Changes coming to housing next year

Campus News, News, Student Life

UPDATE March 21, 2019 3:20 p.m.: In a graphic in the print edition of The Chimes, the price for the Trinity one-bedroom apartments was wrong. The graphic has been updated below to reflect the price listed on the university’s website. We regret this error.

Editor’s note: The Chimes is dedicated to keeping students up-to-date on information regarding changes to the prices of room and board, fees and tuition for the upcoming school year. If you have an idea of something we should cover or think there is something we should cover in more depth, please contact chimes@capital.edu. Students, alumni and faculty are also welcome to send letters to the editor via our email.

As the end of the year approaches, students have exams, papers, and projects looming over their heads, but students planning to live on campus also have to worry about securing housing for the upcoming semester through the yearly housing lottery. Here’s what to keep in mind as you begin the process.

Changes in pricing

The Office of Residential and Commuter Life recently announced pricing for 2019-2020 campus housing, with rates rising an average of nearly 4 percent from last year, with the exception of the Capital Commons apartments, which have risen about 30 percent.

Jon Geyer, Director of Residential and Commuter Life, said housing prices typically rise an average of 3 to 4 percent each year. According to housing pricing information from the last five years, prices have risen an average of 3.95 percent each year.

The biggest change to pricing for the 2019-2020 school year is change in cost of living in the Capital Commons apartments; a single bedroom is rising in price by 29.7 percent, and a double bedroom is rising by 37 percent — a nearly $3,000 increase for each.

The Capital Commons apartments are townhome-style residences located across Main Street from Moshi Sushi, and have typically been a cheaper option for upperclass students looking for apartment-style living. During the current school year, it is cheaper to live in a double room in the Commons ($5,170 per year in 2018-2019) than a double room in College Avenue Hall ($6,100 per year in 2018-2019), a suite-style housing option available to upperclass students.

This year’s change in price levels the cost of the Commons with every other apartment and house-style living option available to upperclass students, which Geyer said was intentional. Geyer explained that, with the exception of the Commons, all apartment and house prices have typically been equally priced. Housing pricing information from the last six years confirmed this.

For pricing information on all housing options, view the graphic located below, or visit capital.edu/room-and-board-rates/.

Room and board rates

Graduate and Family Housing

In a Chimes article from April 2018, Geyer detailed plans to allow graduate students and students with families to live on campus in an “intentional living environment.”

“We wanted grad students to feel like they had a little bit more of a community with one another, and that was something they asked us for,” he said at the time.

This plan was implemented this year with graduate students and students with unique circumstances living in a few houses on Sheridan Avenue, which were kept offline for undergraduate students during last year’s housing selection, and will be kept offline for this year’s housing selection, according to Geyer.

“The block that was designated for grad and family housing will continue moving forward,” Geyer said. “That is serving another section of our university population.”

Geyer said there is a variety of students utilizing the graduate and family housing option, including seminary students, law students, and undergraduate students with unique circumstances.

“It’s been a great addition in terms of serving our whole student population,” Geyer said. “While not targeted at our undergrads, which is the bulk of what we do, it is something that I think met a need that we had as a university.”

Geyer said there are about 20 students and their spouses/families living in the community, and that these housing options have been “pretty well full” this year. He anticipates that they will continue to be full in the new school year.

While graduate and family housing pricing information for the 2018-2019 school year is available online, pricing information for the 2019-2020 school year is not.

According to the information available online for the 2018-2019 school year, a 12-month lease on a three-bedroom  Sheridan Avenue apartment costs $11,544 for a graduate student, or $962 per month. For the same apartment during the 2018-2019 school year with two students living in a double room ($7,950 per student) and two students living in a single room ($9,302 per student) the total cost of the apartment for the nine-month school year is of $34,504.

The only difference between these housing options noted on the university website is that graduate and family housing are not furnished while undergraduate apartments and houses are.

Geyer was contacted via email for comment on the reasoning behind this price difference, but did not respond by press time. The online version of this article, located at cuchimes.com, will be updated with his response when available.

How housing prices are decided

Geyer explained that the prices of on-campus living is an “ongoing conversation” between the university’s Office of Business and Finance, the Office of Commuter and Residential Life, and the Board of Trustees.

Geyer said the The Office of Commuter and Residential Life gives “feedback and input” based on how we compare in pricing to other universities to the Office of Business and Finance, who evaluates room and board costs each year.

“Generally my role in that process is looking at ‘How are we comparing to our competitor schools? Are we equitable? Are we fair?’” Geyer said. “And frankly, we fall kind of in the middle.”

Geyer said he gives that information to the Office of Business and Finance, which they use to make a recommendation to the Board of Trustees. Ultimately, the Board of Trustees decides on the price of housing along with other student expenses such as food and tuition.

“I don’t think that the increases [to housing costs] that you see represented this year are really any different than past years, other than the Commons,” Geyer said.

Why are the Commons so expensive?

Geyer said the drastic change in the price of the Commons apartments comes for two reasons: summer renovations and evaluating the cost of the Commons versus the amenities provided.

For a number of years, the Commons have been one of the cheapest housing options available to students; sometimes cheaper than traditional residence hall rooms despite the drastic difference in amenities and autonomy provided by living in an apartment.

“When I arrived on campus, it was actually cheaper to live in the Commons than it was to live in a double in Lohman,” Geyer said. “ … If you look both at comparable properties on our campus and at other institutions, for a townhouse-style apartment, I would say that [The Commons] were significantly underpriced.”

