COLUMBIA – Students throughout the University of Missouri System living on campus will pay more for housing and meal plans starting this summer.
The UM System Board of Curators unanimously approved the plan Friday morning.
The fee increases for room and board on each campus will vary. Based on the most popular plans at each campus, fees will increase:
The most popular plan at MU, a renovated double room and 14 meals per week, will increase by $300, raising the cost to $7,925 for two semesters.
"We always have concerns about increasing housing and dining fees, but usually people understand that we are subject to the same increases that they are at home if we are going to provide these services," said Nikki Krawitz, system vice president of finance and administration.
The primary reasons behind raising housing rates at MU are the anticipated increase in utility rates and ongoing renovations of residence halls.
The renovations are a part of the Residential Life Master Plan, which was approved in 2001. The projected cost of the project, which includes several new residence halls and upgrades to many existing halls, is $370 million. The plan is expected to be completed by fall 2017.
The Department of Residential Life receives no state or university funding. About 92 percent of its budget comes from the housing fees paid by students. In addition to construction costs, the department's expenses include maintenance and worker wages and benefits.
"All of our bills have to be paid for by the money we generate ourselves," Residential Life Director Frankie Minor said.
The department presented the proposed budget to the Residence Halls Association, a group that represents students living in residence halls, and Minor said the group didn't raise any concerns. Some university students, however, aren't so sure this is the right thing to do.
John McClain, a junior who transferred from Lincoln University, said there are other ways to raise the money. He said the Board of Curators is taking a shortcut by approving this plan.
“They can get it done without charging people extra,” McClain said. “They’re not considering other people’s situation.”
If he had to live on campus, McClain said, he wouldn’t be able to afford it. Other students also find it cheaper to stay off-campus.
Jasmin Stewart, a junior, decided to move off campus this school year after comparing the price of Tiger Diggs, MU-run student housing at Campus View Apartments, to the cost of living at Campus View without a university housing contract.
“When I compared the price of what it would cost to live in Campus View without Tiger Diggs, it was significantly cheaper,” Stewart said.
This school year, Tiger Diggs cost $5,740 — plus the price of a campus meal plan, which is required — to lease through the academic year. Campus View charges $3,420 for the same type of room with a 12-month lease. The cost of Tiger Diggs is charged to the student’s university account.
Tiffany Morrow, a freshman who lives at Tiger Diggs, said she understood raising housing fees because of rising utility rates. But, she said, students shouldn't have to pay more because of hall closings and reconstructions.
"It's not the students' fault, so why should they be affected by it?" Morrow said.
Freshman are required to live on campus, but Residential Life is willing to waive that requirement for those who request to live elsewhere, Minor said.
In the last two years, Minor added, there has been a 20 percent increase in the number of returning students who want to live on campus.
"They like the services they get and the quality of their experience," Krawitz said.
Chris Willett, a sophomore, said the hike in housing fees is understandable.
“The cost of living is going up because of expansion, growth and development,” Willett said. “The only way to support growth and development is with money.”
Minor said the fee increase is the lowest the department could allow to meet projected costs.
"Our staff is trying to get by with limited or static resources," Minor said. "But one thing we don't lose track of is that we are here for the students, and it is them we are ultimately trying to serve."
Also during the curators meeting, UM System President Gary Forsee called for state lawmakers to revive a plan to use $350 million from the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority to finance campus building projects.
Forsee also created an Enterprise Investment Program, which has set aside $5 million to create startup companies to commercialize university research.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.