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Should the state Board of Regents raise the cost of room and board?

BY DI EDITORIAL STAFF | APRIL 26, 2011 7:20 AM

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YES

While I'm typically against giving the University of Iowa more money than I already do, I agree with the state Board of Regents on a proposed room and board increase for a few reasons.

First of all, I was a college freshman once. I suffered an almost nine-month period of living in the dorms, and I lived to tell about it.

It honestly wasn't that bad. In fact, I think most students at the UI take advantage of the dorm situation here. Sure, it not be Caesars Palace, but the room I lived in was built for three, lived in by two, with plenty of room. As far as I'm aware, that's how the majority of dorms operated as well. In comparison with other colleges, I'd say we have it pretty good.

Second, this 5 percent increase is only going toward permanent housing. Those in temporary housing because of overcrowding do not have to pay extra — nor should they. This increase is working to keep rates low for those in off-campus housing (Centerstone and the Lodge), Director of UI Housing Von Stange told me Monday.

Third, every year the UI admits more students. Room and board must rise, like tuition, to be able to accommodate the huge influx of new students. Stange told me that there are a number of factors included in the rates changing. The more students, the higher the utility bills, the more staff needed, the more dining and eating required, and the more officials must ask for.

Finally, this increase will be going toward a lot of different amenities, maintenance and renovation projects included. At lower the rates, the UI couldn't afford some of the projects housing officials have in mind. Much of that money goes back and is reinvested into the residence halls every year to help maintain them.

As much as I hate to be the bad guy and support a price hike, the regents are only proposing it to help the campus. With more people come more bills and repairs, which in turn will mean that they need to get that money from somewhere.

I'm just sorry it has to be from us.

— Taylor Casey

NO

After the state Board of Regents voted to increase tuition by 5 percent to offset state budget cuts, the members need to have a compelling reason to make students pay more. In this case, the regents' vote this week to possibly increase room and board fees at all three regent universities, including a 5 percent increase at the University of Iowa — which would double the increase in payments for in-state students.

So far, no compelling reason has been offered. The housing market is still in its post-bubble slump, knocking any questions about property costs out the window; the dorm rooms remain mediocre examples of their kind; and there's hardly a drastic positive shift in the dining-hall system. Any of these might justify an increase, were they to actually exist.

As it is, there's no need to further add to students' financial burdens. As the DI Editorial Board has noted before, unemployment for recent college graduates is staggering, and Iowa students have some of the highest loan debt in the nation. As more and more students default on their loans (or have payments come up short or late), it's apparent that there is no room in student budgets for an extra cost — barring a nonexistent justification.

Sure, the UI's housing officials and the regents have said something about allowing the university to expand, to house ever-larger numbers of freshmen, but there's an easy solution to that: Stop accepting more freshmen than the UI can accommodate.

And funding explorations of off-campus, private-public housing partnerships shouldn't be done on the backs of students already struggling with increasing tuition. As Center of College Affordability Director Richard Vedder told the DI on April 22, it's an unusual move — and one that raises questions about using room and board charges as a backdoor tuition hike to augment the general fund.

After an unpopular tuition increase, enough is enough. The regents should vote to keep room and board as it is and not add to students' debt problems.

— Shay O'Reilly


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