Over the years, the Commons have seen some changes that Geyer says have affected their value. Students previously had to provide their own furniture in the Commons, but in the last few years, the university has moved to fully furnishing the apartments.

In addition, the Commons apartments are receiving a “comprehensive overhaul” this summer according to Geyer, including:

  • Removing all carpet and refinishing original hardwood floors
  • Refinishing tubs and flooring in bathrooms
  • Replacing some appliances (Geyer said this may vary by unit) and flooring in kitchens
  • Refresh and update of paint inside units
  • Updating bedroom furniture
  • Cleaning basements
  • Sealing and painting basement walls and floors
  • Refreshing exterior paint

Geyer said that the university’s investment in the Commons this summer will make them “one of the nicer places to be on campus.”

With the Commons being the same price as other houses and apartments on campus, there is no longer a cheaper option for upperclass students, and Geyer said he isn’t sure if the change will drive more students to live off campus.

“I guess we’ll see the answer to that,” Geyer said.

According to Geyer, the Commons hasn’t consistently been the first housing option to fill up during the housing lottery, and he said he hasn’t seen an influx of housing release request forms since the housing pricing numbers came out, but the answer to that question relies on “a lot of factors.”

“It’ll be interesting to see, and I’ll be watching that closely,” Geyer said. “I value the residential experience, and I hope that others do as well, but it will be something we pay attention to for sure.”

The housing lottery

Participating in the housing lottery for the first time can be scary, and the biggest question for students is whether they will be able to get the housing option they prefer. Geyer said there are two changes to the housing lottery system that he hopes will ease that tension.

The ability to create roommate groups and pick your “favorite” housing options are new additions to the housing lottery system this year, which Geyer said comes with an update to the software the Office of Residential and Commuter Life uses to facilitate the housing lottery.

Roommate groups are a tool that allows students to “take care of a lot of things up front,” according to Geyer.

“Instead of waiting until you get in to select [housing], and then putting your roommates in, you essentially set those groups ahead of time, so that when you get to selection that’s already established for you,” Geyer said.

He explained that when a student selects their housing option during their designated time, they will be able to pull their chosen roommates from the already-created groups.

The second advantage of this update is that students will be able to view and pre-designate which spaces they are hoping to end up in. During the student’s designated selection time, the available options of the ones they selected as preferred will be the first housing options they see when they begin selection, making it easier and quicker to choose your preferred space.

“They don’t have to go search through a map, they can see exactly what they’ve preferenced and whether it’s available,” Geyer said. “ … if you’re a junior and you’ve pre-designated these spaces, after night one of selection you can go back in the system and see which of your spaces have been taken.”

Geyer said that students can create roommate groups during their selection time, but are encouraged to create them before. Students can and are encouraged to create as many roommate groups as possible and have multiple back-up plans in place before selection.

“You never know how selection is going to go in that regard,” he said.

Geyer said that demand leans toward duplexes on Sheridan Avenue, but depends heavily on student preferences and the typical size of roommate groups, making it hard to predict which styles of housing will fill up first.

Geyer said that all other parts of the housing selection process, including eligibility requirements and the number of houses and apartments that aren’t available for selection due to accommodations placement and graduate and family housing, will stay the same as last year.

Students will be receiving their selection times on April 3, and selection will take place April 8 through 11.

“Even with the changes, we hope that it will be as seamless as possible,” Geyer said.

For more information on the housing lottery, visit capital.edu/housing-process/ to view the 2019-2020 Housing Selection Guide. In addition, the Office of Residential and Commuter Life will be hosting information sessions in the coming weeks, and will send out an email with dates and times of these sessions soon.

How off-campus living affects your financial aid

With the change of housing prices for the next academic year, students may feel compelled to look into off-campus housing options, whether that be living with a parent or looking for a non-university owned apartment nearby.

According to John Brown, director of financial aid, 99 percent of students receive some form of financial assistance, and the average award for students for the 2017-2018 academic year, the most recent year for which data is available, was $21,088 between university, state and federal grants and scholarships.

As many students are aware, your financial aid package can change based on residency status; according to Brown, the Capital Connect grant will change for students who decide to move off campus.

“Studies show that students tend to do better in a living and learning environment that supports academic and personal development,” Brown said in an email. “Given that, Capital invests more need-based tuition dollars for students living on campus.”

Students with full-tuition scholarships are required to live on campus to continue receiving their scholarship, but if those students want to move off campus, they can receive an estimate from the Office of Financial Aid.

“If a student could not meet [the on-campus] requirement, we would adjust their financial aid award to reflect what they were eligible for prior to getting a full tuition award,” he said.

While federal financial aid is not typically affected by on- or off-campus residency, federal student loans can be affected, Brown said.

“[Federal student loans] are calculated based on the full cost of attendance, which changes based on residency,” he said. “ … Living with a parent is the lowest budget, because it assumes the student is only paying a portion of living expenses.  Living on campus is in the middle, [and] living off campus is the highest.”

Brown said it’s difficult to say in general how much aid a student loses by moving off campus because awards are calculated on a student-by-student basis.

Students can view an estimate of the change in their aid by visiting https://www.capital.edu/housing-aid-estimate/, and can schedule a time to meet with someone from the Office of Financial Aid to discuss options.

 

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