Trustees approve room and board rates for 2011-12

November 05, 2010

University Park, Pa. — Penn State's Board of Trustees approved room and board rates Friday (Nov. 5) for the 2011-12 academic year, acknowledging the ongoing need to maintain Housing and Food Services' 6 million square feet of space University-wide while offering safe, reasonably priced and high-quality living and dining options.

"As auxiliary enterprises, the Housing, Food Services and Residence Life programs are entirely self-sustaining and receive no financial support from tuition or state funds," noted Gail Hurley, associate vice president of Auxiliary and Business Services.

Any renovations or deferred maintenance necessary to preserve the aging inventory of facilities, as well as increased costs for the goods and services these units provide must be paid for by income. The largest percentage increase in this year's budget is for property expenses. Eighty percent of the residence and dining facilities are more than 35 years old.

The average room and board rate -- including a standard double-occupancy residence hall room and the most common meal plan -- will be $4,370 per semester, an increase of 4.4 percent or $185 over the current year's rate, accounting for an additional $115 for housing and $70 for food costs. The 2011-12 rates per semester include $2,385 for a standard double-occupancy room and $1,985 for the most common meal plan.

Overall, costs are expected to increase by $7.6 million, or 4.4 percent. Penn State's room and board rates consistently fall in the lower tier of rates among Big Ten schools.

In 2009, Housing and Food Services realized significant savings -- an estimated $700,000 -- through the removal of most landline telephones from residence halls. Again in 2010, the unit was able to incorporate savings to offset other rising costs by renegotiating the University's cable television contract. The new three-year contract will result in a cumulative savings of more than $700,000.

Hurley noted that Penn State Behrend's Dobbins Dining Hall, which was undergoing an extensive $7.5 million renovation in spring 2010, suffered significant damage March 1 during an accidental late-night fire. Fortunately, there were no injuries, a mobile kitchen unit was erected quickly and Erie Hall, the former campus gymnasium, served as a temporary dining hall. Although the fire complicated issues and inconvenienced students and employees, the renovation was completed within the specified budget and time frame, and additional design modifications made after the fire significantly improved the space beyond its original plans.

Also completed on budget and on time is a new residence hall at Penn State Harrisburg. Opened in fall 2010, the environmentally friendly facility houses 99 students and has incorporated designs minimizing the use of water and artificial lighting. Construction materials include wall panels made of sunflower seeds and wheat chaff and products purchased locally to support the region's economy and minimize additional consumption of transportation energy.

This year's renovation projects include the Port Sky Café at Penn State Altoona and Pollock Commons at University Park. Constructed in 1960, Pollock Commons was last renovated in 1991 and will be transformed from a cafeteria to a food court with several stations, similar to Redifer Commons at University Park, to better serve the dining preferences of students. See related renovation story at In addition, Simmons Hall's dining commons will be converted to bed space.

"Students are included in almost every aspect of our design and building processes and provide excellent feedback for us as we plan for the future," Hurley noted.

With the closing of Simmons Dining Commons, students requested additional healthy options in the remaining dining areas and better promotion of healthy eating strategies. The newly launched Eat Smart Program accommodates student requests by offering nutritional guidance on topics such as the balanced plate concept and portion control. Food Services also is incorporating more grains and a second hot vegetable at each meal.

Penn State operates 75 residence halls and five apartment complexes accommodating more than 18,700 undergraduate and graduate students. Residence halls are located at University Park, Altoona, Beaver, Berks, Erie, Greater Allegheny, Harrisburg, Hazleton and Mont Alto. Although student apartments at Penn State Hershey are not maintained by Housing and Food Services, their rates also are presented to trustees annually for informational purposes.

Other housing rate changes specific to various campus living units can be found online at

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Last Updated November 05, 2010