ($466 each bedroom).

Among Housing and Food Services initiatives over the past year, additional bed space has been added at University Park with the conversion of the McElwain dining hall space. The 76 spaces will be ready for occupancy in January. Hurley said students were involved in the design process and in decisions about furniture for the conversion.

"We have some tough issues to deal with and it is challenging to balance the need for upgraded infrastructure such as wiring and elevators with more obvious and attractive upgrades such as increased bandwidth, private bathrooms and in-room carpeting," Hurley said. "The good news is that we have a solid plan in place that takes these issues and others into account, and we're making steady progress in increasing the funds available for this effort."
Hurley added, "Our occupancy rate across the Commonwealth confirms that students love living on campus."
 

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Last Updated November 18, 2010