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UMW students to see hike in housing fees

Room and board rates will rise again next year for students at the University of Mary Washington.

UMW’s board of visitors voted 9–1 on Friday evening to raise housing fees 3 percent and dining costs 4 percent for the 2014–15 school year.

New board member Kenneth Lopez cast the one dissenting vote. Another new member, Tabitha Geary, was not present for the vote.

The board also stipulated in the vote that staff should come back in February with information on how to earmark some of those new funds for residence hall renovations.

Last year, the board agreed to increase housing costs by 4 percent and the meal plans by 2 percent.

Rick Pearce, vice president for administration and finance, originally presented the board differential rates for rooms.

Randolph, Mason, Alvey, Arrington and Willard Halls, the University Apartments and Eagle Landing would all be raised 3 percent since they have updated amenities such as air conditioning.

All other residence halls would have been raised 2 percent. For example, a double room in Virginia Hall would be raised 2 percent, or $112, from $5,598 to $5,710 because it has not been updated recently. But a double room in the University Apartments would rise 3 percent, or about $206, from $6,844 to $7,050.

“What I applied the differential rate to was the halls without amenities, the oldest one with most needed renovations,” Pearce said. “One thing we are commonly rated low on is facilities. For whatever reason, we have not done a lot of work on residential facilities.”

Board member Joe Wilson said the residence halls are in dire need of renovation but he does not want staff to dip into any reserve funds.

Member Joe Grzeika agreed.

“We need to earmark funds for residence hall improvement,” he said. “Otherwise it is going to go somewhere else and we’ll have to borrow it. I just worry about us generating the money and it going away.”

Pearce said if any large-scale building projects on residence halls were to be taken on soon, the school would need a larger fee rise.

However, he said that is “not feasible or moral at this point.”

Lopez said that with occupancy of on-campus housing at a low 93 percent, he was not comfortable with the fee hike.

“How could we raise price on product we can’t sell?” he asked the rest of the board.

Member Theresa Crawley said that an across-the-board 3 percent rise in housing fees would be a step toward creating a larger reserve fund or renovating dorms.

She said that the less modernized dorms will still cost less, since those residences are already less expensive to live in.

UMW president Rick Hurley said rates at UMW are still lower than most colleges in Virginia, but that might not be in the school’s best interest.

“Looking back we may have shortchanged ourselves on funds,” Hurley said. “We get best value rankings but students aren’t knocking down our door.”

When asked what he would have done differently, Hurley said, “I would have had higher rate increases when it was more palatable. Then we could have done infrastructure improvements.”

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